Photoshop vs PowerPoint

Firstly I would like welcome my new subscribers – I have noticed quite a few of you have signed up and it’s wonderful that there is such interest in this topic out there!

I apologise for the lack of progress in getting things up and running here but a number of things have gotten in the way (such as starting a new job). Rest assured I haven’t forgotten you and I am planning to get things going within the next few weeks.

Anyway, on to today’s topic. I was asked by my new boss to help a colleague with a diagram that needed ‘prettying up’ for a presentation next week. Of course I said yes (especially as it would make a nice change from reading journal articles which I’ve been doing for the past two weeks). But when my colleague said he had prepared it in PowerPoint my heart sank. I don’t yet have Photoshop installed on my new work computer so I had no choice but to do the best I could in PowerPoint.

Now, I understand why PowerPoint is often used by researchers to make diagrams for their presentations, and even for publications. It is familiar, accessible and doesn’t have a steep learning curve. And it tends to just be there – installed on every computer alongside Word and Excel. But the diagrams created with PowerPoint usually leave a lot to be desired, especially if the user doesn’t really know how to make the best use of the program’s features.

So I have always advised students that PowerPoint is for presentations and Photoshop or Illustrator should be used for diagrams.

However, having been forced into using PowerPoint today I discovered at it has a lot of new features that I hadn’t explored before and I was actually able to make a diagram that I was really pleased with. By carefully using lines, gradients, accurate size and position and the alignment tools I was able to greatly improve upon the original image. But what got me really excited with the ability to draw with bezier curves! I had no idea PowerPoint had this feature and, while it’s not quite the Pen tool, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Suddenly I wasn’t limited to the available standard shapes but could draw my own cells any way I wanted.

So maybe Powerpoint isn’t all bad when it comes to making diagrams. I would still prefer to use Photoshop any day of the week but when needs must, I guess Powerpoint has some potential too.

Do any of you use Powerpoint for drawing diagrams? Have you experimented with Bezier curves?



Hello and Welcome!

My name is Jo-Maree Courtney. I’m a scientist with a PhD in Developmental Biology. I love Photoshop and I’m interested in the principles of design, especially when applied to scientific imaging.

Photoshop has become an essential tool for scientists who use it to take raw image data from their microscopes, cameras and other sources and present them in a way that makes their results understandable. I love learning about Photoshop and during the course of my PhD spent a lot of time learning the tricks and tips that would allow me to produce consistent and visually appealing images with minimum of time and while maintaining scientific integrity. However I soon realised that not all my fellow students shared my enthusiasm for the software. In fact I seemed to be in a minority of one.

Once the other students and researchers in the department realised I knew my way around Photoshop they started coming to me for advice. Informal advice sessions soon turned into organised tutorials which developed into a series of regular courses. Now this blog is a way of taking my courses to a wider audience.

If you work in research science – whether as a technician, graduate student, post-doc or senior researcher – I hope you will find something useful here.

Over the coming months I will be building up a number of courses covering different aspects of using Adobe Photoshop for scientific imaging. I will also discuss the issues that need to be considered to maintain integrity of your data and optimising your time while creating visually appealing and professional images.

If you ever have any specific requests or problems please feel free to leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!