Another page from the children's book. It's not finished and I've removed the text... you're going to have to read the book to get all that.
I'm not the best photo manipulator, but I have learned a few tricks in the two years I've been doing it. As such, for any of you who want to get into it, or would just like to become more familiar with Photoshop, the most effective way I learned was from doing tutorials- actual projects. Going through a book of this is what this tool does and that's what that tool does, just doesn't click in my brain the way an application does. PSD Tuts+ is my favorite site, but there's a lot of great tutorials out there. What I like to do is carefully read the tutorial, thoroughly understand it and the new tool information, and then apply it to my own design concept in a similar fashion (instead of just copying what they've done, step-for-step). That way, as you learn, you have something to show for it that's all yours.
And the real secret: experiment. Most of the time, it's those weird random accidents that you end up loving.
Again- I'm not an expert and I wouldn't dare try to pretend that I know what I'm doing, but perhaps it will help.