I don't usually do reviews for anything, but since there aren't many places where you can find reviews of this course, I figured I'd leave my two cents here. I'm going to get this out of the way first: in a nutshell, the cons far outweigh the pros in my opinion and there are far better options.
- It's a great introduction to using layers and layer masks.
- If you go on to take the next course, called AWAKE, you get automatic inclusion in the online magazine that features the best of that course's student work.
- There are some free resources included with the course, such as textures and brushes, some of which are great. But some of the resources are not great, such as a model set that looks like it was shot by a half-blind amateur, but I think was provided by Sebastian Micheals himself. Someone further up said a lot of resources are included, but unless some was removed there just isn't a ton.
- My favorite part of the course was the page about gathering inspiration. At one point Ray Bradbury's method of writing down random words in a notebook is mentioned, a tip I thought was really neat.
- It's outdated. The last update that I could find made mention of an important Photoshop update in 2015. As of this review Photoshop CC 2018 has been released, which many consider to be the most important update that PS has had since since the addition of layers back in the mid 1990s. This might be the perfect course though if you're using an older version of PS.
- The same techniques are repeated. If you're watching a video on a particular subject, it's likely that 20% of the video is the technique that's being taught, while the rest are the same techniques from previous lessons being repeated.
- Really, I'm going to estimate that 70% of the course is layers, layer masks, and blend modes (or maybe it just feels that way).
- The community (Flickr and Facebook groups) is not very active. There are challenges included in the course, and you can then upload the results of your challenge to the Flickr group. However, the group is nothing but tumbleweeds and crickets, so not many people are paying attention.
- He doesn't teach the pen tool. To be fair, he does admit that professionals use the pen tool. However, I wasn't aware this was supposed to teach hobby-level skills (and the course doesn't have a hobby-level price tag). It's especially weird because the pen tool is such an important tool for this type of art, and it's not hard at all (it's one of the first PS skills I learned). There's even a curvature pen tool now that makes everything super simple. I don't know any composite artists that don't use the pen tool, so it's baffling to me that he doesn't teach it. Oddly, though, he teaches a few ways to correct the issues caused by extracting objects without the pen tool. What I mean by that is that there are a few ways to make extractions (cut out objects from their background) without the pen tool, but they aren't perfect and usually leave you with problems in the image you'll have to correct. So he teaches you how to compensate for those problems. It needs to be said that the methods he uses to extract images, plus the corrections, take longer and look worse than if you just used the pen tool to begin with. If you don't already know how to use the pen tool, please watch a video (2018 or later) on it so you can see for yourself how easy it is. I'm an absolute amateur and picked up how to use it within 5 minutes.
- Sebastian Michaels seems really angry. There's one section in particular where he absolutely goes off on abstract art, saying it isn't real art, only decoration at best, and even goes so far as to call abstract artists and those who love the form idiots, dolts, and I can't remember what else. I get that not every art form is for everyone, but that was a bit aggressive and unprofessional. Odder still, in the same lesson he goes on to talk about how there aren't any good or successful all-female bands (Sleater-Kinney? L7? Bangles? Indigo Girls? The Runaways? Go-Gos? Destiny's Child? TLC?) or female singers with unique voices (Bjork? Kate Bush? Patti Smith? Joanna Newsom? Should I go on?). In addition, still in the same lesson (he must have been having a bad day) he tears down this artist who does only hearts in her art, saying her work can be done by any high school art teacher (I need to say here that if you can create art you love doing, while making money and making customers happy, that's a no-lose situation. But people who can't make money off their "superior" artwork will often get real salty about it). The whole thing was so bizarre and unprofessional. I think he may have been especially angry at women the day he wrote that, but not so angry that he can't still take their money.
- It's not really laid out in an intuitive way. For instance, earlier videos may reference techniques that aren't covered until later, and some of the bonus content linked from earlier videos may contain info that pertains to later modules. Some parts even advise you to jump ahead to learn a particular thing.
- It pushes other courses that you have to pay for. For instance, if a video covers a certain topic, it may just touch on that topic and then direct you to someone else's course that you'll need to take for more in-depth training.
- If you were to look at the course overview you'll see that (at the time of this writing) there are 4 modules with 3-5 sections per module. It isn't a lot of content. I could overlook that if what was there was packed with info but, like I said, a good chunk of it is actually just repeated information. You could take a full Photoshop course on Lynda. com (plus a lot more) for their basic unlimited monthly price. But, like Jana_NJ said above, he does know how to write a good sales page.
- Someone earlier in this thread, who hadn't taken the course yet, said the course covers *all* creative Photoshop techniques, and I can very confidently say it does not, not anywhere close. I wish Michaels would release an overview of what's taught so people can see what they're buying. I might type up a list and add it to this thread if anyone is interested.
- He doesn't seem to know what he's doing a lot of the time. For instance, in earlier videos he moves images into his working space by popping out a window and then dragging the image into the working space, which is totally unnecessary and twice as hard as it needs to be. You only have to drag the image over to the working space, not pop out a window first. He corrects this in later videos. But it made me wonder how much else a student of his would later have to unlearn after the course.
If I'm being completely honest, and I don't want to sound harsh because he obviously put a lot of effort into this course, it looks like what happened is that he had a few students that came out of the course early on (when the course content was more relevant) who then perfected their art outside of his teachings (and looking at the work they produce, it's clear they quickly moved far beyond his teachings) and went on to do some great work, and he's been running on the fumes of that handful of artists. You'll see quite a few people, Michaels included, touting being featured in the digital magazine "Living The Photo Artistic Life". However, that magazine was created by Michaels specifically to display the work of students in his advanced AWAKE course. All this is fine and being published isn't even a concern for most people, I assume, but the way he's marketing it is kind of misleading. I highly recommend you search out the Flickr group if it's still public and take a look at the student art. Just like at any art school this is a great indication of both instructor skill and the materials being taught (I come from a traditional art background, and most art schools show off student work to prospective students for this reason. Michaels does the same, but selectively and usually only the later work by that handful of artists I mentioned earlier).
What I would suggest instead is taking the courses at ShiftArt. Which is ironic, because the guy who started that website was a former student of Sebastian Michaels' course (ask yourself why he started a website for that instead of just directing people to the Sebastian Micheals course). ShiftArt has videos and monthly live webinars from artists that are at the top of their game. Plus, the monthly challenges are great. In addition to that, check out the videos by Rafy_A on YouTube. You'll learn a lot just by watching him. There are plenty of digital artists also teaching on YouTube, I just happen to love his fantasy-style artwork. But have a look around and see who else you can find.
In summary, the course is fine, but super outdated and (imo) not worth the price. There's a money back guarantee, which I didn't take advantage of because I did pick up a couple tips (which you can definitely learn from Rafy_A for free, it turns out). Also, I hate confrontation and will avoid it even if I have to eat a hefty chunk of money because of it. But if you don't mind asking for your money back if you're not happy then you don't really have anything to lose but some time. To reiterate, I don't think this is a bad course, just super outdated and overpriced, especially considering what else is out there that's both superior, more current, and less expensive.