I have been using Photoshop since a version so many years ago, I forget which one, but my usage in the past was mostly touching up actual photos, for which I used mostly the cloning brush, and maybe the burn or dodge tool occasionally. And believe it or not, those tools were enough for me to touch up just about any photo, even when I had to recreate areas of a photograph that had been torn away years before.
So designing objects like the header image in here (as well as buttons and so on in my previous job while the actual designer was on maternity leave) is quite a departure for me.
Photoshop is an excellent tool, but one thing that gets to me is that they seem to have made some drastic change regarding smart objects in the last couple of versions. In my last job, I designed the header image above using Photoshop CS4. Having grouped a few layers together as a “smart object”, I applied some lighting affects, and they became a smart filter. But the way the smart filter is applied seems to have changed completely in Photoshop CS6. I found a workaround for it, but can’t for the life of me remember what it is.
All I can say is, if you don’t want to suffer hours of frustration, do not apply lighting affects to smart objects. You will be sorry if you do. Really.