Well, I've been doing graphics for about 10 years now, and I've used Adobe Photoshop 7 for about six of those (I think). It's definitely the best of the four programs I've tried, IMO. But, it's also very expensive.
If you're looking for something free, I believe that there's GIMP, and Paint.Net. One of my friends used Paint.Net and I was able to help her achieve some of the same effects with it as I did with PS7, so it's a decent program. And totally free! I'm not sure how easy it is for a first time user, but she figured it out, so it couldn't be too hard. LOL
Good luck! And will we be seeing your work pop up here?
Don't forget if you need anything important, to shoot me an email NOT a PM!! falconcranelove(at)yahoo(dot)com Gonna be busy for a while!! Love you guys! *HUGS*
PhotoShop is an incredibly powerful program - it can do SO MUCH, but it's not much with the user interface. I've been fiddling with for almost 9 years, but I only really started trying to learn it for the last year. If you really want to use PhotoShop, I'd recommend either going through a tutorial, or do what I did - figure out what you want to do and do a websearch for it. Like when I wanted to learn how to add fog, I searched for "photoshop tutorial fog". Once I found a tutorial simple enough, I learned how to add fog - and also learned a little about the tools I needed to use to do it.
Over time (and tons of tutorials), I figure I'll eventually figure out how to do what I want.
I agree with Rapunzl. Photoshop tutorial is a life savior sometimes, especially when you want to do stuff you have no idea how to do. Even when you aren't looking for anything specifics , just browse around and you're going to find something cool and interesting to try. It happens with me all the time. The sad thing is when the tutorials are complicated and really brand new for me, I'll usually forget about it after a while, which is why I always bookmark them
I love tutorials that go with pictures and video tutorials are sometimes better. The only thing I dislike is when the creator of the tutorials is using Mac and explain all the Mac shortcuts without thinking that not every person in the world is a Mac user, lol.