Actually, I use smart shapes only for the rounded rectangle bases, most of the other stuff's done by the marquee tool. For example, in the new concepts, almost all apps have a preset base, set to white background, a drop-shadow 2px at 90° (for the spot-lighting effect) and a faint outer glow(ambient light). I mostly use slight dulled colours, and avoid using outlines. The base details are almost completely applied by layer styles, except for ornamentation. The real advantage of layer styles is that they're consistent and easily copyable, so you get the same effect every time. Hope this helps
And yes, I want to learn vector, and thanks for offering help, it's much appreciated!
I actually like text tutorials, they allow me to go at my own pace
I learnt it (Photoshop) mostly by mucking different stuff around, seeing what'd happen. (If you'd seen some of my previous stuff, you'd have cringed! It was quite funny, and frankly ugly
[PS. If you want, I can upload some icon PSDs. Lemme know]