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Software Review – Adobe Master Collection CS6 – Photoshop CS6 From Adobe Systems

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This is the first of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe CS6 Master Collection. Adobe releases CS6 with four separate suites of products. They are Design Standard, Design & Web Premium, Production Premium, and Master Collection. Add to that, they a have also have the Creative Cloud – a subscription based suite that gives you access to all of the individual products for a $49.99 per month subscription fee. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.

As with the recent releases of Photoshop, this version also comes in two editions; the standard of Photoshop, and Photoshop CS6 Extended edition. The extended version is targeted to professionals in film and television, manufacturing, architecture, engineering, medicine, science, and those doing 3D rendering.

Photoshop CS6

Photoshop CS6 is a raster graphics editor. That is, it is an editor that allows users to manipulate, edit, composite, and paint images on a computer screen and save them in one of many popular raster file formats including JPEG, PNG, GIF and TIFF. This makes Photoshop extremely good for working with photographs

So what is new with Photoshop CS6?

• New Crop Tool – is hardware accelerated and completely new. It now has multiple overlays including ones for working with the Golden Ration, Golden Spiral, Diagonal, Triangle, Grid, as well as the Rule of Thirds. The Crop tool now also works in a non-destructive mode meaning that you can use it and never lose your content. There is also a Perspective Crop tool that uses a flexible marquee to outline and straighten image elements or scenes photographed on an angle. You can now also save your specific crop dimensions as presets giving you the ability to perform consistent crops across a whole series of images.

• Extended Content-Aware family of technologies – has now added two new retouching tools. The first is a Content-Aware mode for the Patch tool. This gives you greater control when repairing images by letting you choose the sample area where you want to create the patch, and then adjusting how the patch is applied. Then it also gives you the ability to specify more precisely how the patch is blended with the image. The second tool is the Content-Aware Move tool. Using this tool you can move or extend an object to another area in the image. The tool then automatically recomposes and blends the object giving you the ability to reposition awkward elements to create better compositions, interactively extend the top of an image to change its format from horizontal to vertical, or increase the size of an object to make it more dominant in a design.

Photoshop CS6

• Sophisticated text formatting – across your designs with type styles. You can use new Paragraph Styles to control the characteristics of everything from groups of sentences to whole pages of type. By using Character Styles you can control the look of individual letters, words, or phrases. You can even define your own custom styles and then apply them to the text in your design, or style the text first and then use it as a basis for a new style entry. These can be used across multiple documents in a project to ensure design uniformity.

• New Vector Layers – give you the ability to create shapes, lines, and objects and then apply custom strokes and fills to style these objects. This provides you the ability to have more control over vector content that you create, and gives you the ability to select, group, unite, or subtract shapes and paths after creating them. You can fill shapes with preset or user-defined gradients, colors, or patterns, and then outline the edges with custom strokes and dashed lines. And when you need crisper images, align vector content to the pixel grid with the new Snap-To-Pixel and Align Edges options. You can even find key layers in complex documents more easily with new filtering options located directly in the Layers panel.

• New scripted patterns – now give you the ability to create a wider variety of geometric patterns faster. You can build sophisticated and complex pattern designs using custom swatches coupled with scripted production. You can also offset, scale, and/or rotate more than one image patch, along with any transparency it contains, using your own custom pattern scripts or one of the presets included with the product.

• Skin-tone aware – selections and masking help you to create better selections and masks with a new option that isolates faces in your photos, enabling you to easily perform skin-tone adjustments or, conversely, preserve skin tones while you adjust the color of everything else.

Photoshop CS6

• Intuitive video creation – provides you with the ability to edit and enhance video from within Photoshop CS6. Through the use of a new interface, with an extended feature set and workflow, you can enhance any clip using the full range of familiar Photoshop tools, and then create and render entire videos utilizing the power of Adobe Media Encoder. You can import a wider variety of video formats, including the popular AVCHD, MPEG4, and H.264 formats, thanks to the inclusion of a new video playback engine. Imported clips are automatically added as a new Video Group entry in the layers panel which makes management and editing of various components of video projects more consistent with the way that other documents are handled in Photoshop. A separate soundtrack entry in the Timeline panel allows for easy editing, positioning, and adjusting of audio with the video composition. Audio and video tracks can be moved independently, providing faster syncing of reference and high-quality soundtracks in the dual-system recording scenarios that are often used for DSLR-based video projects.

• Lens-Aware adjustments – lets you quickly straighten objects that appear curved in panoramas or photos that are shot with a fisheye or wide-angle lens. This filter uses the physical characteristics of individual lenses to automatically correct and straighten curved objects present in the image. You can even fine-tune the adjustments further with new on-canvas tools that let you identify which key objects in the scene to straighten and align vertically or horizontally. If there is no information about the lens that was used, you can calibrate the filter with a few simple steps before completing the custom straightening process.

Photoshop CS6

• New Blur Effects – bring three new capabilities to Photoshop CS6. Use the Iris Blur option to apply an effect that starts with a sharp center and gradually blurs as you move toward the edges of the image. You can use the Field Blur option to build a custom gradient blur effect by placing multiple pins of different sharpness settings over the image. By using the Tilt-Shift option in a process that replicates the look often obtained with special-effect lenses or large-format monorail cameras. Users with modern graphics cards can preview all blur actions live with the Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine (the filter automatically switches to CPU mode for older systems). Use Iris Blur to add one or more focus points to your photo.

• Adobe Camera Raw 7 – has been updated with a new tone mapping algorithm and underpins an expanded set of intuitive controls that are easier to use and yet provide more powerful management of key image adjustments. Now you have much finer control over the spread of tones in your images, so you can now reveal every detail in the highlights while still retaining rich detail in the shadows. The plug-in includes better contrast management, improved syncing of changes between raw and JPEG files; new Highlights, Shadows, and Whites controls; and the ability to apply a much wider selection of alterations to sections of your photos using the Adjustment Brush.

• Rich painting toolset – increase the variety of your ability to paint and draw within Photoshop. You now have simpler painting with presets, spray-pattern effects with Airbrush tips, realistic color blends with the Mixer Brush, lifelike strokes with Erodible Tips and Bristle Tips. Erodible pencils and pastels are ones that wear down with use and provide a more natural look and feel to them. You can replicate spray-can effects with the new Airbrush Tip. Apply paint to your illustrations with a 3D conical spray. Change the style of the spray using Granularity, Spatter, Hardness, and Distortion controls, and alter the spread of the spray by interactively changing the distance between the tip and the canvas. Create a wider variety of strokes while painting with a static tip by using the new Brush Projection option. You can use the stylus tilt and rotation actions to give direction and angle to the stroke as it is being applied. Now, with this new addition to the Artistic filters, you can easily create the look of an oil painting.

Photoshop CS6

So what is new with Photoshop CS6 Extended Edition?

• Every thing in the Standard edition – All of the same features as listed above.

• 3D controls at your fingertips – through a vastly more simplified UI that offers on-canvas and in-context scene editing. You can now easily drag shadows into place, animate 3D objects, give 3D objects the look of sketches or cartoons, and more. And create and render artwork more quickly than ever thanks to the new Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine. The changes to the 3D features in Photoshop CS6 revolve around creating an easier experience for new users, incorporating a simpler workflow for assembling scenes, and producing more realistic renders of completed projects. The ability to create a 3D layer automatically sets up an optimal workspace displaying key panels, tools, and the interactive 3D widget is much easier as well. Also, the importing of existing models is now much simpler, with support for industry-standard ways (Y-up) of describing the orientation of objects. It is much easier to create and style 3D text with an improved 3D Extrusion engine that offers faster editing, no modal dialog box, and improved beveling options. Increase the realism in your extrusions by adding ground-plane reflections and interactively controlling lighting with movable sources and draggable shadows.

While Adobe Photoshop CS5.1 was a good upgrade, CS6 really turns on the fire. One of the things that I like about Adobe is that they use one product technology to drive changes in another. In Photoshop CS5 it was After Effect’s Puppet Warp to bring about change in Photoshop. This time it is the Premiere Pro CS5’s Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine. One thing to keep in mind is that this technology doesn’t work in XP. If you are using XP, it will revert back to CPU mode. But if you have a current graphics card and operating system, all that I can say is WOW! This is doubly impressive if you use Liquify, Puppet Warp, or Transform as it speeds up processor-intensive tools.

Also, I like the changes to the interface especially the new darker look – don’t worry you can switch it back to the old grey version as well as even a darker look as well. There have been a lot of things changed in this makeover that really make sense. I love the totally revamped crop tool as well. It has been a long time coming, but well worth the wait. While I am familiar with the RAW import from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, this is a major update for Photoshop only users as well.

Photoshop CS6

The Lens Blur and adaptive wide angle correction features are really nice, as is the typography – I don’t use the later very much, but I suspect that those that do, this will be very welcome news. Then there are just so many little things that are too numerous to mention them all like the improved auto corrections, improved background saves and auto recovery ability, as well as the improved Quick Selection tool that make this such a remarkable upgrade.

In my opinion, these new features alone make it very much worth the upgrade; especially if you didn’t upgrade to CS5. Now with the new graphics engine, Adobe Photoshop CS6 is a so much faster and more responsive that I think this may be one of the best versions yet and so I very highly recommend this version.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.