This is the first of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS4 fall 2008, they not only released single version products, but also six separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Web Standard, Production Premium, and Master Collection. 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 on what the new version brings to the table.
What do you need to run Adobe Photoshop CS4? On Windows you need an 1.8GHz or faster processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista; on Mac, a PowerPC® G5 or multi-core Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.11 – 10.5.4 (Leopard), 512 MB RAM, 1,024×768 display (1,280×800 recommended) with a 16-bit video card, 2GB hard drive space, and DVD-ROM drive.
Just like with the previous version of Photoshop, this latest version also comes in two editions: the standard version of Photoshop, and Photoshop CS4 Extended edition. The extended version is targeted to professionals in film and television, manufacturing, architecture, engineering, medicine, and science.
Photoshop CS4 is the graphics editor that is developed and published by Adobe Systems, the market leader for commercial bitmap and image manipulation. It was originally developed by Thomas Knoll, and later with the help of his brother John Knoll, it was first introduced in 1990. Photoshop CS4 is version 11.
Photoshop CS4 is a raster graphics editor. That is it is an editor that allows users to paint and edit pictures on a computer screen and save them in one of many popular raster file formats such as JPEG, PNG, GIF, and TIFF. The other popular image editing format is a vector format. Adobe Illustrator is a vector image editor.
So what is new with Photoshop CS4?
• Adjustments Panel – will save time when you are making non-destructive adjustments. The Adjustments panel eliminates the need to navigate through a dialog box maze of menus and it presents everything in one place. The Adjustments panel puts everything right at hand. It even contains the new Vibrance adjustment control that will give you greater control over your color saturation while still preserving your delicate tones. The panel also allows for modifiable preset for each type of change, including more than 20 preconfigured customizable starting points.
• Masks Panel – will make applying effects over precisely defined areas of an image much easier. Using simple sliders, you can adjust the density and feathering of a mask to control the sharpness of the mask edge and how much adjustment you would like to reveal. This makes it very easy to bring out the color in say a carnation on a prom dress, without changing the look of the rest of the image.
• Fluid Canvas Rotation – is a feature that will be loved by anyone who uses Photoshop for digital illustration, painting, and creative photo enhancement. It lets you rotate the canvas just like you would a sheet of paper on the desk. You are not changing the rotation of the image itself, but rather its position on the screen so that while working with it, you can work more naturally.
• Smoother Panning and Zooming – will let you navigate to any area of an image using an ultra-smooth zooming and panning ability. This feature lets you maintain clarity as you zoom to individual pixels and easily edit at the highest magnification with the new Pixel Grid. With the ability to zoom in to 600% or higher, you have the control to do ultra-fine editing.
• Content-Aware Scaling – is truly a new and revolutionary feature. If you have an image that has a lot of space and objects sprinkled through that space — say a marina with boats — and you need to compress the image down into a smaller size. In the past, you could do a couple things. One thing you could do is you could crop the image, but that would force you to eliminate some of the content. Another thing would be to try to manipulate the image by hand, editing sections out, but that would be a lot of work and take the skill of a guru. Now, with the Content-Aware Scaling feature to automatically recompose an image as you resize it, and it will smartly preserve vital areas as the image adapts to the new dimensions. You will now get the perfect image in one step without time-intensive cropping and retouching.
• Extended Depth of Field – will let you merge a number of different shots, taken with different depths of field, combining them into a single image that is free of distortion and automatically correcting vignettes.
• Auto Alignment of Layers – has been enhanced to adjust positioning of layers by moving, rotating, or warping layers. You can use the spherical alignment for more spectacular effects with panoramas.
• Auto Blending of Images – will let you combine multiple images, each with differing exposure, color, and focal points to create a single color-corrected image. You even have options to preserve tones and colors.
• Updated Printing Options – have been enhanced to preview out of gamut image areas. That is, you can see on-screen when something is not going to print correctly. There is also support for 16-bit printing on Mac OS for increased color depth.
• Updated Raw Image Processing – has become a matter of fact with a new release of Photoshop. This time it is Adobe Camera Raw 5.0 which now offers localized corrections, post-crop vignetting, TIFF and JPEG processing, and support for over 190 camera models.
• Improved Adobe Lightroom Workflow – will let you now select multiple photos in Adobe Lightroom (a separate product) and you can automatically open them in Photoshop CS4 to either create a panorama, a high dynamic range image, or a multi-layered Photoshop file.
• Every thing in the Standard edition – All of the same features as listed above.
• 3D Painting – and compositing that is revolutionary. You can now paint directly onto 3D models and wrap 2D images around 3D shapes. Effectively, say you have a 3D image of a car and you want to place your 2D logo on it. You merge the 2D layer down on to the 3D layer and it wraps around.
• 3D Object and Property Editing – will let you edit, enhance, and manipulate 3D images without dialog boxes and in a streamlined interface. You can easily orient objects and postion the camera using the 3D axis and a ground plane.
• Enhanced Motion Graphics Editing – makes the motion graphics workflow more efficient. You now have enhanced preview of non-square pixel images, 3D layer animation, and support for audio tracks.
• Volume Rendering – is a new way to convert text, shape, or pixel layers into a volume. Artists can combine painted layers into new eye-catching volumes that can be viewed from any perspective. Motion graphics professionals can generate volumes from multiple text layers. Medical professionals can volume render a DICOM image stack into an anatomical image that can be viewed from all angles and depths.
After eighteen months, this version of Photoshop has some pretty solid features that make it is a very welcome upgrade. Some of my favorite features are the new Adjustments panel that puts everything at hand, the Masks panel that lets you do target adjustments, the Fluid Canvas Rotation feature, the much improved Camera Raw, and the 3D painting.
In my opinion, these new features alone make it very much worth the upgrade, especially if you are using CS1 or earlier. Should you get Standard or Extended? That really depends on the usefulness of the added features and your ability to spend an additional $350.00 for a new version, or $150.00 more for an upgrade. For me, while I would like more abilities in the 3D realm, but they do keep improving it. I do highly recommend this product.