Adobe has announced Photoshop CS6, the latest version of the hugely successful Photoshop image editing program. Also announced was Creative Cloud, which allows users to access CS6 software on a subscription basis.
Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard photo editing application as used by designers, professional photographers and keen enthusiasts the world over. It's powerful, complex and very expensive, but there is nothing else that comes close to the versatility and plethora of features it offers. Just in case you thought Photoshop couldn't get any better, Adobe has just announced Photoshop CS6 which has over 62 percent new features and 65 user-inspired enhancements. Photoshop CS6 is available as a free Beta preview download. Adobe has also announced Photoshop Lightroom 4, this features many new enhancements. So let's take a look at both applications and see what's new.
Starting with Photoshop CS6, users will experience a faster performance, CS6 is now powered by the Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine. This uses your Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) to produce near-instant results from many filters and other popular editing tools including; Liquify, Puppet Warp, Transform and Lighting Effects. You will need a compatible video card to work with the Adobe Mercury Graphics engine, many of the new nvidia cards support the Mercury playback engine, check the card specifications first.
The Photoshop user interface (UI) itself has had a makeover, the palettes also have a new streamlined look. You can change the interface appearance with a choice of four shades of grey, which means you can keep a consistent look with other Adobe applications, although both Premiere and After Effects do offer a more versatile slider for fine tuning to the exact shade required. The image canvas can also have a different shade of grey or any custom colour you like (dark grey is generally a good choice as this does not influence your eyes when applying colour correction to images).
Layers have had new features added, you can now assign an adjustment layer to a whole group or just to individual layers. The curves Adjustment layer can be resized to an easier to use workable size and there is an easy to use modifier, just click on a tone in the image and a highlight appears on the curve to indicate where that value is on the curve. Now move your mouse up or down whilst still on the image to make an adjustment to that value - clever stuff!
A new filter set that many will find very useful is Blur, besides the usual range of Blurs, three new options have been added, these include; Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift Blur. The Field Blur simulates an out of focus lens rather than an overall blur created with a Gaussian blur. You can add several points, each with their own blur value to produce a selective focus type shot. Both the Iris and Tilt-Shift filters effectively let you add a convincing instant depth of field effect to an image. You simply define the areas on the image you want to blur or keep in focus. Use the Tilt-Shift blur to create a model village look on a scene.
Oil Paint Filter
Another new filter is the Oil Paint Filter, this applies a series of random brush strokes over an image to produce an oil painting effect. This is very effective up to a point, but like so many other things in Photoshop it is worth experimenting by applying the filter twice or combining some of the other artistic filters with it.
Adaptive Wide Angle Lens correction filter
Photoshop also has an Adaptive Wide Angle lens correction filter. This will correct the distortions that are common with extreme wide angle lenses. The filter looks up the camera metadata in the exif file and knows which lens has been used. Just draw out a line or several lines following what should be a straight edge on the distorted image, the line arc automatically follows the image edge and the filter does the rest. The filter in practice produces impressive results, lens curvatures were more or less eliminated on both the horizontal and vertical axis. Now you can use those extra wide lenses once again, this time without distortions. You will probably have to crop the image to remove the blank borders, or you could use a context sensitive fill to make up the missing areas.
Some of the tools have also been enhanced, the crop tool has a totally new look and functionality. By default an entire image is selected, drag any of the corner or centre handles to mark out the crop area. Move your cursor outside of the crop area and now you can rotate the canvas, this is handy for viewing an image in the correct orientation - on previous versions you had to rotate the crop grid. There is also an option to straighten the image at the same time, handy for the occasional shot that you may not have aligned up correctly. Other options include; a selection of six overlay grids, by default the Rule of Thirds grid is placed over the image. You can also choose to delete the cropped pixels or keep them. This enables you to go back at a later stage and recover cropped areas, although you can't use the History brush to paint in from a previous un-cropped state. A dedicated perspective crop tool has also been added, this replaces the previous perspective check box which was only available once you had drawn out the crop area.
Content Aware Move Tool
A totally new tool is the Content Aware Move Tool which has been added to the Healing brush group. Draw a loose outline around an object to make a selection and then drag it to a new location. The area is then filled with surrounding content, this worked well on most images I tried, but not all, especially images that had a complicated background.
Photoshop CS6 now includes the ability to edit full HD video. This has been included to meet the increased popularity of HDSLR cameras. Open a video file directly into Photoshop and it will appear on a timeline at the base of the screen. From here you can edit your video and audio track by applying trims, or adding transitions between clips. You can also bring in video as a series of layers, but at 25 or 30 frames per second you may be overwhelmed with far too many layers to edit. You can also animate still images by applying pans and zooms to them. The video editing features in Photoshop CS6 are very basic compared to most entry level NLE application. However, it may be enough to get you started on the long road to more comprehensive video editing with applications such as Premiere Elements, Premiere Pro or After Effects.
Camera RAW 7.0
The major new addition is Camera RAW 7.0. This has a few new features that will be of interest to a photographer. The first page sliders now incorporate photographer user friendly names such as Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. On previous versions these were called Recovery, Fill light etc. New options have been added to the Adjustment Brush, now you can paint in a colour temperature to a selective area, handy if you have shot a scene in mixed lighting. You can also paint in localised sharpening, noise reduction and moirÈ reduction. Many of the features that are new to Camera RAW 7.0 have come directly from Lightroom. Camera RAW 7.0 will be updated on a regular basis to add support to new digital camera models.
Top new Features:
New sleek User Interface and many tools have been redesigned.
Adjustment layers can be applied to Layer groups or individual layers
Content-Aware Move and Patch tools, make a loose selecting and quickly move image elements to a new location and Photoshop fills in the blank area
Camera RAW 7.0 has several tweaks for photographer friendly editing
Automatic background saves. Photoshop will automatically save all open documents at a user defined time interval.
The crop tool has been redesigned for easier use. The straighten tool has been incorporated. You can also use the usual Classic Mode if you prefer. The perspective crop tool is now a separate tool.
Video editing has been incorporated, useful but with very basic editing features.
Adaptive Lens corrections, correct wide angle distortions with an easy to use interface. This is perhaps the most impressive tool in Photoshop CS6.
Blurs, add selective focus to any image with a choice of three new filters; Field, Iris, and Tilt-Shift Blurs
Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine, speeds up your workflow with a compatible video card, preferably with at least 512mb of VRAM
Our overall verdict is that Photoshop CS6 offers many new features, although most are under the bonnet. It's all too easy to dismiss this version as being a few minor tweaks to an already excellent application, but the fact is that it is very powerful and will deliver superb quality faster than any previous version. To get the very best out of Photoshop CS6 you will need a Mercury Engine compatible graphic card and ideally a 64bit Operating System with 8gb or more RAM. If you are a professional or keen hobbyist then CS6 should be high on your list of must have upgrades.
Adobe Photoshop CS6 will be priced from £1,032 excluding vat, for more information head to Adobe's website.