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Photoshop CS6, Whats New, Beta Review

There are a lot of new enhancements to Photoshop CS6. The first most notable change is the interface. The new screen looks more like Lightroom 4 then Photoshop with its darker background and light colored tool icons. If you prefer the lighter color of previous versions it can be changed.  There are a lot of changes in this version many of which are enhancements to the way certain items are selected and worked with. Many of these changes although superficial, make working with Photoshop much faster.  There are some items that have been moved to new locations for example users of Mini Bridge will now find it at the bottom of the screen and when opened, a Lightroom style filmstrip will be revealed. A lot of the changes are part of Adobe’s JDI initiative. The acronym JDI stands for “just do it” and stems from the Adobe Photoshop team surveying users and asking them what they would like Photoshop to “just do”. Some of these include, being able to make changes to multiple layers, an easier way to work with layers of text, and enhancements working with brush sizes. There are so many minor tweaks that it would be impractical to go through them all. Besides, most people want to know about the big juicy upgrades so let’s get started.
(for a list of the JDI features head to the Adobe forums)

the new Photoshop interface has a darker color

Camera Raw 7.0
First off, Photoshop CS6 has inherited the latest Camera Raw plug-in from Lightroom 4, Camera Raw 7.0. This includes an all-new Basic Adjustment panel. Gone are the Recovery, Fill Light, and Brightness sliders. The new adjustment sliders are based on completely new algorithms and are labeled more intelligently and are easier to understand. Adjustments are now made through new sliders called Highlights, Shadows, and Whites. Some slider names did not change. Still available are the Exposure slider the Blacks slider along with Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation. The Clarity slider was updated and works much differently than the old version. In the past versions of Camera Raw Clarity would often leave a halo around the edges of objects if cranked way up. The Clarity slider in Camera Raw 7.0 makes adjustments to the mid tones across the entire picture instead of attacking just the edges. The result is a Clarity slider that doesn’t leave halos but if over cranked can cause too much contrast throughout the mid-tones of the photo.

Oil Paint
This new filter arrived courtesy of an Adobe Lab plug-in called Pixel Bender. With only a few simple sliders in a pop-up dialog box it transforms photographs into realistic looking oil paintings. Although painting filters have been around in Photoshop for many many years this is the first one that actually looks like the name implies.

with only a few controls, part of the oil paint filter’s success is in its simplicity

photograph of the Italy pavilion using the oil paint filter

the oil paint filter works very well with portraits.

Blur Gallery
There are three new blurs to enhance photographs in Photoshop CS6. All of them are grouped together in a single dialogue box called the Blur Gallery. The Blur Gallery, is designed to mimic a shallow depth of field usually associated with fast low f-stop lenses. From this new dialog box users can select Field Blur, Iris Blur, and Tilt-Shift. The interface is very easy use and is not overwhelming. Once you decide which blur effect you want to use you simply add adjustment points called pins. I found the Field Blur to be the most effective at creating a bokeh affect. By placing your pins throughout your photo and adjusting the amount of blur, you can simulate focal planes throughout the image. Iris Blur is great for crearating a specific point of focus in the photograph. You can control the blur outside a specific radius with additional adjustments for controlling the transition from sharp to blur. The Tilt-Shift blur duplicates that of a tilt shift lens. A tilt-shift lens has only a single plane of focus. Tilt-shift lenses are used primarily for landscape and architectural photography and allows for a sharper focus over greater distances while using a lower F-stop. However, effects using tilt shift lenses have become quite popular over the past couple of years. Using the Tilt-Shift blur and shooting from above can give the illusion that the photograph is actually of a model and not the real outdoors. Although this is fairly easy to achieve in previous versions of Photoshop, the addition of this filter not only makes it easier and quicker to perform the effect, but also with improved results.

Blur Gallery InterfaceField Blur
The Field Blur filter can create a faux bokeh affect by applying pins throughout the image and adjusting the rate of blur for specific sections.

Field Blur before and After

Iris blur
The Iris Blur filter creates a single focal point dropping off to an adjustable blur simulating a very fast low f-stop lens.

Iris Blur before and after

The tilt shift blur simulates a single small plane of focus.

Tilt-Shift Before and After

Updated Brushes
Photoshop CS6 adds two new brushes to its lineup and adds updates to the traditional static brushes. Both of these new brushes have full tilt and rotation if you’re using them with a graphics tablet. One of the new brushes is the Airbrush brush and is represented by an airbrush nozzle in the brushes palette. The second set of new brushes are erodible tip brushes. As the name implies the tips of these brushes will start to deteriorate as you use it. This is a way of simulating drawing with soft mediums like chalks and pastels. There’s a reset button to sharpen the tip. As I mentioned before there are updates to the static brushes. A new selectable box called Brush Projection will give the brush a skewed appearance and adds dimension and more control when using shape brushes. For this feature to work you must be using a graphics tablet because the Projection Brush uses the tilting of the pen to establish the skew. If you look at the CS5 brushes panel and compare it to CS6 you will notice a couple of differences. Brush Pose is a new selection option and the Airbrush attribute on CS5 has now been changed to Build-up. Another change to the static brushes gives the user the ability to double the size of previous versions of brushes in Photoshop. In the past, brushes could not exceed 2500 pixels and that has now doubled to 5000 pixels. This also means that brushes can be created up to 5000 pixels.

If you look closely at the brushes palette you’ll notice two new shapes, an airbrushed tip, and what looks like a pencil which represent erodible tip brushes.

brush settings CS5 versus Photoshop CS6

Adaptive Wide-Angle
The adaptive wide-angle filter is a new filter designed to correct distortions caused by wide-angle shots and panoramas. The interface is very intuitive yet simple. Corrections are made in a separate dialog box. The user traces straight lines similar to the ruler tool for straightening, and Photoshop can correct the photo. I tried this on several photos myself and found it pretty amazing. I have several panos that are so distorted that I’ve considered them unusable. I dug through my archives and found a pano I took of the check-in area at Saratoga Springs Resort. The distortion to the left which is the doorway, was just so skewed that I cannot correct it using any of the transformation tools. With the new adaptive wide-angle correction I was able to make a salvageable pano.  I also tried it on some building shots where the distortion was fairly noticeable and was pleased with the results.

Corrections are made by tracing straight lines. Once the line is made, a circle will appear in the center of the line. If you look closely you will notice two small handles that you can use to rotate the line to tell Photoshop that not only should that column be straight, but that it needs to be moved to the selected location.

This is the panorama photo after Photoshop stitched several photos together. You will notice on the left the severely distorted doorjamb and how badly the left top wall of the rotunda leans in.

This is the finished panorama after cropping. All of the corrections were done with the Adaptive Wide-Angle filter.

The photo on the left has a typical wide-angle distortion at the furthest corner of the building. The left side of the building is skewed up and in. The photo on the right has been corrected using the Adaptive Wide-Angle Filter.

This is probably the most significant upgrade to hit Photoshop. In Photoshop Extended, video files could be imported and worked on using Photoshop’s filters. You could then export the clip in a limited number of file formats. All of this has changed in Photoshop CS6. With almost every camera on the market now offering a video feature Adobe has included a true timeline based video editing component. The best news is, early reports suggest that Adobe will include this in the standard version of Photoshop but still leaving 3-D capabilities to Photoshop Extended. Not only does this new feature allow users to manually edit video and apply color correction and other Photoshop features, but it now exports in a multitude of file formats. I haven’t had much time to play around with it but it seems to be a great editor. Multiple clips can be imported  and show up as layers to the layers panel. Once the timeline is open each layer will show up as an individual clip in the timeline. If you wish to keep things neat and simple multiple layers can be added to a single timeline which is a very nice feature to keep things from getting too cluttered. There is also an audio track available for importing music or narration. Don’t get me wrong, this does not replace Adobe Premiere Pro but for its stability and support it certainly can replace some other medium grade video editors. There are some simple transitions and fades included which adds a lot of punch to this editor. This feature alone could justify the cost of the upgrade.

If you’re purchasing Photoshop Extended for its 3-D capabilities you will find that it has been completely reworked and retooled. The whole new interface has been designed for a cleaner and easier experience. the new 3-D engine no longer requires you to install Adobe Repousse`.

The new 3-D allows you to control inflates, and bevels without having to install Repous`

Content Aware Move Tool
 In Photoshop CS4 Adobe introduced Content Aware Scaling. In Photoshop CS5 we saw Content Aware Fill. In Photoshop CS6 we see two new Content Aware features. The first is the Content Aware Move tool. The Content Aware Move tool can be found in the fly out for the Spot Healing Brush. Once the tool is selected, you draw a selection around the item you wish to move, and then drag it to its new location. Like all of the Content Aware features, this tool takes some time getting used to. It doesn’t always work with every type of photo and often requires multiple redoes to get it right. I would consider anything in the content aware family to be a starting point. I have tried the tool on many photos and often times it requires the tweaking of the selection. There is also an adaptation adjustment from very tight to very loose and it seems to help. One of the issues I had using the tool was when I would make my selection, and then drag it to a new location, it would place the object with pieces of it missing or disjointed. By making a new selection or changing the adaptation type from the drop-down located at the top of the interface I could get it to work if the photo was not to complex.  Some minor final work with a layer mask was needed to clean it up.

The Content Aware Move tool works best with uncluttered simple backgrounds. Once the object is moved some restoration may be required using the clone stamp tool.

With a more complicated background and subject it’s easy to see the Content Aware Move tool is no magic bullet.

Using traditional selection and mask methods yields better results on some photos then using the Content Aware Move Tool. In this photo the center elephant is the only one in the picture. The elephant on the left was loosely selected and masked out using the pen tool and a static brush with a soft edge. The elephant on the right was moved using the Content Aware Move Tool with no other adjustments.

Patch Tool with Content Aware
If you’ve ever used the Content Aware Fill to fill in a selection you’ve undoubtedly run into an issue when Photoshop miss clones a part of the fill so you end up with a piece of the photograph in an area where you did not want it. With the addition of Content Aware Fill with the patch tool the odds of this happening have decreased dramatically. If you’re not familiar with the patch tool, basically you make a selection and then drag the selection to the part of the photograph you want to copy but when using content aware fill you basically are telling Photoshop what you want the area to look like or mimic that area when it fills. In the example below I removed one of the flamingos using a selection with Content Aware fill. You can see that the fill area has a part of the photograph in it that does not match the area where the flamingo was. Of course this isn’t a huge problem I could simply use the clone stamp tool to do a little blending or I can select the bad area, and hit Content Aware fill again.  My point is to illustrate how it works against the new patch fill. On the second photo a selection using the patch tool with Content Aware selected was used to remove the flamingo. The advantage of this approach is it gives you the ability to tell Photoshop what the area should look like that you’re asking it to fill.

Content Aware can now be chosen with the Patch Tool.


Unedited version has a flamingo to the lower left foreground of the photo that needs to be removed.

The photo on the left used Content Aware Fill to remove the flamingo the photo on the right used the Patch Tool with Content Aware. You can see that the photo on the left would need additional work for the water to match.

Using all of the Content Aware tools together gives the user an effective arsenal for removing unwanted objects that can clutter and distract from the main subject matter of the composition. In this photo of Narcoossee’s, using Content Aware fill, and the patch tool I was able to easily remove the partial view of the table in the left corner of the frame and the partially visible ceiling fan.

Color Lookup (LUT Lookup Table)
Photoshop CS6 also comes with a new adjustment and adjustment layer called Color Lookup. Lookup tables are used in the film industry to determine the final outlook of a film based on a desired look. It’s basically a table to shortcut a formula for processing. I don’t want to get into too much detail of what a look up table is but if you’re curious I suggest running Lookup table or LUT through Google. These are actually pretty useful for applying quick and simple effects to photographs. There are three profiles in the dialog box for Color Lookup. Each profile has a number of “presets” available through a drop-down window. All you do, is apply the adjustment to the photo and that color profile will be loaded to the photo. This adjustment also comes in the form of an adjustment layer which makes it very flexible and non-destructive. As an adjustment layer and image can be adjusted using opacity or the layer mask.

Color Lookup has several profiles

There are a lot of color lookup tables that you can apply to a photograph. Here are four that I really liked.

Crop Tool
I have never been a fan of the crop tool in Photoshop. If you try to straighten the photo it would only move the cropped area and it would destructively crop so if you had to make an adjustment you would have to undo the crop and start over.  If you wanted to adjust where the center of the photo was after moving the bounding box you would have the same issue.  I haven’t used the crop tool since the first version of Camera Raw and now use Lightroom for cropping.  The crop tool has finally been upgraded.  It seems the Photoshop design team walked down the hall and knocked on the door of the Camera Raw/Lightroom development team and asked to borrow a Crop Tool.  They said “sure take what you need” and now the Crop Tool works like it should.  Changes to the crop can be made by clicking on the Crop Tool and the crop box appears along with the part of the photo that was cropped out.  The photo can be moved around the box and when straightening the whole image moves not just the crop.  Speaking of straightening. Like the crop tool in Lightroom there is a straightening tool that works like the Ruler tool located in the Eye Dropper fly out. (I never understood why that is located with the Eye Dropper tool?)

Making crops are much easier in Photoshop CS6 than previous versions.

In this review I’ve covered some of the major changes and upgrades to Photoshop CS6. There are many more enhancements and new things available in this version you just need to take the time and play around with it. The expected release date for the final version of Photoshop CS6 will be sometime in May.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the reply box below.

by Christopher Rainville


One Response

  1. Reblogged this on infoinno.

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