Photoshop CS6 Review

The Photoshop CS6 Beta has been in our hands for over a month, and my verdict is in. Will Photoshop CS6 be a success? Is it worth the upgrade? Read my Photoshop CS6 review to find out!

Photoshop CS6 Review

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The word upgrade can mean many things, depending on who’s deciphering it. To many, an upgrade must contain revolutionary features that will blow the mind of even the most advanced users. To others, they’re happy with smaller additions which will end up making their life easier. Over the years, Adobe has blown our minds with new technology, like Content-Aware, that attracted the first group of users to upgrade year after year. However, in Photoshop CS6, you may not run into particularly new and mind blowing. But is that such a bad thing?

Is Bigger Better?

In past versions of Photoshop, we definitely saw some larger editions, but I had to ask myself, are these new features really going to make my life as a designer easier? For the most part, the answer was “no”. In real-world situations, many of the ‘mind blowing’ features didn’t get the job done, as they required very specific images to work. They sure were nice to show off in tutorials though!

So what’s so different about Photoshop CS6? The little things. Instead of Adobe covering our eyes with the ‘wow factor’, we’ve been given dozens upon dozens of smaller features which will boost productivity, ease workflow, and ultimately make our lives easier.

The User Interface and Performance

Black is back! Well, it’s finally been introduced. Not only do users now have the option of working with a dark interface, but they can choose between four shades, ranging from Black, Dark Grey, Medium Grey, and Light Grey. Not only does this allow users to see their documents in a new light (or lack of light), users with visual disabilities may find one interface easier on the eyes than another.

I love the dark theme. It was really odd at first but it’s so helpful in making the content the focus. – Joel E

Other UI Changes

On top of the color changes, Adobe has added the ability to filter your layers! This is a very welcome change for users who work with very large, complicated documents, and want a quick way to find the layers they are after. You are able to filter your layers by Kind, Name, Mode, Attribute, Color.

Time to Perform!

Along with the new, sleek UI, Photoshop CS6 has been given some incredible performance enhancements. Along with being a 64-bit application, which gives you access to more of your system’s RAM, Photoshop CS6 now takes advantage of the GPU better than ever! Certain tasks which may have taken minutes in earlier versions, now take seconds! From Liquify to 3D editing, the performance enhancements will reduce the number of times you pound your head on the desk, and increase your workflow by a longshot!

Saving in the Background?!

Nothing frustrated me more than having to wait for my document to save. When working with very large files, this could take hours! Okay, probably not that long, but it sure seems that way sometimes! Wait no more! Photoshop CS6 now sports a background save feature! Hit that save button, and continue working! Photoshop will save your document quietly in the background, allowing you to continue your task at hand.

But wait, there’s more! Not only does Photoshop save your documents in the background, but it also saves recovery documents! Nothing is more painful than watching Photoshop crash before your eyes. For those lazy users, this could mean hours of work down the drain! In your preferences, you can tell Photoshop how often to auto-save these documents. Don’t worry though, this does not save overtop of your current file. Photoshop stores recovery documents in a separate location, in case of emergency!

Video: The UI and Performance Enhancements in Photoshop CS6

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Content-Aware Move and Patch

As mentioned, one of Adobe’s big-ticket features, is Content-Aware. First seen in Photoshop CS4 as Content-Aware Scale, it has slowly evolved throughout the years. Content-Aware Fill in CS5, and now Content-Aware Move, and Content-Aware Patch in Photoshop CS6. For those unfamiliar with the Content-Aware technology, it’s a complex algorithm which analyzes the area surrounding a selection, and uses that information to fill, scale, move or extend the object in question. While it won’t work in all situations, it’s quite impressive when it does.

Video: Content-Aware Move in Photoshop CS6

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Video: Content-Aware Patch in Photoshop CS6

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Video Editing

If you’ve ever attempted to edit a video in Photoshop CS5 Extended, forget everything you knew, and prepare for a much easier experience! Video editing in Photoshop CS6 is not only now available to all Photoshop CS6 owners, but it has been rewritten from the ground up! Video editing within Photoshop CS6 allows you to trim/speed clips, add transitions/audio, and even add adjustments/filters to your videos! If you are someone who may need to occasionally edit video, you can probably do it completely within Photoshop CS6. No need for an additional application. And remember, it’s available to all Photoshop CS6 owners!

Video: Video Editing in Photoshop CS6

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3D Capabilities

This is another area of Photoshop CS6 which has been completely redone. 3D in Photoshop CS5 Extended wasn’t the best user experience. It was very clunky, and quite difficult to use. While the 3D features are still limited to the Extended version of Photoshop, the experience is now fantastic! No more Repousse, no more useless dialogue boxes, and no more slow moving 3D layers. Everything is now built right into the UI, and powered by the fantastic GPU performance upgrades.

 I think that they brought 3D on a new level, compared to the CS5 version – Kevin

Video: 3D Capabilities in Photoshop CS6

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Camera Raw

For photographers who deal with RAW images, you’ll be pleased to know that Camera Raw has been updated to version 7! First off, your adjustment sliders now start at their midpoints. This not only makes it visually easier to see what’s been adjusted, but it also allows the user to retrieve much more data than they ever could! Plus, with the improved Clarity slider, near HDR results are now possible with a single RAW image, without the ugly ‘halo’ effect you may have seen in the past. Lastly, the incredible Adjustment Brushes have been updated to work with the improved processing.

Video: Camera Raw 7

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Adaptive Wide Angle

If you’re a photographer, you’ve certainly been in a situation when you had to use an ultra-wide angle lens in order to capture the full scene. Or perhaps you just didn’t realize that the lens would leave you with so much distortion. In the past, these images could have been corrected with Warp, or Puppet Warp, but it was a tedious task. Now, in Photoshop CS6, a new filter has been added which is designed specifically for these situations. The Adaptive Wide Angle Filter.

Video: Adaptive Wide Angle in Photoshop CS6

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Blur Gallery

Photoshop has always had a slew of blur filters available, but they weren’t too attractive to photographers. In Photoshop CS6, Adobe has introduced three new filters that photographers have been dying to get their hands on. Field Blur, Iris Blur, and Tilt-Shift.

Field Blur

The most basic of the three new blur filters, is Field Blur. This will allow you to create a simple overall blur, or a blur from A to B. Of course, you can add a C, D, E, and so on, but you might find that the other two blurs are more suited for that.

Iris Blur

For those looking to focus on a single object in an image, the Iris Blur may be your best bet. Like the name implies, this blur creates an ellipse around the area of focus, which can be adjusted to include more or less of your photo.

Tilt-Shift

Tilt-Shifting is a process that can give your photos a miniature feel to them. However, not all photos will benefit from this effect. Typically, you should choose an overhead photo where the main subjects are at a distance from the camera.

Video: Blur Gallery in Photoshop CS6

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Oil Paint Filter

I don’t know about you, but in previous versions of Photoshop, if you wanted to turn your picture into a painting, it wasn’t an easy task. The filters that were available to you didn’t get the job done. Photoshop CS6 puts us out of our misery, by implementing the Oil Paint filter, which was previously part of Pixel Bender. This new filter is fairly simplistic, but the results are fantastic!

The darker theme is nice the Content Aware is great but the Oil Painting Filter is awesome – Mike S

Video: Oil Paint Filter in Photoshop CS6

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Shape Strokes

This is one of the ‘smaller’ features that has been implemented to improve workflow. In Photoshop CS6, not only can Strokes be added directly to a vector shape, but users finally have an easy way of creating dotted or dashed outlines for their shapes! This was not an easy task in Photoshop CS5!

Video: Shape Strokes in Photoshop CS6

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Cropping

Cropping in Photoshop CS6 has gotten some interesting changes, which seem to be a hit or miss amongst users. The fundamentals of cropping remain the same, but the way the Crop Tool functions has been tweaked.

– For one, when adjusting the crop handles, your document remains centered on your workspace.
– When rotating within the crop tool, the image rotates, rather than the crop area. This gives you a live preview of the final result.
– By default, cropped pixels are saved in case you want to revert your crop. Finally!

Of course, if you prefer to go back to the way things were in CS5, you can do so on the Options Bar.

It might seem small, but I love the new crop tool; the automatic rotation makes it so much easier to preview the final result! – Harrison F

Video: Crop Changes in Photoshop CS6

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In addition to the Crop Tool receiving some nice updates, Perspective Cropping has also been updated. What was once a hidden tool in Photoshop CS5, is now it’s own tool! On top of that, it’s been reinvented to be easier to use than ever before!

Video: Perspective Cropping in Photoshop CS6

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Skin Tones and Detect Faces

If you’re an active Photoshop user, you certainly know that there are a countless number of selection methods, which can help you in your projects. While some are more suited than others in certain situations, if you’re looking to select a specific color in your image, Color Range, found under the Select menu, may be your best bet. In Photoshop CS6, you’re now able to create samples based on Skin Tones. This will instruct Photoshop to sample all skin tones in the image. Of course, if you’re only looking to select the skin tones on the faces of your image, there’s also the new Detect Faces checkbox!

Video: Color Range in Photoshop CS6

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Vector Enhancements

Even though Illustrator may be more suited for vector work, Photoshop certainly has the ability to create vector based designs. In Photoshop CS6, there have been some nice changes to the way vector shapes are handled.

– Better Pixel Snapping.
– Copy/Paste shape attributes.
– Stroke options, as mentioned above.
– Create Shape dialogue box.
– Merge/separate shape layers.

Video: Merging Shape Layers in Photoshop CS6

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Tool Recording

If you’re an avid Actions user, you might be please to hear that the option to record tools is now available in the Photoshop CS6 Public Beta! This gives you the chance to record steps like brush strokes, a feature that many artists have been requesting. Once recorded, you can play the action back at an accelerated speed, or in real-time. To see this new JDI in action, check out the video below!

Video: Tool Recording in Photoshop CS6

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Just Do it!

Along with all these magical features that made their way into Photoshop CS6, Adobe has also included over 60 JDIs, or “Just Do It” requests. These smaller features are typically features that users have been requesting for years, that were put off due to a lack of time/resources. This year, Adobe tackled a ton of them! Check out the video below for 10 of my favorite!

Video: Just Do It! JDIs in Photoshop CS6

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Creative Cloud

With the announcement of Creative Suite 6, Adobe has also introduced Creative Cloud, a subscription service that not only gives you access to the Adobe Master Collection, but also to cloud-based storage, publishing tools, and updates to your applications as they’re released! For only $49.99/month, or $29.99/month (for the first year) for current CS customers, users can use all of the Master Collection applications, touch based apps, and are given access to cloud storage, publishing tools, and on-going updates to the applications that are included! (Read more on Creative Cloud…)

“This is awesome! It now puts the Creative Suite in reach for those of us who need it and can’t afford to purchase it. Great job Adobe!” – Suztv

Conclusion

If you actually made it this far down the article, it’s time for my conclusion. Clearly, there is a lot being packed into this update, and this article didn’t even cover half of it! After using the Photoshop CS6 beta on a day-to-day basis, I am very pleased with what Adobe has delivered this year. Focusing less on the “big ticket” features, and more on the smaller, “better experience” features was a very smart move. At first glance, Photoshop CS6 may not seem to be a large upgrade, but once you dig deep, and read a few in-depth articles on all the ‘little things’, I think you’ll soon agree that Photoshop CS6 is one of Adobe’s best updates to date.