So, the waiting is finally over and our Adobe CS6 review is here! We aim to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of Adobe’s Creative Suite, and you’ll find in-depth reviews of Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Flash, After Effects, Premiere Pro and Flash Pro posted below
A new version of Photoshop is always a highlight in the designer’s calendar, and CS6 is no exception. Those looking for the much-heralded Deblur filter, however, will be disappointed: it’s far too early for inclusion this time around. In fact, those looking for big splashy show-off features will also be looking in vain. This is largely an under-the-bonnet release, bringing a few new tools and filters but concentrating on greater speed, efficiency and ease of use. But the improvements are great, and this Photoshop review will reveal all!
Acceleration in Adobe Photoshop CS6
Photoshop CS6 makes full use of your computer’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which provides tremendous acceleration in many areas. So the Liquify filter, previously a sluggish experience, is accelerated to provide smooth, real-time smearing even with brushes up to the new maximum limit of 15,000 pixels; the new Oil Paint feature adds a paint-like texture, with controls that operate on the full-screen preview in real time. Of course, all this depends on you having a fast enough processor and graphics card; although CS6 will run on Windows XP/Mac OS X 10.6 with just 1Gb RAM, you do need a hardware-accelerated OpenGL graphics card to get the most out of it.
New look and feel for Photoshop CS6
The first thing you notice about CS6 is its new interface. You now have the choice between four base colours, from near-black to pale grey – so Photoshop can look more like Lightroom if you choose. Everything has been subtly tweaked, from the hundreds of redesigned icons (the Pen and Lasso tools now indicate their active hotspots more clearly) to a crisper, more consistent layout.
The new dark look will appeal to photographers, as it’s less distracting. The ability to filter layers by type is also a major enhancement
New HUD in Photoshop CS6
A new Head Up Display system (HUD) provides key information right at the cursor. This is context sensitive, so will show dimensions when dragging out a marquee, angles when rotating a selection, and so on. It also applies to the three new Blur filters, each of which provides a different type of blur – Field, Iris and Tilt Shift – with strength and radius controls directly on the image, rather than just in a side panel. All three new filters are also GPU accelerated for real-time previews.
Tilt-Shift is just one of the three new Blur filters, each of which works in real time thanks to GPU acceleration.
The controls are placed directly on the image for ease of access
New tools and filters in Photoshop CS6
There’s just one new tool, the Content-Aware Patch tool, which takes the technology introduced in CS4 (Content-Aware Scaling) and CS5 (Content-Aware Fill) and extends it to a tool that allows us to select and move or extend objects in a scene, patching their original location more or less seamlessly. In practice, the results depend very much on having the right image; it’s a great idea, but doesn’t always come up with the goods.
The new Content-Aware Patch tool can both move and extend objects – working well with organic objects, less well with man-made structures
A major new filter is Adaptive Wide Angle, which allows you to correct camera distortion simply by drawing over lines that should be straight. A hugely powerful tool, it allows even stitched panoramas with multiple perspectives to be corrected into a single landscape shot.
The new Adaptive Wide Angle filter does a great job of correcting camera distortion: simply drag over straight lines to make the adjustment
Enhanced Camera Raw
Also good for photographers is the enhanced Camera Raw dialog, which now has more powerful versions of tools such as Clarity (there’s now no halo effect, even at maximum strength) and Defringing (the controls are gone, replaced by a single checkbox which just does the job). For the first time, it’s also possible to apply localised noise reduction.
Enhancements to Camera Raw include a greatly improved Clarity control, as well as the ability to apply localised noise reduction using adjustment brushes
Lighting Effects filter
The Lighting Effects filter has had a major overhaul, ditching the previous tiny preview in favour of a full-screen, GPU-accelerated preview that shows changes in real time. It’s of particular benefit to Mac users, for whom Lighting Effects disappeared in Adobe Photoshop CS5 unless they were running the program in sluggish 32-bit mode.
Designers will love the new Paragraph and Character Style panels, which allow favourite combinations to be set and adjusted at will – as well as the fact that Shapes layers are now true vector objects, which means you can now apply strokes inside, outside and centred on paths, as well as being able to stroke open paths. Those strokes can now be dotted and dashed, and can be filled with gradients.
Adobe Photoshop CS6 will now not only save in the background, allowing you to carry on working while it’s saving, but will also auto-save a version avery few minutes so that, in the event of a crash, you can pick up from where you left off. If you still manually revert to a saved file, though, it will always go back to the one you deliberately chose to save, rather than its own intermediate version.
The Crop tool has been reworked so that cropping now pans the image behind the crop window. It seems a little unintuitive at first, until you rotate a crop, when it suddenly makes sense: now, the image rotates behind the window, so you can see how it will look without having to crane your neck as you did previously.
The Select Color Range tool now has an option to select skin tones – and, within it, a separate option to select faces. In practice, it works remarkably well: it’s not perfect, and when used in conjunction with a mask on an Adjustment Layer it will require some manual fine-tuning, but it’s a big help.
The Select Color dialog can now select skin tones automatically, with a special Face Detection mode that performs well – even when the subjects are wearing hats and sunglasses.
Extending Actions in Photoshop CS6
Actions, the means by which Photoshop users can automate repetitive tasks, have been extended so that they can now store brush movements as well as menu and selection choices. This means that for the first time it’s possible to record an entire painting operation, and have it played back with a single keystroke.
Beyond image editing in Photoshop CS6
Users of the Regular edition of Photoshop will be delighted to learn that movie editing capability has made the leap over from the Extended edition. This means everyone can now edit movies right inside Photoshop: you can apply all the standard selection of filters and distortions to moving images, as well as adding animated layers on top.
You’ll still need to buy the Extended edition if you want to use the 3D Layer tools, which have had a major overhaul in this release. New HUD controls allow you to extrude, revolve and twist 3D objects directly in the middle of the artwork, as well as adding bevels and inflation. Changing light direction is simply a matter of shift-clicking on a shadow and dragging to where you want it. There are many more 3D enhancements, including text and Bezier outlines on extruded shapes that can be edited after extrusion has been applied, and the ability to define a Ground Plane inside the Vanishing Point filter, and then use it as the basis for snapping 3D objects and locating shadows.
The ability to define a ground plane in Vanishing Point means you can integrate 3D objects
into your scene with greater ease – and greater realism
Verdict: Adobe Photoshop CS6
Adobe Photoshop CS6 is a major upgrade that will appeal to many kinds of users. Montage artists and retouchers will appreciate the new Blur and Liquify filters, the HUD controls and the ability to sort layers by type; designers will value the new text and Shape tools; and anyone with a recent digital camera will find the movie editing functionality a major bonus. Those who fork out for the Extended edition will find 3D object creation is easier than ever, and the new ability to match the 3D perspective with the perspective of a photographed scene means 3D objects can be seamlessly integrated into your artwork.
But what really marks out this version is the time-saving nature of the enhancements, which means it should pay for itself in a very short time. Everything feels slicker, smoother and more sure; the fact that so many filters now act in real time means there’s no waiting for the computer to catch up with your actions. It’s definitely a recommended upgrade.
Adobe Photoshop CS6
Reviewed by Steve Caplin on .
Design Standard CS6 (£1032, or £219 to upgrade): includes Acrobat X Pro, Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop
Web Premium CS6 (£1509, or £298 to upgrade): includes Acrobat X Pro, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash Pro, InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop Extended
Production Premium CS6 (£1509, or £298 to upgrade): includes After Effects, Audition, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop Extended, Premiere Pro, Prelude, SpeedGrade and Adobe Story.
Master Collection CS6 (£2223, or £397 to upgrade): includes Acrobat X Pro, After Effects, Audition, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash Pro, Flash Builder, InDesign, Illustrator, Lightroom, Photoshop Extended, and Premiere Pro.