Photoshop CS6 is finally here! Albeit in beta form. Nevertheless, we’ve spent the past few weeks putting Photoshop CS6 through its paces. There’s been a good deal to get our teeth into and we think that the additions to this new version of Photoshop CS will be welcomed by new and old Photoshop users alike.
The most obvious change in Photoshop CS6 is the darker interface, but there are plenty of other more intriguing new features, as well as plenty of tweaks and upgrades to existing Photoshop tools. Below are 20 things you need to know about Photoshop CS6 and how it can enhance your photo editing experience.
Photoshop CS6: 20 things you need to know
01 Oil Paint Filter
Filter>Oil Paint is an astonishing way to transform pictures, and offers a lot of control over how a seemingly random pattern of brush strokes is added to an image. This latest of the many Photoshop effects came from the now-discontinued Pixel Bender project, which used the GPU for extra processing, so updating the preview is almost instant.
02 Tilt-shift filter
Filter>Blur>Tilt Shift allows you to add blur off a plane, rather like a Tilt Shift lens. It’s typical of the move towards GPU-accelerated effects with ‘on image’ controls. So instead of a Dialog Box and preview, you drag the controls directly on the image.
03 Controlling the Tift-Shift blur
The space between the Tilt Shift filter’s solid lines is sharp, while the dashed lines denote where the blurring effect is full-on. Drag the lines apart to fine-tune depth of field. The roundel controls where the plane is centred, and its white/black ring sets blur amount. To change the plane’s angle, move the dots above or below the roundel.
04 New Filters menu
The Filters menu has always been one of Photoshop’s best features, but there’s no denying that some of the filters were showing their age. For CS6, Adobe’s designers reviewed many of the older filters, and dropped some including the Pixel Bender ones, and reorganised the menus.
05 On image controls
Old-style filters are based around modal Dialog Boxes that pop up over the picture and contain small previews and sliders. Adobe is moving to more ‘on image’ controls such as the hands in adjustment filters and 3D graphics-influenced controls for real-time adjustment.
06 Non-destructive cropping
Delete Cropped Pixels is a useful setting in the new Crop tool. If ticked, Crop works as before, deleting as it crops. But leaving it unticked means that the canvas is cropped and those pixels are left on the layer, should you change your mind. Even the background is converted to a standard layer.
07 New & classic crops
If you’re a Lightroom user, you’ll have no problem with Photoshop’s new Crop tool. But if you really don’t like it, no matter how hard you try, the Options Bar’s fly-out menu has Use Classic Mode. Tick this, and the Crop tool will work in the way you’ve always liked.
08 Lightroom-style rotation
Cropping and adjusting the rotation often go together. CS6 now rotates the image itself and leaves the crop rectangle static, so you see how the image will look once you commit to the crop. Move the cursor outside one of the corners to activate rotation. The guides can be changed on the fly, too – just press O.
09 Aspect ratios
In the Crop tool’s Options Bar are shortcuts to a range of aspect ratios, and you can add your own custom ones as presets. There’s also a very handy command that switches the crop rectangle between landscape and portrait orientation.
10 Character & Paragraph Styles
If you add a lot of text to your Photoshop documents then two new panels are particularly worth checking out. Just like in InDesign, you can now save your favourite font, size, colour, and other type-related settings and edit them via the fly-out menus in the new Character Style and Paragraph Style Panels.
11 Content-Aware Move tool
The new Content-Aware Move tool is found in the same Tools Panel button as Spot Healing and Patch, and extends the Content-Aware Fill technology to moving a selection, blending it into its new location, and simultaneously filling in the hole it left. It needs to be used with care, but when it works well, it’s a time saver.
12 Toggle the Layer filter
When you’re working on a complex document, there are times when you need to quickly toggle between a subset of layers and seeing the entire stack. You can quickly set a layer’s colour and use that as your filter.
13 Adobe Camera Raw
One Exposure slider combines the old Exposure and Brightness, and Contrast is made much more prominent. All adjustments are now adaptive or tone-mapped. In the past, only Recovery and Fill Light responded to the image’s tonal characteristics.
14 Blend If indicator
Layers are so useful, you can end up with so many of them that they’re difficult to manage. Photoshop has offered folders to group layers and colours to mark them up, but until now there’s been no way to control and review them. Anyone creating complex multi-layer Photoshop documents will love the new features in the Layers Panel and probably our favourite detail – the Blend If indicator on the layer.
15 Layers Filter
The new Layers Filter is at the top of the Layers Panel and can be configured in a number of ways. Kind allows you to filter the panel and show only text layers, for instance, but the drop-down list lets you find layers with masks, or advanced blending.
16 New process version
When you open a Raw file that was adjusted in a previous version of Adobe Camera Raw, there will be a small exclamation mark, which you click to update the rendition to the latest version. This will likely change your image.
17 Highlight recovery
Adobe Camera Raw 7’s big benefits are significantly better rendition of nearly blown highlights, with two sliders controlling the top ‘zones’, and local white balance adjustment control. Combining Exposure and Brightness into one slider is a good move, not least because users so often overlooked the latter, and a refined Clarity tool now adds twice as much punch to an image.
18 New defaults
Other big changes are that all sliders are set to 0 defaults and have negative values. Drag to the left to reduce the brightness of the tonal range. Also notice how Recovery is gone and Highlights and Whites provide two levels of control over the brighter areas of the image.
19 Erodible brush tips
Hidden in the Brushes Panel is a new type of brush – the Erodible Point. This mimics a graphite pencil, so you can set the Softness slider, and the more you draw, the softer the tip becomes. There’s a button to sharpen the tip, and you can assign a keyboard shortcut to do so, too.
20 Local white balance
One very welcome new feature is that local white balance adjustment is now possible in Adobe Camera Raw. It’s available in the Adjustment Brush and also in the Graduated Filter tool, and is ideal for correcting problems caused by mixed lighting. Another new local adjustment is Moire Reduction, and the other sliders have been updated to match the basic adjustments.
Do you want to try the Photoshop CS6 beta? Visit the Adobe Labs website and download the Photoshop CS6 beta.
Get Practical Photoshop’s exclusive digital copy of Adobe Photoshop CS6 Preview to read on your iPad.