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Hands on with PhotoShop CS6: Darker, faster, and feature-full

photoshop blackThe latest version of Adobe PhotoShop CS6 has launched and it’s impressive. In addition to a visual makeover, Adobe has packed the software with some innovative and much-requested features. It’s currently in beta and you can download the normally $699-$999 application for free – for a trial period, at least. Here’s a look at some of the image-editing goodness packed inside.

Bring on the black

The first thing you’ll notice when you install PhotoShop is its new look. Gone is the lighter interface, now your images are set against a dark black backdrop. For some reason, this makes what’s traditionally looked like a cluttered and complicated application a little sleeker and simpler. Personally, I find the black makes me focus on what I’m editing more instead of my toolbox. But if the black just isn’t doing it for you, color schemes are adjustable and you can find something else you prefer.

Content-aware move tool

A content-aware tool isn’t new to this version of PhotoShop, but it’s hugely refined with the move feature and does the job of patching up the leftovers as well. In your healing tools, you’ll see the content-aware move tool, which lets you select something and put it somewhere else. The end result is far more realistic looking than it previously was, and PhotoShop has enhanced its ability to repair the area you moved the object in question from.

content moveAs you can see in the above image, there’s still some need for clean up (get out your stamp tool), but it’s a really nice improvement.

Raw

Adobe has given PhotoShop’s Raw editing capabilities a big boost. Now, even if you didn’t shoot something in Raw, you can edit it in the format. You’ll also get more metadata about your images and increased clarity for even higher resolution and detail. The highlight and shadow controls, newly added, will grab more detail from your shots so you can work with what you saw in your mind’s eye, even if it isn’t necessarily what you captured. There are a variety of new and improved options here, so take some time to explore them.

Video

For obvious reasons, PhotoShop has never been a go-to for video editors. It remains a home for stills, but updated features make it a compelling option for photographers who occasionally shoot video and want an editing option without anteing up serious cash. Finally, PhotoShop has some features that will ease this pain. You can drop in video and audio, use whatever familiar PhotoShop tools you like to adjust them, all within a simple, iMovie-like format. Is it professional? No. Will it replace Sony Vegas or Final Cut? Hardly. Will it get the job done? Yes – and then some.

video

Blur gallery

The new version of PhotoShop gets a little more creative, noticeably in the blur department. Yes, filters and blur filters have always been available, but they’ve never really been a photographers’ friend. But the addition of field blur, iris blur (used in the image below), and tilt-shift have been oft-requested, much-anticipated tools that have been implemented. 

iris blur

Crop

Sometimes a subtle tweak to an important feature can make all the difference. The crop tool has received a little makeover with its key purpose to help you change aspect ratio without also messing up resolution. You can also get creative and peruse various composition options (rule of thirds, grid, etc).

cropThere are some other essential differences here as well. You can move and rotate the image within the cropping area to set the composition, which sort of streamlines the entire process of trimming and realigning an image. The straighten tool has also gotten a nice simplification; you just draw a line under what you want to establish as the horizon and the application aligns it for you. These are all upgrades, but they are also significant changes to what are some of the most PhotoShop tools, so give yourself a minute to get reacquainted with them.

PhotoShop: It’s not just for photographers!

PhotoShop has traditionally been for photographers and Illustrator for designers. Now PhotoShop has some new tools for graphic creators as well. The InDesign users among us will also appreciate how PhotoShop has woven some of its formatting features in as well. You can now edit blocks of text much more easily. There’s also a much-requested Lorem Ipsum paste feature for throwing in sample type. All in all, using PhotoShop for whatever copy needs you have should be a much less painful process.

paintingGraphics have gotten some nice enhancements as well. You can add shapes without creating a new layer, there are new and expanded manipulations, more patters and options, and styles and their abilities have increased. You can adjust the brightness and contrast of your manipulations as well.