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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Oh god, Photoshop CS6 is here already

All images in this article (and indeed in all my articles) can be clicked on to enlarge them

Adobe has decided on a strategy of releasing a new CS suite every year and a point five version six months after that. So here's CS6 with a wealth of improvements to dazzle us all. I'm only going to look at Photoshop today as the thought of churning through new versions of Premiere and Illustrator makes me feel sick. And the mere thought of having to reinstall all my plugins and settings on After Effects just makes me want to die. So Photoshop it is then.

First off: is it any good? Of course it is, it's Photoshop.
Secondly: should I buy it? Of course not. If they hadn't made the interface all dark you wouldn't notice it was a new version at all.

This yearly cycle of CS releases seems a bit stupid, especially where Photoshop is concerned. Having been in development for pretty much 25 years, it's getting hard to add amazing new features. With CS5, when Adobe came to do the 5.5 release they didn't have enough to justify the point five on Photoshop so it was actually just 5.1 and that was that. This version 6 release feels like it's version 5.2 or even 5.1.5. There just isn't enough here to justify an incrementation of the release number. So what is new?

The interface is dark, like it is in Lightroom. I kind of like this as I tend to re-jig my computer interface to be dark anyway. This hasn't been entirely successful in Photoshop as shown by the toolbar on the left side of the screen: the icons are normally drawn with black and a couple of colours of grey, but the new dark interface means they can't use black and the two shades of grey are pretty close together resulting in mushy, difficult to see icons. Kick ass start there, Adobe.

The icon strip on the right which offers quick access to the palettes next to it has kind of grown. I've never quite seen the point in this as I've never had any difficulty in using the tabs on the top of the palettes (or even the Window menu from the menu-bar) to choose the ones I want. As far as I'm concerned, that's just a big strip of nothing that robs me of part of my screen.

Adjustment layers are a bit easier to access and use than they were before, but anyone who's used them before knows how to access them anyway. This isn't exactly a new feature, but I suppose it's sort of nice in a way. That pop-out Properties thing in the screenshot above is apparently new, but I reckon it's been there since version 2 (not even CS2) as a palette. I hate it as it's just another thing covering up the image on which I'm working, whereas when it was a palette it didn't take up any extra space when active.

The Curves function has an Auto button and it's quite good. Most people don't use Curves nearly enough. They can wring tremendous detail and power from your images with just a couple of clicks, but they're scary as hell if you don't understand them. Well, the Auto feature on the Curves function is just dandy - it does a pretty good job off the bat and gives you the opportunity to really see how the tool works.

You can have multiple clone sources. Well this is quite handy if you're working on an image that needs a lot of complicated repair work, but it's hardly anything amazing. I didn't check to see if it saves these sources inside PSD files, but hopefully it does.

Ooh, content-aware fill. Adobe frigging love this and really like to bang on about how cool it is, but I'm really not impressed. It's not new this time around, but they claim they've improved it and now it can be used to move objects as well as delete them.

It works brilliantly on stuff like Mr Sheep in the image above, but removing him is a trivial task that I can do almost as quickly by hand. Noticeably the demonstration images that Adobe is using are of a girl on a grass background, thus just as pathetically easy to process as Mr Sheep.

Here's a more complex image with very little "breathing room" around the bit I want removed. Content-aware fill just falls down the stairs, breaking both its legs and then just lies in a puddle of its own blood swearing that it's "fine" when anyone can see it's half-dead. Sod content-aware fill; show me something that's actually new and genuinely useful.

Brilliant. Photoshop has a couple of new blur tools. They're quite good, but the stand-out on is the excellent tilt-shift blur. It's easily the best tool I've seen for faking tilt-shift effects (that otherwise need quite an expensive camera lens that you'll hardly ever use). It's slick, it's easy and it produces great results so hopefully that'll be the death of tilt-shift forever. I'm sick to death of these. They were cute when there were only a few ever now and then, but over the last couple of years I've seen hundreds to the point where there's nothing clever or interesting about them any more.

Back in the day, when Photoshop first shipped with a Lens Flare filter, I rejoiced. As far as I was concerned, lens flares were so hackneyed and clich├ęd, that they were impossible to use with any sincerity. When Photoshop put one into the hands of any idiot, it killed lens flares forever. So hurrah for the tilt-shift blur thing!

About the only significant thing in Photoshop CS6 is the Mercury Graphics Engine. Photoshop previously used OpenGL to handle interface graphics. Although OpenGL is cross-platform and easy to work with, it's a bit slow. So now when you zoom in on an image or move it across the screen, the Mercury engine kicks in to make that a smooth experience. But that's about all it does - it has no effect whatsoever on the image you're working on, just the interface.

And really that's that. Photoshop CS6 is new in name only. There's bugger all reason to buy it, just like there was bugger all reason to buy CS5, CS4, CS3, CS2 and possibly CS1. Photoshop has been largely unchanged for several versions now and Adobe are really just tinkering round the edges, afraid to try anything radically different on the market-leading product, but too scared to do nothing. It's maybe 5% different from CS5, if that. And when it comes to improvements in your workflow, well, there really aren't any.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm... From that last paragraph I'm starting to suspect Adobe is secretly Apple.