So you’ve probably noticed that Photoshop CS6 was released as a beta version (free to download here) last week. It is of course big news as Photoshop is the grand-daddy of software for many designers, photographers and creative pros. There is a re-designed interface which is set to dark grey by default and looks very smart indeed and is keeping with Adobe Lightroom. The icons and cursors have been re-designed so there is a slightly different feel about the whole thing, but you can set it back to the familiar silver grey interface if you like the familiarity of the old versions.
I’ve been working through it and there are several new features that are very cool from an “ooooh that’s new” point of view and some new features that are very cool from an “it’s about time” practical point of view. Here’s my personal pick of five from the new features:
1. Background saving and auto save.
Ok, this doesn’t fit into the sexy new feature category but it is so useful and long overdue. If you’ve been a Photoshop user for a while, you’ll understand the pain involved with waiting for Photoshop to save your huge layered files. Now when you hit File > Save (Ctrl + S / Cmd + S), you can continue working on other things in Photoshop instead of watching the progress bar.
You can set up Auto Save under Preferences > File Handling. From here, you can determine the interval at which Photoshop autosaves to a recovery file. The recovery file is a temporary file saved onto your hard drive periodically. If Photoshop crashes, and we’ve all been there when that happens, the next time you start Photoshop it will open with your document with -Recovered appended to its name. The recovery file is separate from your working file so you don’t have to worry about it over-writing the last point you chose to save at. The recovery file is deleted when you choose a Save, Revert or close without saving command.
2. Vector Strokes & Fills
Up until now, the vector tools in Photoshop have been a poor cousin to those in Illustrator but that all changes now with Photoshop CS6. I use shape layers all the time for illustration – the fill was easy enough to work with but if you wanted to add a stroke it was usually a case of adding it using a layer style. Now you can easily add a stroke and style that stroke so it can be dotted, dashed, solid colour or filled with a gradient or pattern. These options are available from the Control bar at the top.
3. Type Styles
This is definitely one for the graphic designers. Photoshop now has the full featured paragraph and character style sheets on offer in Adobe InDesign. This means you can create a character style or a paragraph style once, save it and then apply the style as often as you need. This really speeds up any projects requiring the use of chunks of text. A style could be as simple as setting up the font size or colour or it can be much more deailed, letting you set up indents, line-spacing or hyphenation.
Once the style is made you can modify that style at any time and the changes will kick in anywhere you’ve used the style. Styles are created by choosing Window > Paragraph Styles or Window > Character Styles. From there you can create your new styles in great detail.
4. Blur Gallery – Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt Blur
And now for the photographers … there’s a new set of blur filters to create a range of blurring effects. Choose Filter > Blur and you’ll see the three new blurs listed. There is a possibility these will become known as the Lens Baby filters but they are good fun to use and in the right hands I think the effects can look professional. They key is in the transitions from crisp to blurred – you want to create a smooth transition otherwise the blurring will look very fake.
Field blur is basically gaussian blur on a slider. You can change the blur on the fly by dragging around the pins you lay down. You can create depth of field by adding more than one field blur at a time. Where the two intersect there is an interaction which can create a nice effect. You can add additional blur effects such as bokeh using the blur gallery panels.
Iris Blur – this is a movable, adjustable pin that can be placed anywhere on your photograph. The four white circles determine the transition between full clarity to full blur. It’s crisp directly under the pin. Clicking the square box on the ellipse changes the shape from ellipse to a rounded corner square to get a different effect. So this tool is great for creating an area of focus to draw the eye into on your photograph.
Tilt Shift Blur – I love this. It’s probably not something you’d use every day but if you enjoy making miniature “toy town” type tilt-shift photographs in Photoshop, this will let you make them even quicker than before. The tilt-shift consists of four lines (instead of the ellipse in the Iris blur). The outer dotted lines determine the amount of transition between the in-focus area to the blurred area.
So will I be upgrading to version CS6? Well because I teach Photoshop and it’s part of my bread and butter I will be upgrading to the latest version. I’m testing the beta from the point of view of a Photoshop trainer and that’s a slightly different from the point of view I’d have as an illustrator, designer or photographer. Wearing my non-training hat, I know I wouldn’t upgrade(unless the upgrade is extremely cheap, which I doubt it will be). I find the changes between versions are not significant enough to warrant an upgrade each time. Even in this version, the way most of the fundamental tools work is the same as in much earlier versions of Photoshop. Having said that, I am an unabashed Photoshop fan and get very excited when something new comes along.
Have you had a look at Photoshop CS6 Beta? What did you think? Will you be upgrading from an older version?