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Thursday, March 22nd 2012
Articles & Inspiration
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Photoshop CS6 Beta: Crème de la Crème


Photoshop CS6 Beta: Crème de la Crème

Adobe has set the web ablaze with their release of Photoshop CS6 beta, available for download to PC and Mac for free right here », at midnight here on March 22nd. This new version of Photoshop comes with massive changes, most notably the striking new UI (User Interface).

The developers at Adobe have done their homework and taken a TON of suggestions from the Photoshop user community. These minor tweaks and upgrades have been affectionately termed “JDI”, an acronym for “Just Do It” (You can check out more about that project here ») in Adobe’s further pursuit in refining and improving the world’s most popular and powerful imaging & graphics processing application.

Before we jump in and check out some of what I believe are the greatest new features of Photoshop CS6, per the beta, make sure you go ahead and grab the download before reading on! It’s a hefty download (weighing in at over 1GB if I recall correctly!) so you may want to get it started now.

Should you upgrade? Well, read on, play with the beta and then make your decision.

I use Photoshop for editing my Photography and for some intense Web Interface design (and a little graphic design). These are the features that I’m most fired up about.

Grab Photoshop CS6 Beta Now »

Photoshop CS6

Interface

Everybody is talking about the interface changes in Photoshop CS6, and really, an entire tutorial could be dedicated to covering just them. I don’t want to spend much time talking about it here. It’ll suffice to say that I absolutely am in love with the ability to darken the UI as much as you can. Images and graphics have never looked better in an interface that-while loaded with icons-seems to fade into oblivion as you focus on your Photoshop document.

Photoshop’s new and improved UI is the most drastically changed that I’ve ever seen. With a little time spent playing in this Beta release you’ll soon find yourself falling in love with it too.

One of my favorite little things about this interface is the ability to now grab one tabbed image, with multiple images open, and pull it out of the tabbed view without breaking all of the open images out of line. It’s a beautiful thing, really, it is.

Performance

Photoshop is faster, much faster. Try it. You’ll see…

The Crop Tool

This has got to be my favorite upgrade in all of Photoshop (other than the speed/performance upgrade). I use the Crop Tool all the time with my images and there have been certain aspects of it that have always driven me a little crazy.

The Crop Tool behaves much more like the Crop Tool over in Lightroom (sweet!). Your images slides “beneath” the crop and you move the image rather than your crop, it’s great.

You no longer have to worry about dragging your crop off the edge of the document anymore when you rotate your crop and the tool has multiple grid overlays available, built-in aspect ratios to crop by, and the straightening level built right in. Super fun and super useful!

TIP: Don’t delete the cropped pixels and you’ll be able to use Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl + T) and size your document including the cropped areas.

Camera RAW 7.0

In the beta version I’ve found the Camera Raw portion to be the most buggy, I haven’t had any issues with Photoshop as a stand-alone application, but sometimes Bridge or Adobe Camera RAW wreak a little havoc.

That being said, the level and accuracy of the controls in the new interface is very impressive. I took a nearly unusable image and used the sliders to brighten only the areas I needed and grabbed the Adjustment Brush to correct some of the color around the base of the car and in a few steps made the image look entirely different.

Video Editing Features

Photoshop CS6 finally has given the mildly casual video editor some decent and relatively intuitive control over editing video. Given the fact that nearly every camera today “also shoots video” –including our phones- it’s nice to have some simple editing functionality.

Simply drag in clips, group them, fade in, fade out, cross-fade, add Adjustment layers (which can be faded in and out), Text layers are available and more! You can even add a sound track if you want. Once you get the idea behind using the keyframes (which isn’t terribly difficult -I’ll have a tutorial on it soon!) you’ll be editing your very own clips with ease.

Tilt-Shift Blur

The tilt-shift lens effect has been often duplicated by Photoshop users by using a Lens Blur filter to achieve the mini-model/very selective focus effect. Now in Photoshop CS6 the tilt-shift blur gives the user much more control over the size of the blur, the edges, and how much it fades away.

Iris & Field Blur

I love this “anchor point” style blurring! I’ve seen similar systems in other image editing programs and it’s a great way to work and control effects. The Iris and Field Blurs are both brand new. The Iris Blur gives you one spot you blur from and the Field Blur allows you to place points all over and vary the blur in the different areas of your document.

Add emphasis by placing points set to 0% where you want no blur and then add blurred anchor points all around!

Content-Aware Move Tool

A brand new tool in Photoshop CS6 is the Content-Aware Move Tool. The tool is ultra simple. Create a selection around what you want to move, drag it to a new location in the image and Content-Aware makes magic and repositions and covers where the object was as well as blends it into its new location. It does a remarkable job too!

Oil Paint Filter

The Oil Paint Filter is just a flat-out cool addition to Photoshop. Quickly and easier transform your photographs into Van Gogh-ish paintings! It’s a quick, easy, and very high quality painterly effect.

The Layers Panel

Photoshop CS6 has brought with it a brand, spankin’ new Layers panel and we’re the better for it.

My favorite feature of this new Layers panel is the ability to select multiple layers and change the Blend Mode in one click. We also now have the ability to search for a layer by name, or just display layers with certain effects, styles, or attributes associated with them. We even have the option of only displaying Pixel layers, Adjustment layers, Type layers, Shape layers, or Smart Objects. The level of control and organization is phenomenal for an organization freak like me! :)

Create Exact Sized Shapes

Creating Shape layers at an exact size was a little bit of a task in older versions of Photoshop. I often got my Info panel involved and we danced a bit until I landed on the exact size I needed. In Photoshop CS6 you can simply click and enter exact sizes (like we’ve been able to do for awhile in Adobe Illustrator!!!) to create precise shapes.

It’s The Little Details

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” These are the words of one of the greatest College Basketball coaches of all time, the legendary John Wooden (known for even teaching his players how to put their socks on correctly).

Adobe seemingly took this mantra to heart in working many of the JDIs that the community suggested into this release of Photoshop. A number of the ‘minor’ upgrades throughout the application jumped out at me, here they are. (We’ve covered a couple, but some things are so good you have to list them twice.)

Darker Interface. Cluttered, yet not.

The new interface with the ability to darken or brighten it depending on your mood or general taste is a great new feature of Photoshop. I love that despite the large amount of icons you can focus on your work with ease and without distraction.

Crop Tool Preset Ratios + Ability to change them mid Crop.

Included in the overhaul of the almighty Crop Tool, you can now choose or change a ratio even while mid-crop. I loved the Crop Tool before, this new Crop Tool… we might just have something even more special between us.

Sort Layers by Type (Or search for them!).

The ability to sort layers by layer type (Pixel layers, Adjustment layers, Type layers, Shape layers, or Smart Objects) is an awesome feature that will definitely save time when working on large projects involving very many layers.

Pointer for the Tools.

A ton of the tools now have an exact pointer sticking out of them (attention pointed primarily to the selection tools) which takes all guess-work out of knowing exactly where to click to get pixel-perfect selections right where you need them.

Strokes on Vector Objects.

You now have the ability to add a stroke to a vector path or shape. The stroke can be a color, gradient, or pattern. It can also be solid, dashed, or dotted and even has alignment options.

Auto-Save.

Nobody likes to lose their work. Set Photoshop to auto-save ever few mintues.

Paste Lorem Ipsum.

When working on web or graphic products dummy text is often a must! Photoshop makes it a snap to paste in Lorem Ipsum in a click! Simple go Type>Paste Lorem Ipsum when you have a text area selected. (Sorry lipsum.com! »)

Skin Tones Color Range.

Select>Color Range now gives you the ability to select skin tones specifically in an image from the Select drop down menu. It works surprisingly well!

Content-Aware on the Patch Tool.

The Patch Tool is a must-have item when working with larger image manipulations; however it always had serious limitations with edges of color and edges of the document. The new Content-Aware feature available for this tool greatly reduces previous issues and gives a smooth patch every time.

Everything is faster!

You’ve gotta pick it up to feel how much faster Photoshop is, it’s awesome! (Liquify has got to be 5x faster!)

Recently Used Colors Bar.

When working with certain fill color boxes in Photoshop you get a bar of “Recently Used Colors”, great for when you’re working on a project with a set color scheme and can’t remember the hex codes for the colors.

Bokeh!?

There is a whole Bokeh panel available for you when working with blurring. It’s pretty awesome. Life is just better with bokeh.

Pull Tabbed Image out of line without breaking all images out.

This is a big one. In previous versions of Photoshop when you pulled a single image out of the tabbed line of images, Photoshop would flip out and throw all of your images out of the tab track. This no longer happens in CS6; you are set free from the track master.

Vector Pixels Snap Properly.

Previously when working with Vector paths in Photoshop you would pretty well never (and I emphasize never) get a pixel-perfect path. Moving an anchor point one pixel here, one pixel there doesn’t seem to be such a difficult task any longer. Thank you, Adobe. I love you.

HUD Size & Positioning

I am a complete Info panel junkie because I constantly want to know the what, where, and why about my selections and shapes. You now get a little floating box that displays awesome bits of info as you drag out or move selections and shapes within Photoshop.

Cmd/Ctrl + J Duplicates multiple layers and Layer Groups

My favorite hotkey is even more powerful! Cmd/Ctrl + J is an amazing time-saver for a task I perform hundreds of times a week. You can now duplicate multiple layers and even layer groups with this hotkey.

Layer Styles can be added to Groups

This is an interesting little feature that I’m sure will be very useful to a whole lot of people. Having the ability to add a gradient or bevel across multiple layers is sure to produce some super cool graphics!

00 sets to 0% Opacity

Double tapping zero sets your Layer Opacity to 0%.

Shift + number sets Fill Opacity

Numbers have changed Layer Opacity for awhile now, but now in CS6 holding the Shift key while pressing a number sets the Fill Opacity to the corresponding number (i.e. “4” for 40%).

Merge Shape Layers preserves Vector

Selecting two or more Shape layers and hitting Cmd/Ctrl + E will merge the layers together as one combined vector layer. Previously this would create a raster shape and you would lose your editable path! Behold! The path will remain in CS6!

Thoughts

Long story short, I love Photoshop CS6. I highly recommend that you download the beta and just play with it, see if you love the new features. Grab the beta here »

Let me know what you think!
Too soon for an upgrade?
Too expensive?
Ready to vent at Adobe about random things not related to Photoshop?

Share your thoughts!

  • Joe

    Great review! Does installing CS6 overwrite CS5? I am considering the upgrade but not keen on beta version. Will I get updates on beta as they become available? I am sure I will like it but want to keep the status of having a full version licensed copy of software. 

    Thanks for all the info. 

    • http://www.tutvid.com/ Nathaniel Dodson

      Nope, no overwriting of older applications.

      I’m still using CS5 for my day-to-day stuff. It doesn’t over-write it. Because you’re using your Adobe ID when you install the Beta, Adobe will keep you in the know as far as new releases and future info. The Beta runs for 90 days (I believe) and when it runs out, you will still be able to use your older version without a hitch. Hope that helps! :)

  • Luis

    I’m really looking forward to it. Looks amazing.
    I really wish there would be the ‘eye’, the one you find in 
    AfterEffects to see only that layer and hide the rest of them

    • http://www.tutvid.com/ Nathaniel Dodson

      You can do that if you Alt/Opt click the eyeball of the layer you want to remain visible. All the other layers become hidden.

  • MrMulder

    Buzarrely you forgot the most important update for web designers ever. CHARACTER AND PARAGRAPH STYLES!

    • http://www.tutvid.com/ Nathaniel Dodson

      Haha, I know! It’s such an amazing feature! These are the features I think I’ll be using the most, maybe the new Type styling features will work their way into my heart. Just not there quite yet :D 

      SUCH a powerful tool though! What a time-saving feature for so many graphic designers!

  • Jad

    Great review/summary!
    If you don’t know, here’s how to change the ui color on the fly:Shft-Fn F1 (darkens) and Shft-Fn F2 (lightens)

    • http://www.tutvid.com/ Nathaniel Dodson

      Nice tip! Thanks for sharing!!! -N.

      • Jad

        Hi Nathan,
        Another idea – I set up the Ctrl – P keyboard shortcut to bring up the Properties panel; it’s an easy way to bring it up (and get rid of it) on the flyFigured I don’t print enough to warrant keeping the shortcut!

        Enjoy your site!
        -jad