Enhanced graphics file management, new high-end digital photography
support, multi-layer handling and non-destructive transformations ensure
that all Photoshop users benefit.
Photoshop dominates the world of professional photo editing so completely that a new release is awaited with genuine excitement and its launch is a red letter day. Rip off the wrapping and install this latest version however and your first feeling is likely to be disappointment as there’s little immediately obvious in terms of new tools, palettes or commands. In fact the most visible change is the loss of the former File Browser palette.
In practice this proves to be a major step forward as visual file management has now been devolved to the standalone Adobe Bridge application which offers a number of core image handling advantages (see Adobe Bridge boxout). In the process Adobe has taken the opportunity to graft on a number of Photoshop-based automation features such as the ability to apply image mode and type conversions. Particularly impressive is the ability to select multiple images taken with bracketed exposures to produce a single HDR (high dynamic range) image with no less than 32-bits per channel – though the editing options then available are seriously limited.
The most welcome Bridge-based feature for Photoshop CS2 users is the ability to load unprocessed camera images (assuming your camera supports such files) into the Camera Raw module. Here the new automatic image analysis, curve adjustments and shadow and highlight clipping previews help you get the best possible results from your digital negatives. And you can now save export settings or simply copy and paste settings from one Raw file to another. Best of all, you can now load multiple files simultaneously and, while they are being processed, multi-threading means that you can carry on working within Photoshop, Bridge or even Camera Raw itself.
Photoshop CS2 offers a number of new features aimed at high-end digital camera users.
Without making a big song-and-dance about it, Photoshop CS2 also addresses the most obvious of its previous limitations when dealing with digital photos. Hidden away amongst the 100-plus options under the Filter menu are a new Reduce Noise filter that can target unwanted grain in individual colour channels as well as correcting JPEG compression artefacts and a Smart Sharpen command that can correct for different types of blur – gaussian, lens and motion – and independently sharpen shadows and highlights. Most impressive is the Distort > Lens Correction filter which lets you interactively or precisely adjust for pincushion or barrel distortions and for the angle of your shot - and then throws in control over chromatic aberration and vignetting for good measure.
There are also two new tools, or rather variations on existing tools, that soon prove invaluable when it comes to efficiently enhancing your photos. Compared to the existing Colour Replacement tool, the dedicated new Red Eye tool lets you remove this common problem with a single click while offering advanced control over pupil size and darkening amount if you need it. The new Spot Healing Brush uses the same technology as the existing Healing Brush but intelligently analyzes the area around the tool to automatically sample the best pixels for healing the area under the brush. It’s not fail-proof but in most cases you can remove flaws or even unwanted objects with a single click!
When the Healing Brush was first introduced it caused jaws to drop and Photoshop CS2’s new Vanishing Point capability will do the same. This is a comprehensive filter dialog in which you first set up perspective planes to match those in your image using the Perspective Grid tool. You can then use the dialog’s Marquee, Stamp and Brush tools to copy, clone and paint with each tool automatically adjusting to the image’s underlying perspective. Copy a window on one side of a building for example and you can then move it to the other side with its size and perspective automatically updating in real time as you drag! This is great for lots of photo editing tasks and especially for applying text to product packaging mock-ups. Adobe has even found a way of storing the perspective information for future re-use within JPEG files.
The new Vanishing Point filter offers advanced perspective handling.
The Vanishing Point filter is certainly eyecatching but Photoshop CS2’s most welcome new feature is the least immediately obvious: using the Layer Palette or the Move tool you can now Shift- and Ctrl-click to select multiple layers. It might not sound that revolutionary but the ability to move multiple objects at once without having to laboriously link them first makes a huge practical difference, and aligning and distributing is now child’s play where it used to be a chore. You can even update the font in multiple text layers simultaneously. In many ways multiple layer selections means that arranging a composition in Photoshop CS2 is much more like arranging one in a vector application like Illustrator – a feeling reinforced by the new support for Smart Guides which dynamically appear to indicate alignment with other layer-based objects.
Another subtle but important change in Photoshop CS2 is that, when you select a layer or layers with the Move tool, the Free Transform controls automatically appear to enable instant resizing, skewing and rotation. And the Free Transform tool now offers a completely new option: Warp Mode. Select this and you can choose between fifteen preset envelope-based distortions from Arc through to Twist and specify a precise level of bend and horizontal and vertical distortion. Alternatively, you can simply drag on the onscreen warp grid to create your own custom distortion stretching and squashing the object as if it’s on a rubber sheet.
When you’re happy with your transformation, whether free, warp or a combination, you hit Return or the Commit command icon to update the layer’s pixels and make your changes permanent. Or at least this is what happened in the past. With Photoshop CS2 there’s a new option. If you first turn your layer or layers into a “Smart Object” the original pixel data is stored safely and permanently in the file. This means that you can now apply layer transformations non-destructively so that, for example, you can undo a warp distortion applied to a Smart Object. Most importantly it means that if you scale a layer down and then later decide to scale it back up to its original size, its quality remains unaffected.
Multiple layer selection and non-destructive Smart Objects boost compositional power.
Of course if you scale the SmartObject larger than its original size its resolution will still deteriorate as that’s the nature of bitmaps. That’s not true of vectors however which is why Adobe has added a special option for Illustrator artwork to be pasted as a truly resolution-independent SmartObject. And SmartObjects provide another advantage. If you duplicate a SmartObject layer, both remain linked to the same internal data so that if you edit the SmartObject (bitmaps open into a new Photoshop document while vectors open into Illustrator), both SmartObjects will update accordingly. This edit-once-update-many behaviour is particularly handy for web designers working with repeated elements such as buttons and goes a long way to make up for the lack of new functionality in ImageReady CS2 (see boxout).
That’s it for new hands-on editing power but Photoshop CS2 offers a host of other efficiency improvements. Scripting has been enhanced with a new central Image Processor dialog to manage batch processing, a new range of video based actions and new support for event-based scripting. And Photoshop CS2 now adds the ability to save and reload customized keyboard shortcuts and menus alongside palette positions as named workspaces. And finally there are a range of miscellaneous though still important improvements such as the new font sample preview, extended 16-bit handling, consistent PDF generation based on presets and now offering automatic 16-bit to 8-bit conversion, video graphics preview on a connected TV and support for up to 3.5GB of RAM on 64-bit systems.
First impressions are deceptive. Underneath the hood, Photoshop CS2 offers comprehensive benefits in terms of productivity and creativity throughout the program and throughout the professional imaging workflow.
Adobe Bridge Boxout
Perhaps the single biggest change for each of the main CS2 applications and for the Creative Suite as a whole is the bundling of the Adobe Bridge application for visually browsing and managing graphical files.
Bridge might be new, but for Photoshop users it will be instantly recognisable – essentially it’s Photoshop’s File Browser promoted to an application in its own right. As such the basic layout of folder tree, image preview and metadata panels down the left of the screen and image thumbnails to the right will be very familiar.
The new Adobe Bridge application offers suite-wide visual image management.
In other ways the program is very different. To begin with, it offers support for all Adobe’s native AI, PSD , INDD and PDF files as well as most graphic formats and Microsoft Office files, with all thumbnails continuously resizable in real time. To help keep on top of your digital assets, Bridge offers advanced Exif, IPTC and XMP metadata handling along with a basic rating and labelling system. And once you’ve selected your files, Bridge offers a lot more power including file housekeeping commands, the ability to rotate JPEGs losslessly and a basic slideshow facility. Best of all, Bridge offers various dedicated workspaces such as Metadata and FilmStrip (in which you can view all pages in a PDF) and a handy Compact Mode in which the program acts as a floating palette making it simple to drag and drop files into the various Creative Suite applications.
When working as a front end to the Creative Suite, Adobe Bridge offers further dedicated functionality via the Bridge Center . This acts as a dashboard offering direct access to recently accessed files and folders and enabling all currently open files to be saved as a group for future reloading. The Bridge Center also provides a RSS news feed, highlighting newly available extensions and tips, and access to new suite-wide colour management control. Suite users can also use Adobe Bridge as a visual front end for Version Cue, Adobe’s existing file-version manager, thanks to the ability to view project files and versions and alternates as thumbnails.
And all users can benefit from Adobe Bridge ’s new Stock Photos feature. This offers centralized access to a number of providers’ royalty-free image libraries with searches returning thumbnails just like a local directory. It’s then simple to download a free low resolution image for comping and, when everything’s finalized, to pay for and download the high resolution version. It’s very efficient and a great boost to creativity but be warned: the free images are only to be used for comping and the high resolution images tend to be exorbitant so check prices first.
Overall, Adobe Bridge certainly isn’t perfect (it’s no match for Photoshop Elements 3’s organizer window for managing photo collections) but it’s a welcome addition to each of the CS2 applications and a great front end for the Creative Suite as a whole.
Adobe ImageReady CS2 Boxout
Since 1999 and the launch of Photoshop 5.5, each new release of Adobe Photoshop has brought a new release of Adobe ImageReady its web-focused partner. And with every review I’ve wondered why – after all both programs use the same core underlying bitmap engine and layer-based approach. More than that I’ve wondered how with so much in common the two programs could somehow be so different – while Photoshop is the undisputed market leader when it comes to photo editing, compared to its primarily vector-based rivals such as Macromedia Fireworks and Xara X 1, ImageReady is frankly an awkward embarrassment when it comes to web imaging.
Thankfully the pain is nearly over. Yes there’s a copy of ImageReady CS2 in the box, but Adobe has finally announced that its days are numbered. Instead ImageReady’s web functionality is being folded back into Photoshop CS2 itself starting in this release with the Animation palette and the support for variable handling. More importantly, with its new vector-style multiple layer handling and SmartObject-based symbol handling, Photoshop CS2 provides a much better platform for future web graphics production.
ratings out of 6
System requirements Pentium III ; 256/512MB RAM ; 280MB free hard disk space; Windows 2000 (SP3) onwards.
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