New additions in Photoshop CS6

Adobe Creative Suite 6 was announced on April 23 and, after 3 many  teasers ,  sneak peeks  and  leaks , became available on May 7. Not a great surprise really, given that Adobe releases a major new version every 18 to 24 months. What did surprise me was that I couldn t get a boxed upgrade version for my existing Photoshop CS5 extended (after having upgraded faithfully every time since Photoshop 4 in 1996). You can buy a brand-new CS6 extended edition, however this sets you back $2000. Or you might qualify for the student/teacher edition, which only costs $260 for the extended version. In that case you might even consider the CS6 Production Premium set ($500), for which you get Photoshop CS6 Extended, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After Effects and more. You might also take Adobe s new Creative Cloud alternative into account where access to the software is rented on a monthly basis. A positive surprise for me was that the latest Photoshop will run happily on my Windows XP-64 machine after Lightroom 4 refused to install earlier this year (it only runs on Windows 7 or Mac 10.6.8 and later). This new version seems to be bursting with new and amazing goodies so I want to quickly run through some of the smaller improvements you might find useful and then concentrate on two of the major new tools. During and after installation During installation Adobe asks if you want to keep the settings from your old version. It is a nuisance to build your settings up from scratch every time, especially the Actions that you have accumulated over the years. Unfortunately, in my case CS6 imported the Actions from CS4 and not from the later CSS version. If that should happen to you as well, here are the steps you need to take to transfer any Actions. In your previous Photoshop version go to the Action panel (it used to be called Palette), select a folder and then click on the little triangle on the top right. Go to  Save Actions  and make sure to remember where Photoshop saves those actions. In the new version you simply call them up with  Load Actions . You can only save and transfer folders, not individual actions. It is always a good idea to look through the preferences and the colour settings before getting started. If you prefer to work in Adobe RGB (1998), you need to change this from the default sRGB. Needless to say, there is no printed manual in the box —those days are long gone. The Help function, which I always regarded highly in Photoshop, goes directly online. I find this slow and irritating, but at least it can be kept up to date. It is also geared toward the seasoned Photoshop jockey and assumes a level of skill way beyond a beginner. Nowadays you might want to look for assistance on YouTube —you will find helpful tutorials on every topic and for any skill level. First impressions and some new features CS6 comes with many small improvements that put more control into your hands and that will make life easier. Some you might not even notice, but you won t miss the completely new look of the workspace. The charcoal-grey colour theme lets you better concentrate on your image sitting in the large document window. If you don t like this colour, Photoshop gives you four options, which you can select from Preferences —or better, simply press Shift+Fl to darken or Shift+F2 to lighten the interface. The Options bar, which lets you customise the behaviour of all the tools, normally sits above the document window. But you can also move this bar by dragging its left end to whatever position you want, as shown in Image 1. It automatically displays the settings of the tool currently selected, in our case it is the Healing Brush. The Crop tool must surely be the most used gadget in Photoshop and Adobe has completely revamped this tool. When selected, Photoshop will create a crop box around your image and you just grab the corners or the sides to crop. If you click on the image area, you can move the underlying image around, which is the opposite of how crop borders were dragged around previously. It does make sense but takes a while to get used to and the tool works non-destructively so that you can un-crop at a later time. As before in CS5 you get the default Rule of Thirds overlay. Auto Save is one of those functions you won t notice until you need it. Remember last time when Photoshop crashed on you or just froze? Itheartbreaking —depending on when you last saved you could lose hours of work. Photoshop will now save your file every few minutes (you can set the time). Talking about painting, make sure that you try the new Oil Paint filter, which turns your photos into very realistic oil paintings. It lets you set brushstroke variables such as stylisation, cleanliness, scale and bristle detail. Lighting can also be controlled with two sliders. Photographers may be more interested in the new blur filters to create blurry backgrounds. There is also a new way to adjust your brush size and hardness. You might want to stick with using the square brackets on the keyboard, but try the new option: Alt+right-click (Cntrl+Opt for Mac) and drag sideways to change the size and drag up or down to soften or harden the brush. These are just a few of the minor changes Adobe has introduced into this new version. We will explore them and others in coming issues in more depth, but let s now turn to some major innovations, which are of particular interest to us photographers. Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) 7 Adobe s latest RAW conversion engine has received a major overhaul. It brings it into line with Lightroom 4, which was described in Issue 47 of D-Photo, and I only want to summarise the main points here. Image 4 shows you the new Basic tab with the totally revamped tonal adjustments. It starts off with the Exposure control, which you use to make your image lighter or darker. The familiar Contrast slider underneath does its job as the name suggests. Then we come to four sliders which control highlights, shadows, whites and blacks. By default the sliders are in the middle and they range from-100 to +100. It is really very simple: pulling to the left will darken the tonal band, pushing the slider to the right will lighten it. The three Presence sliders at the bottom of the Basic tab look the same as before. However, Adobe has made some changes under the bonnet. You can now push the Clarity slider all the way up to 100 per cent without getting those ugly edge artefacts or halos that you could easily get in the previous versions. Most interesting is the control we now get with the Adjustment brushes (Image 5). Instead of just making global changes from the Basic panel, you can also apply all those adjustments locally with a brush. You can even sharpen or apply noise reduction to parts of your image.

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