Adobe Photoshop CS5 presents another leap forward for the creative community—for photography, design, or as a hobby.
Adobe announced the release along with the rest of its Creative Suite 5. This latest edition of Photoshop has several new groundbreaking features, higher accessibility for casual users, and workflow enhancements that improve the overall product.
The Adobe Creative Suite has long been the industry standard for creative applications, while the latest release of Photoshop has kept strong to its status as the leading application for photo manipulation with its latest release.
I had the pleasure of testing a prerelease version of the software for this review and have been impressed overall by its new features. The review was done using a MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard, but the application is also available for Windows.
The major additions to Photoshop CS5 include a few different categories for designers, photographers, and artists. In particular, there has been a lot of work on image selection tools, HDR tools for photographers, and new painting features. There has also been some fine-tuning and the addition of several workflow enhancements, which were integrated by Adobe based on user feedback on Photoshop CS4.
Among the major additions in Photoshop CS5 is Content-Aware fill. The most common tools that work in a similar way to Content-Aware fill are dust removal tools that can remove small splotches from images by reading data from their surroundings and replacing the spot with the closest match from somewhere else in the image.
Content-Aware fill represents a major step forward for such technology. There are some striking examples of what can be done with this tool—from repairing the broken pieces in a photo of the Greek Parthenon, to filling in parts cut out from an image. When replacing pieces, it also matches the lighting, tone, and noise of the surrounding area. After using the feature I can attest that it lives up to the hype.
Photoshop CS5 still includes other methods of removing spots or editing out subjects from images, and Content-Aware fill is just one of the tools that can be selected for this. To test it out, I loaded an image of a power line stretching across an image. Using the Healing Brush with Content-Aware fill activated, I traced along the wire and it quickly disappeared from the image. There was a slight difference in some parts where the wire previously was, but this was still the most accurately I’ve seen such a tool work.
I did a second test using the Lasso tool. I loaded an image of a man standing against a wall and traced around him using the tool, selected the Content-Aware option, and instantly he disappeared from the image. There was no trace left this time. Looking at the image you’d never guess it was any different.
Tools for cutting specific subjects from images and using masks have also been improved. These features are typically used when a user wants to, for example, remove a person from the background and place them on a different image. There are three main additions to this—Smart Radius, Refine Radius, and Erase Refinements.
In previous versions of Photoshop, most casual users relied on the Magic Wand or Quick Selection tools, which typically are not that accurate. Professional designers will spend quite a bit of time making perfect cut outs of images. Photoshop CS5 can quickly do this, with better results than most professionals could produce, and the process is so simple that even beginners should have no trouble with it.
To test it out, I imported an image of a subject, clicked the command to “load selection,” and it automatically cut the subject from the background. A small box popped up with some fine-tuning options. After clicking the “Refine Edge” dialog box the results were stunning. It even cut out individual hairs and did so with surprising accuracy. The tool also calculated differently for hard edges and soft edges—the outer rim of the hair was somewhat transparent, while the coat and face had harder edges.
Expect to see a flood of HDR images on the Web in the coming months. Adobe has made the photographic effect accessible to just about all users in Photoshop CS5. The photo effect can merge different exposures of pictures into a single picture.
There are several different features included for this, collected in a specialized HDR editing window.
So how is this useful? Let’s say a photographer wants to take a landscape shot in the daylight. The photographer will often have the choice to adjust the camera’s light for the sky, foreground, or to a specific subject. Using HDR, a photographer can take a picture for all three elements and then combine the desired parts into a single image so that all elements are properly lit and in focus.
Using the feature is as simple as clicking “Merge to HDR Pro.”
The “Remove Ghost” setting is one of the key features that make the HDR tool in Photoshop CS5 so accessible. Since there will inevitably be slight differences between images, even when using a tripod—maybe the wind blows leaves or something moves—there are what are called “ghosts” in the images, which look like slight blurs. Photoshop CS5 can automatically remove these imperfections.
For those without a camera tripod or who would rather not take multiple pictures for HDR, Adobe includes a feature in Photoshop CS5 that allows users to create an HDR effect from a single image. Simply select HDR Toning from the Adjustments menu and it will automatically apply the effect, which can then be adjusted by the user. The final effect looks pretty good also.
There have also been some enhancements to the Adobe Camera RAW 6 plug-in, which allows users to edit high-quality RAW images.
The noise reduction is great. It seems that Photoshop CS5 uses the same noise reduction features found in Lightroom 3 Beta 2, which can quickly clean up grainy looking images. Currently, the industry standard for noise reduction technology is Noise Ninja. Photoshop CS5 can produce similar results but with less distortion to the actual image. If used too heavily, Noise Ninja makes images look almost painted.
There are also new lens correction tools, but they are not noticeably different from similar tools found in other professional photo editing applications on the market, such as DxO Optics Pro 6. Photoshop CS5 corrects lens distortion by removing geometrical distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting.
However, with the addition of the Content-Aware features, users will not have to deal with blank spots left in the corners of their photos, as is sometimes seen after correcting images taken with wide-angle lenses.
It may not become the most used feature in Photoshop CS5, but Puppet Warp is definitely the coolest of the new additions. It allows users to move elements in static images as if they were puppets. It could be used to bend an arm, create a smile, or alter a landscape.
The user first makes dots to create different bendable joints on the image. The image can then be moved and Photoshop CS5 will then calculate how the image needs to change to compensate for the various positions.
There are also new painting tools in Photoshop CS5. The new Mixer Brush tool mimics the ways that paints interact with different colored paints, by using the colors in the image. If a user paints yellow on blue, green “paint” will begin to appear, for example. There are different brushes and bristles that can be used and it works well with wacom tablet users to detect the angle and rotation of the brush as they draw.
Application of this tool can turn photographs into painting-like images. The tool is also designed to create original artworks.
Near-identical features have been available for quite some time now in Corel Painter 11, which is a stand-alone digital painting application. Painter 11 takes the feature a few steps further, however, and includes a digital palette where users can mix and use different colors.
The ability to create 3-D graphics was available in Adobe’s Creative Suite 4, including in Flash CS4 and Photoshop CS4. However, only a handful of users ever fully used the features since they were a bit complicated.
Things are different in CS5. Adobe has made the 3-D tools much more accessible to users and much easier to use. Keep in mind though that many of the 3-D tools are only available in the Photoshop CS5 Extended.
Using the tools I was able to quickly create simple 3-D text effects with just a few clicks. Rotating and editing images is also rather simple. While considerably less sophisticated than those found in professional 3-D rendering applications such as Maxon Cinema 4D or Autodesk Maya 2010, for the casual user these tools are still nice to have on hand.
In a Nutshell
Photoshop CS5 includes a long list of new features and enhancements since CS4. Workflow enhancements include better integration with Adobe Bridge, one-click image straightening, and several others that are too many to name here. Essentially, in addition to the new tools, CS5 is a finer-tuned version of CS4 that most current users will appreciate.
For those wondering if Photoshop CS5 is a good investment, keep in mind that the application is still the industry standard and remains unrivaled in its arena. However, it is also really expensive. Casual users may want to consider Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 or Corel PaintShop Pro X3, which have reduced toolsets but have much lower price tags. For those on a budget, there are a few free alternatives including Photoshop Express, Gimp, and Picnik—just keep in mind that they are far from what Photoshop CS5 has to offer.
For professionals or those who can afford it, Photoshop is a great application and does not disappoint in its CS5 release. For those wondering if the update is worthwhile—from CS3 and earlier, definitely, and from CS4 most likely. The updates to the selection tools alone will save users a lot of time, and the additions of Content-Aware fill and Puppet Warp open new doors to creative possibilities.
A free 30-day trial is available on the website: www.adobe.com
Photoshop CS5 Extended