Adobe Photoshop CC: First Look

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Photoshop CC (also known as Photoshop 14), arrives just one year after Photoshop CS6, and on hot the heels of a set of “Cloud-only” features, released last December and described this CreativePro article. A faster release schedule means of course fewer new features in each version. But that doesn’t mean Photoshop CC won’t have a big impact on creatives everywhere. Indeed, you might say this version of Photoshop is coming out under a “cloud” of controversy, with the announcement from Adobe that perpetual licenses will not be offered for the new versions of Photoshop and the other former-CS applications. While one can still purchase CS6 for an indefinite period, Adobe’s current policy is that future Photoshop versions will be exclusively available to Creative Cloud subscribers. This shift has upset a number of Adobe’s customers, but there’s no denying the benefit to every user that henceforth, features will be released as soon as they are ready, instead of being stuck in an 18 to 24 month schedule. 

But since the point of this article is not to talk about Adobe policy, but to let you discover what Photoshop CC is all about, let’s look at some of its best new features!

Camera Shake Reduction

The star of the show is without a doubt the Shake Reduction filter. As Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and many users will find this tool absolutely magical. In the past, the content-aware tools also gave many long-time Photoshop users that feeling of awe. And like the those tools, camera shake reduction technology was first created by Adobe Research, the pioneering R&D group inside Adobe, and then handed off to Photoshop engineers who fine tuned the usability and functions.

The Shake Reduction filter is found alongside the sharpen filters, and it computes the camera movement by sampling and analyzing parts of the image. As its name implies, it has not been created to “deblur” out-of-focus objects or subjects moving too fast to be captured sharply (but you can still try it, happy accidents occur). Rather, the purpose of the new filter is to fix the camera movement of images usually taken in low light with a long shutter speed. You can sample several points to correct the defects of the image in multiple areas relative to the sensor plane of the camera.

Photoshop CC Camera Shake Reduction filter

The eagerly-awaited Shake Reduction filter

A Smarter Smart Sharpen

Camera shake reduction is not the only new sharpening technology in Photoshop CC. Smart Sharpen’s algorithms have been revamped, giving impressive results with fewer halos and better noise reduction. 

Image Size Enhancements

Also, a new “intelligent upscaling” method offers noise-reduction controls, and can be found in the redesigned Image Size dialog box. This same dialog box also now shows a preview, and it allows you to select the resizing algorithm with Option/ALT+1 to 7 keyboard shortcuts. In addition, there are many new options for resizing images, and you can even use presets to recall your favorite sizes. 

Photoshop CC Image Size dialog box

Welcome changes in the image size dialog box, including presets

Camera Raw Filter

In my opinion, the real workflow-changing tool in Photoshop CC is the fact that Camera Raw can now be used as a filter on any layer of your image. In the past, Camera Raw was extended so that you could use it on non-raw images or even videos. And with Photoshop CC, it will be possible to correct even partially-transparent layers with the powerful and non-destructive tools of Camera Raw. In the history of Photoshop, the first killer function was the selection tools, then came layers, followed by adjustment layers, smart objects, and now Camera Raw as a filter.

Photoshop CC Camera Raw filter

Camera Raw Filter looks like yet another menu entry, but it will change your workflow forever

The public beta of Lightroom also disclosed several enhancements shared by Camera Raw, including:

  • A freehand correction tool that lets you fix non-circular areas
  • A circle tool that allows you to adjust larger areas in your photos (e.g. adding a virtual spotlight, or an elliptical vignette)
  • A perspective correction tool called Upright
  • The ability open PNGs or single layer TIFs with transparency

 

And speaking of Camera Raw, HDR creators will be happy to learn that it can now be called automatically to perform the tone-mapping after an HDR merge, thanks to a new preference setting. 

Preset Sync

Did I mention settings? Photoshop CS6 gave us the ability to migrate presets, and now Photoshop CC takes things a step further to give us preset sync. Even non-subscribers will be able to use the free version of Creative Cloud to upload a copy of their settings, and sync them to a copy of Photoshop on a second computer. For example, a new action you crafted on one computer can be pushed to the cloud and be available alongside loaded brushes, or the tweaks to the interface that you saved in Photoshop’s preferences. And even if you don’t have two computers, you’re guaranteed to love preset sync if you ever need to reinstall your operating system. Note that Photoshop is just one of the many applications that benefits from this feature. 

Rounded Rectangle Tool

In response to many feature requests, there is now a rounded rectangle tool which offers independently re-editable corners. If you cannot wait to get your hands on this tool, try David Jensen's free Corner Editor script.

Photoshop CC Rounded Corner Rectangles

We can now adjust Rounded Corners in the Properties panel after creating the shape.

Select Multiple Paths and Channels

Another oft-requested feature is the multiple selection and deletion of paths and channels. With Photoshop CC, there is no need to rely on a third party script anymore to output clean files to your colleagues or service bureau.

Photoshop CC multiple path selection

Think about the next person that opens your file, clean your path panel in a few seconds.

Generate Assets

One new feature that had web designers salivating during the Adobe MAX Keynote was a generate assets function. This can convert a full document to a page ready to be edited as a responsive page in Edge Reflow. Though as of this writing, it is not clear if that tool will be available in Photoshop CC at release time, on June 17th.

3D

3D painting is getting a huge speed boost in Photoshop CC, and there are many enhancements in the scene graph. It is now easier to reorder, group, add instances, and replace your 3D assets.

JDIs

Each version of Photoshop includes smaller scale enhancements that are easily engineered and offer significant value, so Adobe calls them JDIs or “Just-Do-Its”. While these features are small, once you’ve used them, you may wonder how your ever got along without them.

This time around, the JDIs include:

  • Queued Background Save
  • New modifier keys (* for intersect and / for exclude) for path works
  • An angle control in the contextual menu for the Brush tool
  • Presets migration can now find files that are not in the default folder, and Photoshop does not need a reboot to show migrated asset
  • Metadata and ICC profiles for PNG files
  • Several dozen other refinements that will appeal to power users

 

Photoshop CC angle control for brushes

Useful if you don't have a stylus, a faster access to the angle control for your brushes

Support Issues

Other important considerations include the fact that XP and Vista support have been dropped. And on Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6), video features will be disabled. To use the 3D functions, a minimum of 512Mb of VRAM is required. And a big surprise is that Adobe Bridge is no longer installed by default, but can be downloaded separately. Bridge itself gains Retina support, but loses synchronized windows and export presets. 

Summary

With Photoshop CC, we again get a mix of magical, must-have features and useful all-around improvements, which is remarkable given that this version was in development for only about half as long as CS6. If there is anything initially disappointing about CC, it is that the themed interface still is not extended to filters and other menus (we are still stuck with the neutral grey windows). But the good thing is that with Photoshop’s future bound to the Cloud, we will not have to wait another full year to see more changes!

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