Photoshop CS6 Extended offers a much wider range of tools than the Photoshop your dad would have used, and with its new dark grey (customisable) interface, and new tools and workflows, it certainly feels like a different program from just a few years ago.
The program continues to build upon both its 3D and video capabilities – tools that some users previously found confusing and slow. But new hardware and software improvements are solving most issues, making this an easier and more productive solution for more users.
Photoshop Extended has always offered different benefits to different types of users. Traditional image creation tools used for mapping are second to none. For the more modest 3D aficionado, Photoshop has been an increasingly attractive option to the steeper cost/learning curve of the medium-weight contenders.
Most users probably already own at least the standard version of Photoshop and can upgrade at a reasonable cost, and are comfortable with the Adobe interface.
The list of new features includes a host of full-screen interface enhancements to many toolsets, a reinvention of many long-existing tools such as the Crop tool, more enhancements to the 3D toolset, a streamlining of the video section, a host of enhancements to perspective corrective controls, and the speed benefits of Adobe’s Mercury Graphics Engine.
The user interface has been redesigned with options to make 3D navigation much more intuitive
Let’s first take a look at 2D image production, which will be likely to have an impact on most 3D World readers. We all need to generate a wide range of images, from backgrounds to texture maps and projection maps, and so on.
Increasingly, image work originates with captured digital camera and video content, so the host of new tools aimed at capture and image corrections can be very useful. For example, the improved Camera Raw 7 boasts an improved engine and enhanced tools.
In limited testing, we did see some images looking better than they did in older versions of this tool. But the new slider options in the main tab – Blacks, Whites, Shadows, and Highlights – seem confusing, and lacking in mid-range controls. The Auto function in Camera Raw is repeatedly way off the mark too, leaving images looking washed out.
NEW ADAPTIVE WIDE ANGLE FILTER
Once captured images are imported, Photoshop now allows far greater control of perspective distortions and lens issues. These new capabilities are available in the new Adaptive Wide Angle Filter, which offers both auto correction of image distortions based on XML file data, and the ability to create constraining lines that tell the interpreter how to correctly warp the image. This tool can also be used to correct stitched panoramic images from Photomerge, which is impressive.
Photoshop offers an improved video editing interface with After Effects-like controls and simplified editing
The other new perspective control is a new tool hidden under the Crop tool, called the Perspective Crop tool, used to ‘square off’ images that are at an angle. It’s very intuitive to use – draw a crop box as normal, then move the corners as necessary and hit [Return] to square the skewed element.
This brings us to CS6’s complete reworking of an old tool that most thought was fine as it was: the venerable Crop tool is now many times more powerful – and useful – than ever before. Now when cropping, the image moves/scales behind the cropping tool’s frame, thus keeping your image – the part you care about – centred. Similarly, when crop/rotating, it’s the image behind the crop tool’s frame that rotates; no more head tilting!
NEW TEXT MENU AND VECTOR LAYERS
Many sections of the application have been beefed up, including many new text controls that borrow from InDesign and allow more designer-like controls of larger blocks of type. It even includes a brand new Text drop-down menu.
New Vector Layers allow easier creation of lines, shapes and objects, including the long-elusive ability to create a dashed line. Both of these tools can play a role in streamlining a range of motion/broadcast graphics work. Another improvement, which at first seems deceptively simple, is the addition of search and filtering of items in the Layers palette based on name, type and other criteria.
If you need the gamut of multimedia tools on offer, and have the hardware to run it, CS6 is unsurpassed
IT’S A KIND OF MAGIC
Now for some magic. The content aware features introduced in previous versions have had their core technology improved, and two new tools have been added to the toolset. The new Content Aware Move tool allows selected items to be moved, and all the elements to be automatically reblended into their new locations.
See the Photoshop CS6 Content-Aware Patch Tool in action
The Content Aware Patch tool puts a different twist on things by allowing items to be removed from a scene by selecting a target area to be cloned from and then blended. While not perfect, these features all help to get you where you want to be, and are a boon for retouching and image correction of all sorts.
Adobe wants Photoshop Extended to be the go-to app for every 3D designer.
Our feeling is that if you do heavy design and light 3D work, it might be a perfect match. Virtually no other 3D application offers the design and graphics tools that Photoshop Extended does, and in that arena it’s the hands-down winner. But even with the formidable additions to this release there will always be a capabilities cap in 3D, so as your needs increase you may quickly outgrow these tools.
Standout new tools include alternate ortho views, easier 3D model control using a ‘cage control’, a simplified Context Aware Move tool, the addition of extrusion modelling with bevels, and the ability to control lighting placement by moving not just the lights but also the shadows. All of these improvements and more attest to Adobe’s continuing commitment to 3D.
Most impressive is the integration of 3D with 2D – the ability to create a perspective grid in the Vanishing Point filter, and have 3D models snap to it for improved placement, is a perfect example.
The video section of the application has also undergone an overhaul, in this case to simplify it and make it easier to use. Generally speaking, the users for these features will not be Final Cut or Premiere users, so Adobe felt that the interface had to be kept simple.
It still feels odd seeing 3D and video in Photoshop, but their development firmly solidifies it as the world’s best multimedia tool.
It’s hard not to like what Adobe has done here, because so much has been done. Aside from a few glitches, the only downside to this upgrade is going to be the need for more hardware commitment.
In previous versions you could get away without a Mercury Graphics Engine and still run 3D and other tools.
As of this version, many tools – 3D and others – won’t run without at least 512MB of video RAM, and a Mercury-enabled video card.
Contemporary new interface
Facelift to many toolsets
The ultimate multimedia tool
Ever-increasing learning curve
Increased hardware needs
Overkill for many users
Although not a 3D powerhouse, the additional tools have uses. Along with the new interface and extra tool options, Photoshop Extended CS6 is a powerful and usable image editor
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Lance Evans is creative director of Graphlink Media and has created 3D for top agencies and clients such as Miller Beer, Trojan Condoms and Absolut Vodka. He has written numerous books and tutorials on 3D