Adobe Photoshop CS5 review

Now offering 64-bit support, Photoshop CS5 is noticeably faster than previous versions, but the new processor-intensive tools need this speed bump. Content Aware Fill is one of the wow features, able to fill a selection with synthesised content based on the surrounding area. Working on an image of a house, we could not only instantly remove the front door, but the Fill tool also added a new bush from the surrounding garden. Such power is a boon for general productivity and will no doubt be welcomed by estate agents and historical photo-revisionists.

Selection has gained new enhancement controls, activated when you click the Refine Edges button in the toolbar after using any of the selection tools on your image. A separate dialog allows fine-tuning using the Edge Detection controls, including a Smart Radius tool to ‘intuitively’ adapt the selection area to the image edges. The process still requires a fairly accurate selection in the first place, so this is a complement, not a replacement, to tools like Quick Selection. The task of isolating some elements involves a bit of trial and error, so the presence of another brush to restore the original edges is a welcome addition. The Adjust Edges section offers smooth, feather and contrast controls, as well as the ability to contract or expand the selection edge. You can then remove any colour fringing with the Decontaminate Colors checkbox and slider before having a choice of output – as a layer, layer mask, or new document options.

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Creative mix

Another big ticket feature is the Mixer Brush, which lets you mix and blend multiple colours with underlying hues on the canvas, offering naturalistic brush strokes and a feeling of painting with natural media. Settings provide extensive control over the wetness of the canvas and how much paint to add to the brush, the mixing rate between brush and canvas colours, and whether the brush is refilled, cleaned, or both, after each paint stroke. You aren’t restricted to working on a photo, either; you can start with a blank canvas and build up a picture in a traditional layered fashion.

Still on the creative side, Photoshop takes a leaf out of the After Effects book with the Puppet Warp tool. Here you place ‘pins’ on various parts of an element in a scene – it can be an isolated selection or a layer – then move the pinned parts of the element to recompose an image. Simple and effective, this will benefit advertising photography and other projects where the images shot just need a minor tweak or two to fit a composition.

These are just a few of the new features on offer. Others include Lens Correction and the new Camera Raw, both of which will make short work of photographic problems. Interface enhancements include custom-configured, task-specific workspaces and Mini Bridge, a cut-down version of Bridge.

First among several key 3D enhancements in Photoshop CS5 Extended is a facility named Repoussé. This can convert 2D artwork into 3D objects and then create depth by altering the many extrusion properties of the 3D model. There are a number of lighting and rendering choices, and if the result is not to your liking, you can open the model in the Repoussé dialog to edit it again. The most common use for Repoussé will be to extrude text to create logos and 3D artwork, rather than switch to an external 3D graphics program for this common task, so productivity as well as creativity gains here.

OUR VERDICT

Photoshop CS5 offers several productivity gains, including Repoussé and selection enhancements, HDR Pro and Content Aware Fill. Whether artistic tools like Mixer Brush and Puppet Warp will be worth the price depends on the type of work you do. And you’ll need a powerful system to really benefit from the 3D features.

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