Photoshop has never offered great art tools, instead concentrating on smooth and functional brushes for tasks such as retouching and masking. Version 7.0 introduces an expanded set of brush-attributes that make it a proper paint-package for the first time. Brushes can be more than ovals of a particular size and opacity; now they feature dynamic shape and colour, textures, and random-scatter effects. Strokes can also be given special-effects such as ‘wet edges’ to help create the illusion of crayons, oils, and so on. Before you get too excited, we’d better put these brush features in context. Compared with Procreate Painter 7, they are basic, restrictive, and lack variety. Nor can they compete with the built-in real-media tools available within Corel Photo-Paint 10. The important thing is that they make custom brushes possible within Photoshop for the first time, letting fine-artists start using the program in earnest. It does mean, however, that setting-up brushes can be rather complicated. To solve this issue, Adobe has brought the Brushes palette back (it was sacrificed in Photoshop 6.0) where you can browse presets, and create and save your own. This way, you can apply basic brush-attributes from the Options bar, or access the full range within the Brushes palette when necessary. Associated with this is another new palette called Tool Presets. While you can use the Options bar and various other palettes and dialogs to customize each tool – whether a brush, lasso, pen-nib, or text-entry function – the program would previously only remember the last setting you applied for each. The Tool Presets palette lets you view all attributes for the current tool, and adjust them conveniently in one place and – perhaps more importantly – save them for immediate recall. This means you can save a variety of Burn and Dodge tools, multiple Magic Wand settings, or a standard house-style for the appearance of a corporate font. Two fresh tools make their appearance in the main tools palette. The Healing Brush works like the Clone Stamp tool, while the Patch tool has generally the same effect on lasso areas, rather than being applied with a brush. In both cases, they score highly over regular cloners by intelligently comparing the affected area with its surrounding pixels, and maintaining the overall pixel-texture. In other words, you don’t see the join. Now, anyone can remove specks and imperfections in photos with almost no effort. Re-touching has never been so effective, nor as easy, as this. Commanding features
A number of other main features and commands have been improved or added to in the upgrade. For example, there’s now an Auto Colour command under the Image‹Adjustments menu, which accompanies the existing Auto Levels and Auto Contrast commands. The difference between Auto Colour and the other two is subtle, but in many cases produces a superior result when you know there’s a key-colour or caste problem in an image. The Filter menu now features a Pattern Maker for generating seamless tiled patterns from selected areas of an image. Usefully, it allows you to try-out several shifted-tile alternatives before you commit yourself and save the result. This is hardly a compelling feature if, like many people, you already own a third-party pattern-maker plug-in such as the one included with KPT Effects – but it does the job neatly, and could be welcome to many other users. Under the File‹Automate menu, you’ll find a Picture Package command for preparing multi-shot layouts for printing. More than just a fit-to-page feature, Picture Package presents a long list of layout alternatives – so you can print multiple sizes of the same or different images on each sheet, with or without labels. Best of all, you get to see a large thumbnail preview, and the customization process is surprisingly intuitive. Needless to say, this is an excellent feature for digital-photo processing shops. The Liquify plug-in under the Filter menu has been enhanced to a limited degree. Its distortion tools now include a Turbulence tool that produces a more random pixel-motion under the mouse, compared with the existing Twirl, Pucker and Bloat. With careful application, it can create organic wave or curve effects on brush strokes, such as fire licking or smoke swirling. Additionally, Photoshop 7.0’s Liquify window lets you save distortion meshes, so you can carry on working with an image from a previous session without ever having to commit yourself. If you were hoping for full-on envelope tools, though, you’ll be disappointed – try Adobe Illustrator 10 instead. The update also sports a multilingual spell-checker; you choose from 17 languages in a pop-up list in the floating Character palette Web design
There’s a lot to play with in Photoshop 7.0 – and it’s all good stuff. The Healing Brush and Patch tools are excellent; the art-brush features welcome; and the Web enhancements very handy. Yet it’s more a collection of small improvements than what we’d call major feature-upgrade fare; the new features are ‘very nice’ rather than ‘must-have’. Ultimately, the only upgrade feature that’s going to matter to a lot of people is that the program is OS X-native. If this doesn’t concern you, it’s no great sacrifice to stick with Photoshop 6.0.