Tonight, at 9:01pm California time (that’s 1 minute after midnight on the East Coast), Photoshop pulls off something it has attempted just once before: It enters a nearly seven-week period of public beta, during which you can download the program for free. Yes, Photoshop CS6 is available, right this moment, for your immediate click, install, and enjoyment. And it will cost you nothing.
That is to say, you won’t have to shell out cash. But you will have to expend some attention. Because, and make no mistake about this, CS6 is one of the biggest upgrades to Photoshop since its inception.
Which is why I’ve created a total of 29 movies on the topic for lynda.com, including the one above and five more embedded in this post. The full 29-movie course is available, in its entirety, for free to members and non-members alike. Just click on this link, Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview, and start watching.
Meanwhile, here’s my take on the product: After many months using the application, I put it in the same rarefied air as Photoshop 1 (a big upgrade from no Photoshop whatsoever), Photoshop 3 (layers!), Photoshop 5 (color management, layer effects, history, editable text), Photoshop 7 (healing, Camera Raw), and Photoshop CS3 (smart filters, 3D). Feature-wise, it’s closest to the 1990’s-era Photoshop 5. Because the damn thing’s dripping with the stank of the spanking new. If this were a car, you’d be driving it for a month just to learn all the gizmos and then sitting in your garage just to smell the upholstery. And honestly, friends, this is one good-smelling application.
In fact, Photoshop CS6 may be the most impressive upgrade to the program since Adobe assigned the CS trademark. My two cents, love to know yours.
For example, there’s the infectious tang of the dark interface, feature in the above movie. (Lightroom users will say they already had this, but this is Photoshop, so where’s the comparison?) The darkness is calming and it allows you to focus on your image without the distraction of the bright stuff around the edges. On the PC, it looks like the image below. On the Mac, it’s topped off by a light gray menu bar, which sucks, but it’s a necessity of the light OS. Click the image below to see a full-res view.
And that’s just the beginning. What follows is a list of my Top 10 favorite features in the program:
Feature #1: Auto Save & Recover. By default, Photoshop CS6 automatically backs up your image every 1 minutes. So if you’re working on a big project and you crash, there’s a very good chance (a great chance in my experience) that when you relaunch, your project will be waiting for you, with your most recent modifications intact.
Feature #2: The Nondestructive Crop Tool. As demonstrated below, this thing rocks. By default, the new Crop tool crops the image non-destructively, meaning that it generates a new layer and keeps all pixels from the original image inside a reduced canvas. It also previews a rotation and supplies a Straighten tool in the options bar.
Feature #3: Content-Aware Move. This eye-popping feature doesn’t always work as miraculously as the following movie might imply. (The Content-Aware Move tool fares best with random backgrounds.) But its abilities to automatically fill in backgrounds and stretch image elements without distorting them make it a welcome addition to the software.
Feature #4: The revamped Layers panel. You can now “filter” layers. Meaning that you can take a 1-layer composition and show just the type layers, or just the layers with drops shadows, or just those set to the Multiply mode. You can search for a layer by name. And you can apply a blend mode to multiple layers; expand, contract, and jump a bunch of layers; and apply a layer effect to an entire group. It’s such a big topic, I expend three movies on the topic(s) in my free video course, Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview.
Feature #5: The Blur Gallery. The three-part Blur Gallery lets you create depth-of-field in post. You can drop pins to define points of focus. You can create iris and tilt blurs. And you can combine as many blur styles as you like. Plus, you do so inside a kind of sub-program that occupies the entire screen and provides an authentic preview. Considering buying one of those $1 thousand-dollar cameras that shoot really tight depth of field? Might wanna rethink that.
Feature #6: Editable 3D Type. If you’ve been skeptical about 3D in Photoshop (don’t blame you), CS6 gives you reasons for new hope. As I show in the next video, you can extrude text into the third dimension without A) the clunky Repoussé (it’s gone) and B) losing the ability to edit your type. Photoshop’s 3D features take some time to get used to, but where type is concerned, CS6 amazes. (Note: 3D will only be available in the Extended version of the program when the product ships in a couple of months.)
Feature #7: The Adaptive Wide-Angle filter. This new filter allows you to take the bend out of dramatic wide-angle shots (see the movie below). The distortion is often part of the attraction of such shots, but if you want to remove the distortion, now you can. Happily, the filter works its magic with such exactness and aplomb that it’s hard to resist. Plus, you can apply it to wide-angle panoramas, as long as you stitch them in C6.
Feature #8: Filling and stroking shape layers. You know shape layers, those vector-based path layers that you can scale and rotate with impunity? Well, if so, they’ve improved in Photoshop CS6. Now you can assign strokes to shape layers, including dashed outlines. You haven’t been able to do that before. Plus align, distribute, and stack shapes within a single layer, as in the movie below.
Feature #9: Video editing. In Photoshop CS6, you can edit movies in the Timeline panel. And as I show in the following movie, it’s like iMovie on crack. But why add such a thing to Photoshop? Because many of us own DSLR cameras that capture movie files. And those of us who don’t own iPhones. So we’re all sitting on movies that need to be edited, and now Photoshop serves our needs.
Feature #1: Camera Raw 7. I love that the last feature I mention is Camera Raw. Because for years, it would’ve been much closer to the top, and yet once again, this upgrade is great. ACR7 looks a lot like its predecessors, but it results in better output. Specifically, it’s much better at recovering highlights and shadows without artifacts. My recommendation: redevelop your old images with happy results.
And that’s not everything. As I mentioned at the outset, I have 29 free movies that show how to use every last feature, including the many text enhancements, the new Oil Paint filter, the 3D shadow and reflection previews, the new Auto color adjustments, and more.
At least, now you have something to do with your copious spare time.