Photoshop CS5 seemed so light and zippy when I first opened it. I think in time, as with most software, that feeling dissipates as you grow accustomed to the new speed and take it for granted. I’ve definitely grown comfortable with this new version, in all its 64-bit glory. So far, it has been really stable and productive for me across a bunch of different machines and configurations.

The interface has changed a little. Adobe seem to have gone on a mission to make every part of their interface a little greyer here and a little blacker there. It is strikingly non-standard on the Mac platform actually, where the recent trend has been all Cocoa and sliding panels.

Of all the apps in the suite, it’s hard to deny that Photoshop feels the most mature. It is a big program, and you only need to read the blogs of the various boffins and evangelists at Adobe to realise that they are supporting a massively wide range of users, from people using the latest tools and formats, to people reliant on older file formats and processes that would be crippled if they were removed. So then, it’s understandable that some might take this for ‘bloat’, such is the tendency towards minimalism these days. But it must also be said that Photoshop manages this complex array of functionality really well, in a way that defies conventional wisdom (being that as it gets more complex in functionality, it should get more complex to use). I joined the Photoshop party quite late and was able to pick up the essentials very quickly. The more complex stuff is still revealing itself to me over time. I think the Photoshop team have done really well to keep the software feeling easy to use, whilst introducing new features.

64 Bit

Files open more quickly and effects process faster too. Win? I’d say win, win.

Content-aware fill

So, in the last version we had content-aware scale and that proved very handy. This time around, it’s content-aware fill. Next it will be content-aware lunch...
This new feature is surprisingly easy to use. All you need to do is select an area of your composition, then choose Edit > Fill and select “Content Aware” from the list. As you can see above, by just doing those above steps (and very quickly I might add) you can achieve an impressive result straight away. Of course, what you see above isn’t quite good enough, but it is a good indication of how powerful the tool is, even with the most naive application.

Puppet Warp

Puppet warp is a cool feature. It reminds me of the Bones tool in Flash, combined with the old Photoshop Liquify effect. Select a layer and then hit ‘Edit > Puppet Warp’ and Photoshop will apply a grid of triangles to the artwork on your layer, onto which you can add nodes. You can then drag these nodes around to deform your image. Probably a massive time saver for illustrators looking to do subtle deformations and poses, I think this tool has massive potential so long as some restraint is exercised. If I was still a lecturer, I can guarantee you this would be the number one tool that students would be gravitating towards to affect their images!

Complex selections

Complex selections have thus far proved themselves mostly useful for precisely masking around hair. I’ve not seen a demo of it being used for anything else at all actually! Using it is fairly simple. By selecting some pixels with the underrated Quick Selection tool, you can go on to the ‘Refine Edge’ panel to do some adjustments. It is kind of like advanced feathering and offers some nice controls for painting in precise refinements here and there.