Of all the applications in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Photoshop is the one that touches the broadest range of creative professionals. Whether you’re a photographer, illustrator, graphic designer, web designer, videographer or 3D artist, chances are that Photoshop is a mainstay in your software toolbox. When Adobe releases a new version of the program, some features inevitably will appeal more to some of these users than others. For designers, the question is always, “What’s in it for me?”
With Photoshop CC 2014, I don’t think you’ll find any game-changing features on par with the biggies in previous versions. CS5, for example, gave us Content-Aware Fill and the Refine Edge dialog. In CS6, we got the Blur Gallery along with vast improvements to the Layers panel, Crop tool and automatic photo-enhancement features. However, the new version does provide some useful productivity enhancements, and as I’ve written previously, the Creative Cloud subscription model removes the need for the kind of cost-benefit analysis that applied with previous upgrades.
If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber, you automatically get access to Photoshop CC 2014. If you’re not, you have to consider all the features that Adobe has added since the release of CS6. So the question isn’t so much whether this version by itself justifies becoming a subscriber, but whether the new features represent a tipping point when combined with others added over the past couple years.
The answer will vary depending on how you use the program. Even if you’re not willing to bite on the full $50-per-month Creative Cloud subscription, you now have the option to pay $10-per month for the CC Photography Plan, which gives you Photoshop and Lightroom 5 without the other major Adobe applications.
What’s New in Adobe Photoshop CC 2014
Adobe provides a complete rundown of the new features on its website, but here are the highlights:
Fonts: Photoshop CC 2014 now takes advantage of integration with Typekit, the online font service that Adobe acquired in 2011. If you open a PSD file with missing fonts, a Resolve Missing Fonts dialog box gives you the option to download the font from Typekit, or use a different font within the document. And when you use the Type tool, you can access and download online Typekit fonts from the font menu.
The font menu also gets some enhancements similar to those added last year to InDesign and Illustrator. I think designers will especially like the new font preview. If you select a text layer and hover over the font names, you’ll see how that layer would appear with the font applied. You can also search for text strings within the font name, such as “Bold” or “Sans,” and filter the list to show only fonts that were downloaded from Typekit.
Smart Guides: Adobe describes this enhancement as “Smarter Smart Guides,” and it should provide big productivity gains if you frequently find yourself arranging objects within a PSD document. It displays a variety of measurement guides as you select or drag layers. For example, select a layer and hold the Cmd (Mac) or Ctrl (Windows) key. As you hover over other layers, Photoshop will show you the distance from the selected layer. Another feature, matched spacing, makes it easier to maintain even spacing between adjacent objects. As you drag a layer, Photoshop will show you when the distance from an adjacent layer matches the gap between other layers.
Focus Mask. This automatically generates a mask by identifying the parts of the image that are in focus. It’s useful for portraits and other photos taken with shallow depth of field, where the foreground objects are sharp and the background is blurry. It works pretty well on its own, but you can also refine the mask using Photoshop’s existing masking tools.
Layer comps: This has long been a great productivity feature for managing multi-layered PSD files, allowing you to save various configurations of layers (visibility, position, layer styles, etc.) as reusable comps. However, any changes to the layer comps had to be made one-by-one. Now you can sync modifications to multiple layers. For example, if you use Layer Styles to change a color overlay from red to black, just select multiple layer comps and click the “Update Appearances” button in the Layer Comps panel. Presto, the color changes in each selected comp. You can also sync changes to layer visibility and layer positioning.
New blur effects. These features are also pretty cool, but I doubt if many designers will find them useful from a practical, day-to-day standpoint. Or at least, I hope not—one danger when Adobe adds features like these is that they’re overused and become design clichés.
Path Blur works like a selective motion blur, creating the same kind of effect you’d get taking a photo with slow shutter speed in which one object is moving fast while the others are still. Spin Blur creates elliptical blur effects; for example, applying it to bicycle wheels would make it appear that they are spinning.
Adobe Photoshop Tutorials + Recent Updates
In the months between last year’s big release and CC 2014, Adobe rolled out two updates to Photoshop.
You can find a detailed explanation in this online Photoshop tutorial.
Adobe makes the plug-in available on an open-source basis, so developers can add their own features.
Another cool feature, “Perspective Warp,” came in January. It provides a three-dimensional grid that allows you to change the perspective of a photo, as if the photographer had moved to a different position. Learn more in this Photoshop tutorial.
New Adobe Installation
As I wrote in my previous article about CC 2014, Adobe has tweaked its strategy for releasing new features. Instead of continually updating the same core application, it will do a major release—presumably every year or so—with a new version number (hence the “2014”). It downloads as a new application, with last year’s version remaining on your system.
This means that any plug-ins you’ve installed for earlier versions have to be reinstalled for the new one. I have plug-ins from Alien Skin, Andromeda and Topaz Labs that re-installed without any problems, but you should check with your plug-in vendor to see if there are any compatibility issues. You’ll also have to import your old presets, but Photoshop’s Migrate Presets feature makes this easy.
You’ll still get smaller updates in intervening months, and in August Adobe rolled out some enhancements to Photoshop’s 3D painting and printing features.
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