Adobe has released a major update to Photoshop along with smaller additions to other tools in the Creative Cloud. This isn’t an across-the-board, full-version Creative Cloud upgrade like we’ve seen in recent years, but most designers will welcome Photoshop’s new typographic capabilities as well as other new features such as the Selection and Masking Space. If you’re a web or app designer who works in Illustrator, you’ll find that program’s new export capabilities to be a major time saver. Adobe also announced new features in the Adobe Stock service, with more to come in the near future.
Font Matching and More
Photoshop’s new font capabilities aren’t the sexiest additions to the program, but may prove to be the most useful in day-to-day design work. For example, the font menu now groups fonts that belong to the same family, making it easier to browse. And Adobe says the font menu is now up to four times faster due to changes in how samples are displayed. I haven’t timed it with a stopwatch, but it does seem snappier.
The new release also borrows the On-canvas Glyph feature that Adobe recently added to InDesign. If you select a character with alternate glyphs, a small menu appears on canvas, allowing you to select an alternate without going to the Glyph Panel.
Photoshop’s new “Match Font” feature shows promise but appears to need some refining. Select a block of text, choose Match Font from the Type menu, and the program suggests lookalike fonts from Adobe’s TypeKit service or the ones installed in your system. I tested it with a variety of fonts, and as you might expect, the results were mixed. It did a good job of identifying TypeKit fonts, and did pretty well suggesting matches for a vintage song sheet cover. But it failed to identify several distinctive display faces installed in my system: Klabasto from Walden Font Co. and LHF Antique Shop and LHF Fairground from Letterhead Fonts.
Match Font did reasonably well when suggesting lookalikes for the title in this song sheet cover. But it failed to identify two display faces installed in my system, LHF Antique Shop and LHF Fairground.
Match Font is similar to online services such as WhatTheFont and WhatFontIs. Those services have access to larger online font libraries, but in most cases you’ll have to pay for any fonts you want to use. Match Font is also more convenient because it runs from within Photoshop.
Selection and Masking Space
The Refine Edge tool in previous Photoshop versions made it easier to create difficult selections, such as those involving hair or fur. Now it’s been replaced by a dedicated workspace that includes the Refine Edge controls along with the Lasso and Quick Selection tools and a brush tool for modifying masks. Previously, you had to make a selection before accessing the Refine Edge features. You can still do that, but now you can also open the workspace and make your selections there.
This feature brings Content-Aware Fill to the Crop tool. If you rotate an image or expand the canvas, Content-Aware Crop samples the neighboring pixels and fills the blank areas. Like the original Content-Aware Fill feature, it works better on some images than others. In my testing, it performed remarkably well on a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge.
In this photo, the Content-Aware Crop tool automatically filled in the areas on the right and left of the vertical lines. The only glitch was a portion of the boat replicated on the left.
This addition to Photoshop’s Liquify tool makes it easier to modify facial features in portraits. It automatically detects the eyes, nose and mouth and provides slider controls for changing their appearance. For example, you can make eyes appear larger or smaller; turn a neutral expression into a smile or frown; or change the overall shape of the face. I’m sure this feature will inspire lots of mischief, but it can also make subtle improvements to portraits.
In a blog post accompanying the release, Adobe director of product management Pam Clark says the company has embarked on a long-term project to improve Photoshop performance in various ways. In addition to the faster font menu, Content-Aware Fill is now faster, and engineers are working on additional improvements in future releases.
The big addition to Illustrator is “Export for Screens,” a new feature that lets you export multiple artboards or assets with a few clicks. To set up assets for export, you drag them to a new Export Assets panel. For each asset, you can define multiple export options: For example, you can export the same graphic in SVG or PNG format at various sizes: 1x, 1.5x, 100 pixels wide, etc. You can also add custom prefixes or suffixes to the file names. And you can export individual assets using a new Export Selection command in the File menu.
Illustrator’s new Export Assets panel
Export for Screens
Also new is the ability to create read-only Creative Cloud libraries. Adobe has been promoting CC libraries as a way to improve productivity by making design assets available across multiple applications and devices. If you set up a read-only library, members of a design team can use the assets without altering or deleting the library. This makes the feature more useful in environments where you want to ensure a consistent brand identity.
Adobe introduced its new stock content service in June 2015, and since then it’s grown to 55 million assets, including photos and vector graphics. Its big advantage is the way it integrates with the Creative Cloud applications. You can license an image and download it to a specified Creative Cloud library. Better yet, you can download watermarked images and test them in your layouts before choosing to license them.
With the new release, you can download an image directly into a specified program, such as Photoshop or Illustrator, and it will open directly on the canvas. And you can now license images from within the applications.
If you want to use the images, you can purchase them individually or subscribe to an annual plan in which you pay $29.99 per month for a total of 120 images during the year (you get 10 images per month, but any unused portion rolls over to the following month).
Adobe Stock also provides money-making opportunities for creative pros, as you can contribute assets and earn royalties. Currently, you have to submit assets through Adobe’s Fotolia service, but soon you’ll be able to do so from within Adobe Stock as well as Lightroom and Bridge.
The “10 Free Images” Deal
To entice subscribers to try the new service, Adobe has been bombarding us with its “10 free images” promotion, which provides one month of the service for free. But it sparked some complaints from users, as the terms of the deal were confusing and it was more akin to a rebate than a giveaway: You paid for the first month up front, and Adobe later issued a refund.
So Adobe has quietly changed the terms of the deal. Now you can sign up for Adobe Stock and download 10 images without forking over any cash. It’s all “risk free,” as Adobe says, as long as you cancel within the first month. If you choose to continue, you’ll be charged starting with the second month, and at that point you’re committed to an annual subscription.
Adobe hasn’t publicized the change in terms: I learned about it after querying an Adobe PR rep. You can read all about Adobe Stock and the “10 free images” promotion in this blog post on my website.
Aside from the new export features in Illustrator, there wasn’t much in the new CC release for interactive designers. However, in March, Adobe announced a preview of Experience Design CC, a forthcoming interactive design tool previously demo’d as Project Comet. It’s aimed squarely at designers (as opposed to coders), providing a visual interface for building apps and websites. Adobe is actively soliciting feedback from users, and since the original announcement, the company has released monthly updates with new features. The preview is currently available only for the Mac, but Adobe also plans to release a Windows version.
This came on the heels of a big announcement in February, as Adobe relaunched Flash Professional as Animate CC. The program still produces Flash content, but the new name emphasizes the program’s ability to create interactive animations in other formats, including HTML 5 canvas.
Also in February, Adobe released an update to Muse that added responsive design capabilities along with other new features.
More to Come?
Unlike the old perpetual software licenses, Adobe’s new subscription model gives users access to new features as soon as they’re available. But the company also releases annual Creative Cloud upgrades with version numbers corresponding to the year: CC 2014 and CC 2015. The June release is not that upgrade, so the latest Photoshop version is Photoshop CC 2015.5, not Photoshop CC 2016.
It’s not yet clear if or when Adobe will announce a full Creative Cloud 2016 release. However, during a press briefing in early June, Adobe VP Mala Sharma said the company is sticking to its previous rollout strategy: “We have ongoing updates that are released as features are ready, and a major annual update.”
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