It's been awhile since an update to Adobe Photoshop really got me excited, but the latest release is definitely that version. Though I didn't begin using Photoshop in its initial debut in February 1990, I've been around the application since version 2.5 and I've seen some pretty great things come from Adobe over the years. Most versions have had a couple of "wow factor" additions, but there is no doubt that version 9.0 (affectionately called Photoshop Creative Suite 2 or CS2 to you and me) is packed full of enough greatness to make any Photoshop user quite happy.
Though I can't really cover everything in this review, I'll point out some of the cooler things that will make any videographer, photographer, or designer happy to hand over their hard-earned cash to purchase a program that is going to revolutionize the way they work.
FONTS AND BRIDGES
Since I'm going on the assumption that the majority of EventDV readers are videographers who dabble with Photoshop to enhance their videos, the first thing I have to say is that Photoshop CS2 now supports, for the first time, real-time preview out to a video monitor. You can finally create your masterpiece in Photoshop CS2 and, with the simple click of a button, preview the design directly to your video monitor using your IEEE 1394/FireWire/i.Link card connected to your computer.
Speaking of previews, another much-needed feature that's been lacking for the past eight versions has been the ability to see a font preview in your text drop-down menu. With CS2, you can now choose your beloved friend, Comic Sans, and see the word "sample" next to the font name written in that font style. This makes browsing for the perfect font just so much quicker. On behalf of the font lovers of the world . . . thank you, Adobe.
I have to admit that, in sitting down with CS2, one module that I had heard about but didn't give much thought to was the new image browser, Adobe Bridge. When Adobe describes Adobe Bridge as "the next-generation file browser," they aren't kidding. Adobe Bridge is so much more than just a file browser, and its functionality alone will make your "photoshopping" so much more productive.
Adobe Bridge is selectable from within Photoshop, but it actually runs independent of Photoshop. This means you can see all your graphic files in a nicely formatted window that stays on top of your Photoshop screen—nicer still is the fact that you don't even need to have Photoshop open at all to utilize Adobe Bridge. Another great thing about it is that you can rate your photos from 0-5 stars either by selecting one of the small dots on the thumbnail image or by simply highlighting your photo and pressing the number keys on your keyboard. Once rated, you can now filter your photos based on these ratings. You can also apply your own label names (it defaults to color names, but you can change these titles to fit your needs in the preferences panel), which adds even more filtering. On top of that, you can add searchable metadata text to each photo as well.
Another advantage of Adobe Bridge is the ability to link into Adobe's stock photo library online directly from within the program. There you can browse and search royalty-free images from leading stock photo agencies and purchase them directly.
Now I keep referring to photos, but Adobe Bridge will actually show you all graphic files in Adobe Creative Suite formats, including Photoshop PSD files, Illustrator AIs, and PDFs, all laid out in nice filmstrip modes for quick viewing. Simply double-click on an image and it'll open in Photoshop, Illustrator, or whatever other program is tied to the file format. You can also drag a graphic file from Adobe Bridge directly into your Photoshop canvas, view images as slideshows, open multiple instances of Adobe Bridge, process multiple digital camera RAW files, and more. Adobe Bridge alone makes it worthwhile to upgrade to CS2.
VANISHING POINT . . . AND OTHER COOL NEW FILTERS
Photoshop users have come to expect time-saving filters with each new version from Adobe, and CS2 clearly offers some jaw-droppers. I'd say the most talked-about new addition has to be the new Vanishing Point filter. This is one you really have to see to fully appreciate, but I'll attempt to describe what it can do. Vanishing Point allows you to draw multiple 3D grids onto your photograph. Each grid can be pulled far off into the distance, or with a simple Ctrl/Cmd-click you can create other 90 degree-angle grids. For instance, if you have a photograph of a building (taken where you could see two sides of the building) and you want to map your company logo to one side, it often can be difficult to match the exact perspective of the building . . . Vanishing Point to the rescue.
Once your grid is created by plotting four corner points, you have a grid that allows you to clone, paint, and paste elements along that grid. This means you could open a copy of your logo, then copy and paste it into the Vanishing Point grid. As you move your logo, it automatically "fits" to the exact perspective of the grid. As you slide it farther away, it gets smaller, and vice versa. Cooler still is the ability to clone elements in a photograph and move them to other areas of your photo and still have them match perfectly to the coordinates of the grid. Again, this is one you really have to see to fully grasp its power.
All of you photo montage creators will love the new Spot Healing Brush. With this one, you no longer have to sample areas around your photo to get rid of blemishes for your montages. Simply size your brush to cover the speck on your photo and hit the mouse button to effortlessly get rid of any unwanted markings. No more sampling colors, because the Spot Healing Brush does this for you without requiring you to lift a finger. Of course, you'll probably discover that it's so powerful that on the right photo you can literally get rid of entire objects like people. Now this doesn't apply to every photo, but I've experienced some amazing results by just playing around with this one.
Another much-needed addition is the ability to quickly get rid of red-eye in photos. Now, you can do this in older versions, but CS2 has a tool that's actually called the Red Eye Tool. It's so simple that you can highlight a red-eye problem either by drawing a square around the object with the Red Eye Tool or by literally clicking on the color part of the pupil. With one click all is magically corrected, and you become the hit of the party!
In Photoshop CS2, warping a photo is now easier than ever. You can easily add nice effects to your photos like bending them around other objects, curling the edges, or just stretching your photos any way you like. In previous versions it was possible to bend and transform text, but now with the new Warp filter it's as easy as clicking and dragging nodes within the graphic to get just the right look.
In addition to being able to warp and distort photos, another nice thing about CS2 is the ability to turn on Smart Guides. This is one of those features that, after having used it for all of 10 seconds, I'm not sure I can live without. Smart Guides are invisible guides that blink on as you move an object around your canvas. As you drag an object close to another you'll see the Smart Guide turn on, which visibly shows you that you are aligned to the edge of another object. This allows you to align text, objects, or any other graphics elements quickly without ever having to touch your alignment tools. This is one of my favorites and one that I'm sure we'll all look back at someday and wonder how we ever survived before Adobe made it available.
Another element of CS2 that will be welcomed by power users is the introduction of Smart Objects. Have you ever created a design wherein you sized down a photo nice and small only to have to come back days later and size it large again? Not a huge deal if you sized it just a little, but what if you sized your 800x600 pixel photo down to 8x6 pixels? Well, the instant you size it back to 800x600, the photo is going to become a bunch of blobs of color. With Smart Objects, Photoshop makes a copy of your original graphic to your hard drive as a reference. This means you can size your photo literally down to 1x1 pixel, then back to 1000x1000 with literally no loss in quality.
In other words, your bitmap graphic acts just like it's a vector-based text object. Now imagine you cloned 50 copies of your graphic into the same design and wanted to change it from lemon yellow to ruby red. If indeed all the graphics were copies of this single Smart Object, you could literally edit the single original image and, like magic, Photoshop would instantly update all instances. Another incredibly handy feature is the ability to choose "Replace Contents" of Smart Objects. With one click of the mouse, 50 flowers could become 50 snowflakes. The potential of something like this for multiple objects or photos within DVD menu designs, photo montages, or other graphic designs really is nothing short of staggering.
Adobe Photoshop CS2 encompasses so many more additions like Shift-Ctrl/Cmd clicking of layers to select multiple layers (no more having to use the link icon exclusively to quickly group layers), customizable menus for quick access to only the things you use, new filters such as Advanced Noise Reduction, Optical Lens Correction, and Smart Sharpen for quickly giving your images that perfect look.
There are many more features not listed here, so be sure and go to Adobe's home page at www.adobe.com to see all the new features. They have some nice streaming video clips that will get you up to speed on what's new. Included with the CS2 disc is a 1-hour tutorial disc from the fine folks at Total Training. The tutorial is a quick way to see many of the new features so you can get up and running in no time.
HOW SUITE IT IS
On Adobe's Web site, Photoshop CS2 lists for $599, with upgrade pricing at $149. If you're really going to spend the $599 for Photoshop CS2, I would personally suggest you look at the entire Creative Suite (Standard) for $899. This includes not only Photoshop CS2, but Illustrator CS2 and InDesign CS2. Buying each of those individually would cost you well over $899. The Premium version of CS2 adds Adobe GoLive as well.
If you chose not to upgrade from Photoshop 7 to Photoshop CS when it came out last year, now is the time to seriously consider making the jump to CS2. And for all those CS users out there, this upgrade is worthy . . . and I don't say that lightly. Well done, Adobe!