Adobe has promised subscribers to its Creative Cloud plan that it will release major new versions of the applications every year. But sometimes, they like to give us interim releases to whet our appetites – and that’s the case with the awkwardly named Photoshop CC 2015.5.
The new version, which will be a free download for Creative Cloud subscribers, brings an eclectic range of new features and techniques, some of which will prove genuinely useful.
One of the more entertaining enhancements is an update to the Liquify filter that provides automatic facial recognition technology. Each face found in an image can be modified either by dragging sliders or, in line with Adobe’s preference for head-up displays, by dragging control handles directly on the image. So you can change the size, shape, slant and distance apart of the eyes; the height and width of the nose; the degree of smile or frown on a mouth and the size of the upper and lower lips, as well as the mouth width and height. You can also adjust the width of the whole face, move the forehead up and down, and raise and lower the chin and jawline.
The parameters are set within narrow confines, so all the results will be within the bounds of anatomical plausibility – although you can, of course, use the regular Liquify tools to distort the face into any shape you like. The feature works well with faces viewed directly from the front, although those rotated to an angle of more than about 30 degrees may not be recognized; it also has trouble with profiles and semi-profiles.
Font recognition is a technology that has been pioneered by websites such as whatthefont.com for several years, but this is the first time it has been integrated into Photoshop. Choose the Match Font menu item and a selection window allows you to select any word in a document; the window will then go on to suggest similar fonts from the installed set on your computer, additionally searching for relevant Typekit fonts that you can go on to install. It’s by no means a perfect solution, and can produce some surprising total misfits; but for the designer in a hurry it can narrow down the choices to an acceptable handful.
If you already have some text set in a particular font, Photoshop is now able to suggest alternatives that are a close match. So if you’re using a light font, for example, you can quickly display a selection of similar lightweight fonts that could be used instead. A drawback here is that the font preview displays the word Preview, rather than the text you want to vary; but it’s a quick way of browsing a large number of installed fonts.
It’s a common problem: you frame a tight photograph, then find the horizon isn’t level. You can use the Crop tool to rotate the image, but then there’s the issue of what to do about those white corners that appear outside the bounds of the original photo. Actually, this has never been much of a problem; the solution has traditionally been to select the corners with the Magic Wand tool, expand the selection by a couple of pixels, and then use Content-Aware Fill. Now, all that is taken care of by a single operation – and it works remarkably well.
Camera Raw has had automatic tools to square up verticals and horizontals in images, but the automated results aren’t always that good. The new Transform panel includes Guided Upright, which allows you to draw a couple of horizontal and vertical lines that will then square up your image perfectly. This doesn’t include the curvature straightening of the Adaptive Wide Angle filter, but it’s a welcome addition to Camera Raw.
More integrated stock imagery
Adobe are pushing Adobe Stock, their stock photography and illustration service. And the new version of Photoshop makes the integration of stock images smoother across the board. You can choose images whose previews you’ve downloaded through an enhanced Stock panel in Photoshop, and then place them into your composition. You can perform cutouts with masks, and add Adjustment Layers; a single click will then replace the low-res previews with the high-res originals, directly into your artwork.
Select and Mask
One of the biggest new features is a complete reworking of the old Refine Edge dialog box. Previously, you had to make a selection and then take it into Refine Edge to modify it. Now, you can open a layer directly within the Select and Mask dialog. Use the new Onion Skin mode to lower the opacity of the layer, and drag the Selection Brush over it to make the selected areas fully opaque. You can then switch to a different viewing mode – choosing a white or black background works best – and use the brush and Refine Edge tools to paint complex selections with relative ease.
Bundling the selection and refinement processes together like this is a huge step forward, greatly increasing the ease of making tricky cutouts. It takes most of the guesswork out of the operation, as you can use the tools to modify the selection without leaving the dialog box.
Photoshop only recently implemented the Illustrator and InDesign method for choosing alternate characters in fonts via a separate panel. Now it’s taken the process further, with the ability to choose alternate glyphs without opening any additional dialogs. Select a letter and, if alternates are available in the selected font, a small gray panel appears at the bottom of the selection. After a moment, all the variations are revealed so you can just click on the one you want to select. This takes a previously obscure typographic feature into the mainstream.
If you have a lot of fonts on your system, then scrolling through the list can take an age. Finally, Photoshop remedies the situation by grouping fonts together in families. It’s not a perfect solution: in the example shown here, Baskerville and Bickham are neatly packed away, but Bodoni still appears as four separate fonts. It’s a start, and a good one, but what we really need is the ability to classify fonts by kind as well as name.
A tidier way to view your fonts
There’s a lot to like in this 0.5 release, and for those who have make a living using Photoshop, the changes more than justifies the cost of a subscription. The enhancements to Refine Edge, in particular, will radically change the way you make complex selections, and the restrained nature of the facial recognition in Liquify makes it a very usable new feature.Tags