Photoshop has been and continues to be the print shop standard by which all other tools are measured. Photoshop has also been developing top notch multi-layering control and effects while keeping pace with retouch, masking/selections, and special effects of its graphic editor competition. In versions 6 thru 7, Photoshop added compelling Web and vector graphics features while dramatically improving its lagging painting and brush features while attacking its mixed record for usability and ease of learning. In sum, Adobe has done what other vendors promise but not always deliver - it has steadily, sometimes even dramatically improved its products.
Photoshop is the premium bitmap and vector graphics editor because its developers have not rested on their laurels even though no competitive product yet matches its color control features or outstanding array of layering and composition capabilities. Photoshop 7, just like 6.5 and the line of earlier versions before it, adds a substantial stable of new features particularly in the creative arena with a new paint engine with a whole array of impressive brush creation and selection features. PhotoShop stays on top because it constantly improves both by its own innovations such as 7's healing brush and judicious copying and then extending other's ideas and features - an image browser straight out of Jasc's Paintshop Pro makes it equal performance debut in version 7. In fact its well worth the while to see whats new in Photoshop 7.
Photoshop 7 Image Browser
Whats New in Version 7
properly, they can save it as a new brush which will appear in the list of
Brush Presets for that type or group of Brushes. This reviewer really appreciated
this new functionality in PhotoPaint. The richness of brush definitions afforded
is vast. For example, the dual brush option that allows a pre-existing brush
to be merged with a
or styling to
this master stroke, PhotoShop becomes not just the premium photo retouch tool
but also a top contender for original digital art creation tool vying with
Corel Painter, Macromedia Fireworks, and Creature House's Expression 2 among
others for that honor.
New Web Features
New User Work Shortcuts
Photoshop has had a good reputation for providing users with powerful work shortcuts (one of the first to provide unlimited undos, a simple batch processing capability, and macro recording of commands) and this edition adds to that tradition. The first is the addition of a presets recorder for every tool. Already we have seen what user can do with the Brush creator. Well consider that there is a general Tool Creator becuase user can save under their chosen name all the option settings for any tool. For some tools such as eye dropper this feature can be ignored; but for most others like the Type Tool, Clone Tool, and all the retouch tools presets are a godsend. In fact in evaluating Photoshop students we now look to what and how often they use the presets to help gauge their Photoshop efficiency and savvy.
Another great time saving new feature is the ability to save the Photoshop workspace into a named file. What this does is allow restoring all the palettes, their docking state and positions so they can be quickly re-instated at any time by load a workspace by name from the Windows | Worspaces command. This also saves a lot of time when switching between retouch, color correction, and layer compositing work - in which exact sizing, positioning and grouping of palettes is a convenience this graphics editor highly values.
In adition, Photoshop continues to add the Windows keyboard shortcuts many of the new commands. Some users avoid keyboard shortcuts like the plague and others cannot be efficient and productive without them. This user sits in the middle - using some keyboard shortcuts all the time;ut always valuing the fact that they are there ebven for the latest commands for use when required. Finally, Photoshop tightens the integration between Photoshop and the rest of the Adobe family of products. We certainly welcome this trend but are somewhat alarmed by some of the negative effects. For example, Adobe's Plugins only work with Adobe products where as plugins from Corel and Jasc also work with Adobe products. Likewise, I can import from the clipboard practically any size image from Adobe Photoshop; but Photoshop refuses to accept comparably sized images on the clipboard from Jasc, Corel, Ulead or other graphic editing products. This smacks of the Redmondian haughtiness that has generated so much ill-will towards Microsoft. Let us hope that Adobe does not fall victime to the same hubris- especially given that many new features in Photoshop can clearly be traced to innovations first done by their competitors. One would hope that Adobe has not mini-cloned Redmond's Borg-like mindless competitive ferocity.
New Ouput Features
New Picture Packager
Photoshop 7 has added a number of output features in version 7. My personal favorite is the new Picture Packager (see screenshot above). What the Picture Packager does allows a user to pack as many pictures as possible into different print page sizes (currently 8 x 10in, 10 x 16in and 11 x 17in). Within each of these page size, Photoshop has several pre-packaged layouts of images that cram several photos per printout page. Users just clck on each photo and choose what picture is to be fit in that position. Its not as flexible as Jasc Photo Layout command but faster to use since all the templates and layouts are predefined. Users can add top of page titling and other info. We found the 8 2.5x3.5in images to be quite helpful in creating cards for trade show distribution.
As well, Photoshop 7 has added new security features to its PDF output routines which include the ability to password protect access to images or the ability to copy and edit them from a PDF. Likewise the new Web Photo Gallery enhancements allow user to quickly create web-based photo galleries with added new templates and more access features similar to the PDF Security. This option lets you enter text or embed the filename, caption, or copyright information on the image as a watermark beforedisplayed in the gallery.
Clearly this is an impressive set of new features to a "mature" product. The only trend we find worrisome is the tendency for Adobe to take an overzealous - "it works best (or only as in the case of their filter plugins) with Adobe products".
Bitmap and Vector Integration
We have said before but it bears repeating - three vendors, Wright Design out of Australia, Macromedia's Fireworks and Deneba's Canvas have been pioneering the integrated use of bitmap and vector graphics. The key point of integration was to have bitmap and vectors be separated on different layers; but subject to the same selection masks, transparency controls, ,adjustment filters and dislayed in the same layers palette. Adobe Photoshop with its clipping paths, shapes and styles has a number of capabilities to offer in this arena.In fact clipping paths were probably one of the earliest introductions of vector graphics into bitmap graphics.
Clipping paths, as the name implies, clips off a portion of a bitmap image from being printed or seen. Have you ever wondered how complex shapes the edge of a book were printed in magazine layouts. It could have been careful masking; but just as often it is done by means of a clipping path whose crisp vector lines and curves define what is to be printed and what lies outside the printed area. The Pen Tool, Freeform Pen Tool, Add Anchor Point Tool, Delete Anchor Point Tool, Convert Point Tool and Path palette are all devoted to the important task of defining and editing a clipping path.
These same tools can also be used to create fill and stroke paths. The advantage is that precise vector paths can be used to define a wide range of bitmap strokes such as brush, dodge, burn, smudge, etc. Likewise the full range of fills can be applied to a fill path. However there is a disadvantage to the stroke and fill path tools - once the fill or stroke options are defined they are permanently applied into any underlying layers subject to the fill/stroke depending on masks and transparencies. Any changes to the fill used in the fill path replaces the previous fill; and any changes to the stroke option used in the stroke path accumulates on the underlying exposed bitmaps. More troubling: any edits made to the fill or stroke path using the Add Anchor Point Tool, Delete Anchor Point Tool, and Convert point Tool do not undo the previous fill or stroke applied. users are responsible for erasing or restoring those fill or strokes. In sum fill and stroke paths should be used judiciously and the new vector shape tools should be used preferentially because all of the contents/properties of shapes are dymically changed with any edits to the shapes.
Shapes are really the best way to use vectors for graphics purposes in Photoshop because they are more versatile then paths. As noted previously the fill, stroke, and other effects applied to a shape are done on a dynamic basis - this means unlike fill and stroke paths, all changes to a shape and or its contained effects are immediately updated and then blended into the Photoshop image depending on where the shape is on the stack of layers.
In our screenshot example above, all of the image is made up of shapes including the type which has been converted to shapes in order to allow for the gradient fill with beveling. Shapes can be editted with the Path tools Add Anchor Point, Delete Anchor Point and Convert Anchor Point. These are the tools used to create the rainbow butterfly shape in upper left of the image. The Background is a rectangular vector shape filled with a purple-to-orange circular gradient. The heart is on of the many predefined shapes available in Photoshop; but it is easy tocreate or edit a shape and then save it as done inthe case of the butterfly shape in this image.
The effects that can be applied to a shape are quite impressive. They include:
where users can edit any of the ten major style effects to their hearts content. Clicking on the name of a style, like bel and emboss cause it user control options to be displayed in the Layer Style dialog. Finally note that in the upper right corner one of the buttons says New Style. Press that button and name your style and Photoshop automatyically creates a new style including a thumbnail which it then adds to the Styles Palette - it couyldn't be easier. One problem though - when you save a style with the same name Photoshop just writes a second copy of the style with the same name. So if you want to edit a style and delete the old one you will have to that yourself in the Styles Palettes menu pulldown(upper right corner, small black wedge in grey circle-click there).
All of the graphic editors we have reviewed have been assessed for their proficiency at the simple CAST set of photoediting tasks that digital photographers are confronted with. CAST stands for Cropping, Adjust colors, Sharpen and Touch up. This is the order these edits are normally done in and Photoshop is very well equipped to handle these chores. Start with the cr;opping tool which highlights the area to be cropped and allows users to rotate the cropping rectangle - often a fast way to make an image rotation correction. But there are ample Flip, Mirror, Rotate commands. Photoshop 7 provide a number of ways a layer, selection or object/shape can be transformed including scale, rotate, shear/skew, distort, and perspective warp. They are all easy to do. Ditto for Resize, Canvas Size, Trim and Crop to Selections. In sum, Photshop gets A for the C-Cropping portion of the regular CAST edits.
How does Photoshop 7 fare in the A-Adjust Color category ? As might be expected of the program that provides the definitive set of color input, display and output options, Photoshop 7
Replace Color Dialog
has numerous color adjustment tools including the basics such as Curves, Brightness/Contrast,
Color Balance, Hhue/Saturation/Lightness. Equalize, Auto Levels, Auto Color, and
Auto Contrast are available for good one click adjust ments. Selective Color,
Replace Color (my personal favorite, see screenshot above), Channel Mixer, and
Gradient Map provide for selective color changes. Invert, Threshold, Desaturate,
Posterize provide for color switch or reductions. Despite this impressive list
of color tools Photoshop 7 cedes the position of best color adjustment tools
to Jasc PaintShop Pro. Nonetheless, Photoshop 7 will more than meet your color
adjust ment needs.
Finally we have already seen that Photoshop with its new Healing Brush and Patch Tools has become the one of the best tools for touch ups. It helps to have one of the best sets of masking/selection tools so touch ups can be confined to exactly the areas desired on the image - masking helps with sharpening tool, restricting the sharpening to only the areas needing it. In sum give PhotoShop 7 an A for CAST Retouching capabilities.
Layering: A Labor of Love
Photoshop 7 has a deserved reputation for having one of the largest learning curves in graphic editing tools. Inevitably the richness of the tool has something to do with it. The relative weakness of the online help does not help - Photoshop Elements shows how to do better documentation as does Photoshop 7's manual. But the crux of the matter is that revolving arround color calibration, channels, layering, masks and paths there is both potential for confusion and just a lot to learn. Yet layering and masks are the strength of Photoshop 7. These tols allow users to do extensive "gardening" to pictures and images. Gardening is judicious addition of snips and image elements that were not in the original picture. In fact there is artistic style established in the early 1900's which used found objects including cloth, toolls, scarps, even picture fragments as part of an overall composition. So "gardening" has a long tradiion in art circles. Devious gardening in which replacement of people or objects with benign or malicious substitutes for malicious intenet - is like an off color joke not only morally wrong but often just in bad taste.
Whatever, the moral implications, Photoshop was one of the first and best tools for photographic gardening. And Photoshop 7 asures that honor will be maintained. Here are the basics of layering that Photoshop 7 allows (see our tutorials on layering for more information).
This comprises basic outlines of layering but their are a set of blending options available to determine how the layers interact with each other. And finally, each layer may have a transperncy mask attached to it determining how much of its images and effects are passed on through to the final image. Sounds complicated. And is complicated.
Some may ask - why have duplicate layers ? There are two primary reasons: first to preserve the original colors, tones, and shading of an image; second to allow the duplicate layers to receive edits and then with a mask selectively send through or diminish those edits. At the price of extra file size this allows the user to make a boad range of changes without having to recreate the whole set of changes from scratch using a history file. Ditto for Adjustment layers - since they generally apply to the whole image - they must stand on their own if users want to make instant changes. Fill layers are almost always used with masks and are used iinterchangeably with Vector Masks. And of course Vector Masks as we have already seen, allow the applying of 10-12 effects through the lens of a very tight, crisp vector shape.
So in Photoshop layers supply two things - a means of incorporating extenal images and shapes to a drawing that were not originally there. And second, a live history of all the major transformations done to the image so if an art director asks for a change - it can be immediately rendered. As mentioned the cost is some enormous filesizes and sometimes very hard images to tune - because some changes can have unintended consequences. hence the title for this section Layering: A Labor of Love.
In fact Adobe developers will probably have to bite the bullet and simplify the relationship between channels, paths, and layers/masks because there is clearly redundancy, some degree of predictive ambiguity(you don't get what you expect), and a certain amount of Rube-Goldberg -machine complexity. But also there is a consistenly industry-leading set of facilities for doing two things: 1) compositing or combining two or more images into a completed whole and 2)allowing a designer/developer to retain as active all the layers of changes to an image so that final, last minute edits can be done in a few moments and not have to be laboriously reconstructed.
Even in this brief review it becomes clear that Photoshop 7 deserves its ranking as the number one graphics editor. It is at or near the top in nearly every category. And now that Photoshop Elements is available as training wheels for full Photoshop - the number of users that will make the step to full Photoshop mastery will inevitably increase.