So I just upgraded my Photoshop to the all new Photoshop CS5 and have been playing with the new features. All I can say is… wow. Adobe is doing a great job with this product and the new intelligence behind some of the new features is jaw droppingly stupid cool. (That’s a professional opinion)
First thing to note is that I upgraded from Photoshop CS3 on a Mac so my first impression with CS5 was the increase in performance. Now granted, I know I’m a version behind and CS4 actually made this improvement on the Mac platform by making native code for Intel Macs, but I was still very impressed the first time I even started the application.
On to the new features. The single biggest addition is the “Content-Aware” fills. The algorithm behind this is just mind-blowing. If you have ever tried to remove unwanted components from your photographs you know that it can be painstakingly tedious and time-consuming. The Content Aware features drastically reduce the time and effort for this. Complex item removal and clean up can now be done in minutes (if not seconds) using this feature. For example, removing lens-flares has always been a very hard edit, but with this new feature it can now be done in just a few minutes. Large items can be removed completely and empty areas can be filled in with appropriate content. Here is just a small example of a before and after photo I threw together using Content Aware. This is a photo of my daughter Mandy with a cat in the snow. I was able to completely remove the cat (and her brother behind her) in just a few minutes, by simply selecting an area around them and deleting them with the Content Aware option.
The next feature I’d like to mention is the Complex selection capabilities. How many times in Photoshop have you had to painstakingly use the lasso tool to outline an object to create a new layer or mask. You could spend all kinds of time working around a person only to mess up near the end and have to start over. THEN when you finally get the selection you want, you have to start doing all kinds of tedious refinements to make hair and fur look like realistic. Now using the Quick Selection Tool, you have all kinds of control over selecting objects then you can refine your selection to enhance the borders of your selection especially around hair or fur. Here is another quick example I did using Mandy again (she’ll probably get upset with my use of her, but oh well). Here I used the Quick Selection Tool to select her and separate her from the background. Then I applied different filters to each layer to make the background B&W and bring a Sepia tone to the foreground. Similarly, I made a separate layer for her eyes and enhanced her irises. I then used the Content Aware again to remove any blemishes. Take particular notice of her wisps of hair and how detailed strands were captured using the complex selection. (Click on the images for slightly larger examples)
The next new feature is a new brush tool called the Mixer Brush. This tool allows you to basically “paint over” your photo with very realistic results. This offers color blending and a selection of bristled tips that make textured brush strokes much more vivid than the canned artistic filters we are used to. It can be tedious, but can allow you to produce very detailed images that look hand painted. For this review, I did not do an entire photo with this effect, but I did use the Mixer Brush on part of the same image of Mandy I used above. Here’s the results:
Another new feature in CS5 is “Puppet Warp”, which sounds intriguing. The examples I’ve seen are pretty amazing. The feature allows you to basically give bone and joint functionality to 2D images much like you find in many 3D rendering tools. This allows you to manipulate a 2D “puppet” or a sprite more easily. However, I played around with it some and could not replicate the cool effects I saw on the Adobe site. My example was all stretched out like a comic book imprint on Silly Putty. Maybe there’s a learning curve and I just need practice. Honestly, this feature looked cool, but I personally have very little practical need for this tool at this time. So I will reserve judgment on this feature until I play with it more. But I gotta give them 2 thumbs way up simply for adding a feature called, “Puppet Warp”. No matter what it does, that’s just cool.
Aside from these changes there are some enhancements to the HDR capability which I’m hoping to play with soon. If you are not familiar with HDR (High Dynamic Range photography), it means you take multiple photos of the same subject with differing exposures then digitally blend them into a single image. The end results is a super realistic (or surrealistic, depending on your settings) view which cannot be replicated in the lens.
The Extended version also contains some new 3D extrusion and lighting capabilities that look impressive but just not worth the additional cost to me given how little I would use it.
All in all, this version is well worth the upgrade. It added a lot more power and a plethora of opportunities for photo-editing. I do feel sorry for those professional photo-editors who are used to charging for a days worth of work just to clean an image. Hours just became minutes thanks to Adobe. Good thing for me that Adobe’s code-generation tools are not this advanced… yet.
I give Adobe Photoshop CS5 a score of A+, 5 stars, and one warped puppet.