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Adobe Photoshop CS5

Major Enhancements / Workflow Improvements / New Tools & Intelligent Tweaks



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Early fall, 2010

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Eden Maxwell

Street Cred

When an Adobe Photoshop update hits the streets, we are all curious as to what’s new and how can these features help me creatively while speeding up production if I’m on the line for deadlines—and is it worth the price?

With Photoshop CS5, Adobe’s programmers have been busy coding new tools, listening to user’s requests, and reworking a number of its previously manual processes into automated functions—which are best guesses that are often ideal. This version also provides exciting new brushes and tools for painters, photo retouchers, and photographers who want to repurpose their images and portraits into respectable paintings.


Taking advantage of Apple Computer's Cocoa technology over its now fading Carbon technology, Adobe has finally brought Photoshop CS5 for the Mac up to speed so that it runs natively in 64-bit mode; Windows went 64-bit in the last version of the program.

The practical effect of 64-bit for Photoshop CS5 means that you may experience a speed bump in your image processing—that is if you’re primarily working with big documents like high-resolution photographs or panoramas composed of different images, or other documents that contain large amounts of data.

With large files, processing can be up to ten times faster when you take advantage of higher addressable RAM amounts—limited only by what your hardware accommodates. To experience that speed bump you'll need more than 4 GB of RAM as well as both a 64-bit processor and 64-bit operating system.

The reason for the potential speed bump when you're processing large files is that 64-bit is no longer limited to 4 GB of RAM—as was the case in the previous 32-bit only versions of Photoshop. Now, when you’re working with large amounts of image data, Photoshop can address additional RAM if you've got it, thereby increasing processing speed.

If you're working on a file with a small amount of data like an image for the web you may not experience a noticeable increase in processing speed. Note also that you do have the option of running both Mac and Windows Photoshop CS5 in either a 32-bit or 64-bit environment. There may be times when you want to run Photoshop in 32-bit mode. For example, you may need to use a plug-in that's 32-bit only—like some Photoshop filters, including the Variations command. If, for example, I want to use my Canon scanner plug-in (a 32-bit plug-in only) from within Photoshop CS5, I need to launch Photoshop in 32-bit mode.


Among the most impressive and useful new features in Photoshop CS5 is Content-Aware Fill.

After some twenty years in the marketplace, Photoshop has become synonymous with image manipulation. Removing unwanted elements from an image has always been possible, albeit sometimes tedious, with the previous version of Photoshop using the available tools like the Healing brushes, the Clone tool or the Patch tool.

Now, with Photoshop CS5, the clean removal of unwanted photo elements has never been this easy or effective. With Content-Aware Fill’s new and amazing sophisticated technology, the selected image element is automatically replaced with details that match the surrounding lighting, tone, and noise so that it looks like the content never existed—and you were never there. Even large complex subjects can be erased seamlessly.

Using any of the Photoshop Selection tools or features, you can select the object to be removed, and then replace the selected area with synthesized details from the area surrounding the active selection, simply by activating the Content-Aware option in the Fill dialog box, which is on by default. Selections don’t have to be precise for Content-Aware Fill to work properly; in fact, sometimes a loose or rough selection is more effective in matching the nearby surroundings, as trial and error teaches.

You can also use Content-Aware Fill with the Spot Healing Brush. In this mode, the Content-Aware setting, which you select from the options panel, with the Spot Healing brush changes the way the tool fills in the areas you paint. This retouching approach is designed to account more fully for the structure and detail of the image elements that surround the painted area; this capability provides a near-invisible result when you remove unwanted objects like power lines in a landscape photo.

With Content-Aware Fill, good photos that might have been hampered by dogged extraneous elements and doomed to the reject bin can now be professionally cleaned up quickly and easily.


With previous versions of Photoshop, the high dynamic range (HDR) feature allowed you to transcend the capture capabilities of your SLR camera by combining bracketed images for a composite image in a wider range—and as big as 32-bits. Photoshop CS5 improves upon HDR merging and processing with a new Merge to HDR dialog box that provides automatic or manual adjustment power to create superior HDR imaging: fully textured photorealistic photos or dramatic scenes with a surreal effect.

Through an enhanced interface, HDR Pro offers extensive controls for improved image processing. New algorithms enable more accurate alignment of source your files. Also, the addition of a remove “ghosting” option is yet another major improvement—this command removes movement (blur caused by moving subjects) in any one of the images used to assemble the HDR composite image.

The de-ghosting system automatically gives priority to the content of one source image over the others in problem areas. Or, you can override the auto feature and manually select the base image to use.

For times when you don’t have multiple bracketed source files, you have the option of selecting the HDR Toning feature that can simulate the look of an HDR-processed image from a single photo. HDR Toning allows you to mimic the tone-mapping results of HDR PRO, which relies on a high dynamic range of at least three bracketed (varying exposures) photos.


Photoshop is an indispensible tool for photographers, digital retouchers, and artists too, most especially when it comes to having precise printing control over one’s work. While previous versions of Photoshop had a basic Brush tool, the new brush tools and enhancements in CS5 deserve our attention for simulating painting effects, and having fun.


With a Mixer Brush, which includes a new mechanism for blending colors, and Bristle Tips for more naturalistic brush strokes, Photoshop CS5 redefines the possibilities in the way you paint. Corel Painter users will immediately recognize how much the CS5 brush options have been improved.

The Mixer Brush lets you define multiple colors on a single tip, and then mix and blend them with the underlying hues on your canvas—similar to working on a canvas already wet with paint. You can achieve creative results that match or even rival traditional painting media. Mixer Brush settings provide extensive control over the wetness of the canvas, the load rate to add paint to the brush, the mixing rate between brush and canvas colors, and whether the brush is refilled, cleaned, or both after each paint brushstroke.

You can use the versatile Mixture Brush to create a photo-painting where colors, shape, and form are lifted from an underlying photograph—and you don't need to be a painter to achieve a remarkable painterly look.

Note: there is no dedicated mixer palette panel like you’ll find in Corel Painter; you can, however, work around this by mixing colors on a separate layer.


Bristle Qualities define key bristle properties such as shape, length, stiffness, thickness, angle, and spacing, which affect how the color is laid on the image as you paint. The Bristle Brush Preview feature provides a visual representation of these changes, and you can save your tip configurations for future use, allowing you to build a customized collection of Bristle Tips to experiment with when using Photoshop brush tools.

The new brushes have so many features, it’s not always apparent or discoverable as to how they function, or where options can be found and tweaked—you will need to drill down into menus for best results—and that hidden handshake.

If you intend on seriously working with CS5’s new brushes, I strongly recommend investing in an in-depth tutorial on the subject by maestro John Derry, who is deeply intimate with both Corel Painter and Photoshop. He’ll save you eons of time by teaching you the ropes; he'll give you tips for setting up the Touch Ring on your Wacom Intous4 pen tablet; and John will also explain why it’s better to save a new brush as a tool, not a brush. Note: see my article: Wacom Intous4 Professional pen tablet: Innovative Game Changer.


Being able to select colors on the fly helps avoid distractions by not interrupting the workflow at hand.

Fortunately, there’s the new HUD Color Picker in Photoshop CS5; this feature is a new way of selecting colors. HUD stands for Heads-up Display, which, in this case, means an element that only appears when you invoke it.

The HUD Color Picker allows you to quickly choose color from within the context of the image. You can focus on the work without having to move to a separate panel or separate color picker when you want to change colors. You also have the option of going old school by choosing the traditional color picker, which you access by clicking on the familiar Foreground color box in the toolbar.

Your fingers with have to do a digital keyboard cha-cha to invoke both the HUD Color Picker and, if necessary, the hues bar. You’ll get the hang of soon enough, as the color panel seems to dim away.


If you’ve worked in a low light environment, you most likely had to increase your ISO (digital film speed) in order to capture the shot; you also found out that high ISO can introduce grainy digital noise into a photo. In the past, Adobe Camera Raw addressed that problem with two noise reduction controls, one for luminance noise and one for color noise. But the challenge with those noise reduction controls was to reduce color noise without causing the image to lose detail and become color-desaturated.

In Camera Raw 6, Adobe has focused on improving those two aspects of noise reduction. The new Color and Luminance Detail sliders offer more control over your image. Sharpening in Adobe Camera Raw 6 has also been improved, especially for a high-frequency image with lots of fine-tuned detail.

Another new feature in Camera Raw 6 allows you to add natural film style grain to a photo. The new Grain sliders are stored in the Effects tab. In the past, adding grain was something that you could do from within Photoshop using a combination of filters, features, and secret handshakes. Now you have direct control over grain in one convenient place.

Grain can be used to add a vintage or an historical feel to a photo, particularly a black and white or sepia toned photo. Another reason to add grain is to simulate a particular grainy traditional film stock from back in the day.

If you applied noise reduction that made a photo look unnaturally smooth, then adding a little grain can restore the lost texture to the photo.


Lens correction has been neatly and effectively revamped for Photoshop CS5.

Depending upon the lens you use on your SLR camera, you may get lens-related errors, such as geometric distortion (barreling or pin cushioning), lateral chromatic aberration (color fringing along areas of high contrast), or vignetting (darkened edges).

The Lens Correction filter in CS5 does its best to make these common corrections for you automatically (Auto Correction); there are of course sliders for manual adjustments, as found in the previous Photoshop version. Instead of hiding out in the Distort submenu, the Lens Correction filter is now more prominently placed under the top level of the Filters menu.

Under the hood, the Photoshop’s Lens Profile feature tries to make the most accurate correction by best matching the camera with the lens used.  If you don’t see an exact match for your lens, you can set up certain search parameters (camera and lens type) and Lens Profile will search online for a matched profile. If no precise match is found, you have the option of tweaking the image with the manual controls.

If the Search Online button is grayed out, Lens Profiler could not figure out the camera make (lens mount) or the lens model from the input image EXIF metadata. To find the camera and the lens used, Lens Profile relies on EXIF stored data found with most SLR digital cameras today; point and shoot or phone cameras may not contain EXIF data.

Note: It’s more important for proper lens correction that Lens Profile gets the lens right than the specific camera model.

The built-in zoom Nikkor lens on my Nikon Coolpix 5400 is F=5.8-24mm. The nearest Lens Profile came to matching my lens is F=6-24mm with the Coolpix P6000, which is also the wrong camera model. Still, the lens correction looks pretty good; and I can always click on the custom tab to make any necessary manual adjustments. Although my camera registers EXIF metadata, the lens profile correction plug-in couldn’t figure out what type of lens, which meant that the Search Online button (designed to find your specific lens if available on the Adobe list) was grayed out.

Note: You might also want to check out Adobe’s Lens Profile Creator, which is presently (early fall, 2010) still in a prerelease state; you can download the utility from Adobe Labs here:


Not all the improvements in CS5 are big-ticket items. Among the numerous smaller improvements that Adobe has added to Photoshop CS5 are enhancements to some of Photoshop’s tools. Here are several examples:


The Crop tool has acquired a new grid, which is useful for framing and drawing the viewer’s attention to a pleasing composition. Once you’ve made your crop, the Options Bar will reflect that the new Crop Guide Overlay, which is selected to Rule of Thirds, is on by default. For centuries, artists have been positioning the most important elements in an image in eye-friendly areas using Rule of Thirds by design or intuition.


In previous versions of Photoshop, you had to use the ruler (the Measure Tool) to find something in the image that should be straight—horizontally or vertically. Then you had to use the Arbitrary command to set things straight, that is, of course, if you knew where this hidden handshake was hidden: Image menu > Rotate Canvas > Arbitrary.

With CS5, once you use the Ruler tool to drag along an area that should be straight, simply click the Straighten button in the Options bar to rotate and crop the photo. Done!


The Zoom tool also sports Scrubby Zoom, a new option in Photoshop CS5.

Scrubby Zoom is enabled by default, as indicated in the Options bar. You can come into the image and pinpoint exactly the area that you want to zoom into by clicking in that area and dragging to the right—this Zoom enhancement lets you get to the area of interest quickly. Then, clicking and dragging to the left will zoom you back out. You also have the option of using the Zoom tool as with previous versions.

Note: Scrubby Zoom is enabled in 64-bit mode, and not in 32-bit mode.


The venerable Eyedropper tool hasn’t been left out in the cold, either.

Moving the Eyedropper tool over part of an image and clicking invokes the new color-sampling ring. The Options Bar for the Eyedropper tool will reflect that Show Sampling Ring is checked.

The outer grey ring is simply a neutral color to help you see the colors that are selected in the inner ring; the inner ring is divided into two pieces. The bottom half of the inner ring represents the last color used in the foreground color box in the toolbar while the top part of the inner color ring represents the current color being sampled with the Eyedropper. I use the Eyedropper often to choose colors. Now that task has been improved.


Here are another two very handy embellishments in Photoshop CS5.


If you often change adjustment parameters using text fields or the targeted adjustment tool, you can now maximize your efficiency by automatically selecting these items by default.

Auto-Select Parameter is available via the Adjustments panel flyout menu. It puts keyboard focus on the first field (numerical value) in an adjustment layer. You no longer have to click onto a text field in the panel before you can start typing in numbers.

Note: At any time, you can put keyboard focus onto the first field in the Adjustments panel by hitting Shift-Return (Mac) or Shift-Enter (Windows) on the keyboard.


Here’s yet another handy timesaver if you’re accustomed to working with many multiple windows inside of Photoshop; you can now close them all in one simple step. In the past, when you selected the familiar Close all command, you were asked if you wanted to save changes or not for each open document. The new Close all command dialog box has an Apply to All option, which you can check; so, now whether you want to save your changes for each file, or not, you click once and you are done, my friend.



You can now drag and drop a file directly from your operating system into an open document in Photoshop to create a new layer—a feature that users have been requesting for some time.

Dropped documents come into Photoshop as a placed images, as indicated by the bounding box with the diagonal lines. As a placed image, you have an opportunity to transform it (reposition or scale) before committing the image to a new layer. Note that once you commit the image to a layer, the image comes in as a Smart Object layer.

Smart Objects preserve an image’s source content with all its original characteristics, enabling you to perform nondestructive editing (transformation and most effects) to the layer.


If you’re working with files that have many layers, it’s not uncommon to end up with a number of empty layers in the stack. Trying to find them all can be tedious. New in CS5, you can now quickly delete all empty layers by going up to the File menu, and going down to Scripts and over to Delete All Empty Layers. Gone!


With CS5, you can now vary the Opacity or the Fill of more than one layer at a time. After selecting two or more layers, try dragging on the Opacity slider, and you can see that the content of the selected layers has changed opacity with a single operation.

Another layer improvement involves making a layer mask. You can now use the transparency in a layer to create a layer mask. With this transparent layer selected, go up to the Layer menu and down to layer mask where you’ll find a new option: From Transparency. You no longer have to go the extra step of first making a selection of the transparency and then creating the layer mask to get the same effect.


You can now manage your content more efficiently with the new and updated features in Bridge CS5 software—which has evolved over the years from a so-so feature to an integral app for managing your media and digital assets. The Bridge star of this release is a brand-new feature: the Mini Bridge, a panelized version of Bridge that provides instant image access and management capabilities from within Photoshop CS5.

With Mini Bridge you can access some of the same file browsing and file management functions as you can in the standalone application Adobe Bridge CS5, included with Photoshop, most of the standalone CS5 software, and the Creative Suite 5 editions.

The advantage of using Mini Bridge is this: since the Mini Bridge panel window is inside of Photoshop, you no longer have to move back and forth between Photoshop and Bridge itself, which is a separate program, to manage your image files.

Since Mini Bridge is powered by Adobe Bridge, Mini Bridge takes advantage of memory allocated to Adobe Bridge rather than to Photoshop, freeing up memory for other tasks.

Although Mini Bridge is powerful, it can’t do everything that Adobe Bridge can, like create new folders, labels, and ratings. However, any change you make from within Adobe Bridge is immediately and conveniently updated in Mini Bridge. We can look forward to Mini Bridge evolving in future releases.


The Workspace Switcher has replaced the Workspace menu in the Application Bar in Photoshop CS5, which is similar to the switcher in Bridge and other programs. You can use the Workspace Switcher to quickly switch between combinations of panel locations, menus and sets of keyboard shortcuts, as you could with the previous Workspace menu.

The Workspace Switcher (above the Options bar) ships with new preset task-based Workspaces: Design, Painting, Photography, 3D, Motion and one for What’s New in CS5. The default Workspace is the Essentials Workspace with its accompanying panel setup, which is a basic starter set, or jumping off point in developing your own panel configuration.

Having dedicated, task-specific workspaces that mimic your individual workflow increases productivity by hiding the features you don’t use while exposing the ones you do. New Live Workspaces auto-save any changes you make to a task-specific workspace, so that if you switch to a different workspace and then back again during an editing session, your panels remain exactly where you left them. Sweet!


Adobe After Effects users are already familiar with the warping and reshaping capabilities of the Puppet tool, which is now available as Puppet Warp, a new feature in Photoshop CS5.

While warping and transforming elements in an image is not a new concept, Puppet Warp in CS5 greatly simplifies the process. Puppet Warp is more intuitive, less awkward, and can form more realistic results than with Photoshop’s Transform commands.

By pushing and pulling elements in an image with appropriately placed digital push pins over a mesh overlay that can be toggled off for clarity, Puppet Warp allows you to precisely reposition any element within a Photoshop document by simply clicking and dragging. The Puppet Warp feature can be applied to graphic images, photographs, a Type layer, Vector shapes, and even to layer masks and Vector masks.


You can now bring your 3D creations to life with Adobe Repoussé, another new feature currently exclusive to Photoshop CS5 Extended.

Repoussé is a new research system for the interactive enhancement of 2D art with 3D geometry. With Adobe Repoussé you can now easily convert 2D artwork into 3D objects and then create depth by altering the extrusion properties of the 3D model. You can, for example, extrude text to create logos and 3D artwork for use in websites, video frames, or layouts.

You can select materials from the library of included presets, download additional materials by choosing 3D > Browse 3D Content, create your own, or even edit existing materials to customize them for your needs (in the materials section of the 3D panel). You alter the look of your 3D model by manipulating its key extrusion properties: depth, scale, bend, shear, twist, or inflate, located in the Repoussé dialog box.

It’s easy to test a variety of looks for your 3D models; the idea is to extrude designs by adding different materials or textures to their surfaces—which can often require intensive computer processing power. The Repoussé dialog box and the Materials section of the 3D panel both contain options for applying a single material to all surfaces. These control centers also enable you to choose different treatments for individual sections and surfaces of your models for enhanced realism.


Adobe has done what any company strives for with their products: they made a good thing better. If you’re a professional, and that includes painters, there’s nothing to think about: get Adobe Photoshop CS5: it’s reliable and inventive by design. If you’re a Corel Painter user, you will want to experiment with all the new and enhanced painting tools in CS5.

You are in the end also known for your tools.»


Adobe Systems, Inc.

Photoshop CS5 Extended ships with most of Adobe’s design and creative suites; also available separately:

Photoshop CS5 Extended: US$999 buy; from US$349 upgrade

Photoshop CS5: US$699 buy; from US$199 upgrade



Tutorial Recommendations

Photoshop tutorials


There is no question that Adobe Photoshop is a marvelous tool used by professionals worldwide; in fact, a whole industry in digital manipulation has developed around this workhorse of an app.

To get the most out Photoshop, whether youíre experienced or an eager neophyte, you must master the program's inner workings, which are not always apparent—or discoverable.

One of the best investments you can make is to educate yourself. With consistently high-end produced presentations, A-list instructors, and an extensive library of in-depth software courses, continues its mission as one of the best educational values in online-based tutorials. offers a truly incredible learning experience that is both fun and affordable. Downloadable exercise file are now included in a $37.50 monthly premium plan.

You will find many Photoshop tutorial lessons by various experts who will elevate your skill while stimulating your creativity. For starters, and a comprehensive look into Photoshop, Deke McClelland, with his unbridled enthusiasm, walks you through the program’s features with insights, humor, and depth of knowledge. Deke practically channels the spirits of Photoshop. He also shares some secret Photoshop handshakes that will improve your productivity. Now you know, too.

Also recommend and not limited to are Jan Kabili and Chris Orwig, and, of course, as previously mentioned, John Derry for his suberb tips on both understanding and using the new brushes in Photoshop CS5.


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There's no doubt that training videos are unsurpassed for illustrating application features and how to use them. There are also times when I simply want to look up how a tool works or how to achieve a certain effect. I always have a handy reference book or two that covers my favorite apps. In this case, I heartily recommned these two titles from O’Reilly Media—a premiere publisher of titles on software and code.

Photoshop CS5 One-on-One by Deke McClelland

A great starter companion to Deke’s Photoshop CS5 Fundamentals tutorials is his Photoshop CS5 One-on-One book. Deke's tutorial book is project based—that is, you'll have a finished design at the end of each lesson. You can work along with him by watching free videos and downloading excercise files from O'Reilly.

You also get a bonus for buying the book: a free 7-day trial subscription to where you'll have access to Photoshop tutorials plus thousands of other training videos.

Join him on a one-on-one creative journey to learn Photoshop by doing the work. Deke knows how to pace his lessons.

Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual by Lesa Snider

If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of attempting to learn Photoshop, then let me allay your fears. Fortunately, we have the missing manual that sports simple to comprehend concepts presented with both humor and clarity. The book is in color with graphics that pop. All the excercise files and other elements are availble as free downloads. You also get a 45-day free online edition of the book, which can be very handy.

Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual isn't only for beginners. As Lesa Snider knows her stuff, pros will learn a lot, too. Also, the book makes its points with a conversational style sans any heady technical jargon to get in the way.




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