Product Review: Page (1) of 10 - 12/22/03 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Adobe Photoshop CS

Image editing and graphics creation software By Dave Nagel
I've been a user of Adobe Photoshop since its first release, and this is my fourth (or is it fifth?) review of a major update to this software. At this point what could I possibly have to say about yet another version? First off, this is not just another version. Over the years I've seen Photoshop evolved, devolved and recreated to what it has now become, and I have to say I'm impressed. So what, exactly, has it become? With vastly expanded 16-bit color capabilities, new effects, new image manipulation tools and enormous new workflow capabilities--plus a few extra goodies thrown in for good measure--it is, in short, the most powerful version of the most powerful image editing tool on the market to date.

Now, I don't make this statement lightly. But Photoshop CS is a serious overhaul and a major improvement to what was already one of the great graphics programs out there. I'd characterize this release in two ways. First, it's the release for which Adobe rolled up its sleeves and took care of some under the hood issues that have been nagging at this application for quite a while. The 16-bit features alone required major surgery, but there's so much more. Second, this is an expansive release, one that continues to add new features that are not only variations on the old, but that open up new possibilities. We'll get into all of these now, starting with the 16-bit functionality and then moving into new features for photographers, new support for video professionals, new and enhanced tools and effects and, finally, workflow improvements.


16-bit color features
Without a doubt, the most major surgery done to Photoshop CS was in the area of overhaul features, specifically the integration of real 16-bit per channel color support. Now, obviously, Photoshop had some degree of 16-bit support in the past, but it was so limited that I never would have previously referred to this application as a 16-bit image editor. You could open 16-bit files; you could apply a few adjustments; but you could never do anything in the way of real image manipulation before.

Now all of this has changed. This application is now truly a 16-bit graphics program. More, it's the most full-featured 16-bit graphics program I've seen to date, offering all of the application-level functionality afforded to 8-bit images, the kind of functionality that has justified Photoshop's position as the dominant image manipulation and effects tool for creative professionals. (As many of us know, particularly Mac users, not all software rises to the top based on quality, and ubiquity is often bought rather than earned. Photoshop, in my mind, has always been the chief exception to this. It's simply a great graphics tool.)

So what do I mean when I refer to Photoshop CS as a "full-featured 16-bit image manipulation tool?" I mean you can do just about anything with a 16-bit image that you can do with an 8-bit image, only at a higher bit depth. This means painting. It means full layer support. It means all of the layer options, including layer styles, nesting, comps and the like. It means transformations, pattern creation and the use of all of the tools in the Tools palette. And this means, of course, that you will be able to perform all of these functions with truer color and smoother gradations. You won't always be able to see the results on your screen, since your screen most likely doesn't support 16-bit per channel color. But you will see it in your prints, and you'll see it in your histograms, and you'll see it in images that are processed extensively.

Now, on the Web, I can't show you the differences between a 16-bit image and an 8-bit image. But I can show you the difference between two identical images that have been processed while in different color depth modes.



So, in short, 16-bit color isn't just for photographers. It can also be a benefit for anybody who does extensive image processing on 8-bit source files.

Now, this is not to say that Photoshop's 16-bit color mode will give you access to every single feature available for 8-bit images. For example, most of the filters that ship with Photoshop CS still do not support 16-bit mode. But these, being plugins, can be updated for 16-bit use over time, and I expect that most of them will be. Plus, the list of third-party 16-bit filters is growing. For now, here's what you have.



I should note that, of the Stylize filters, only Emboss, Find Edges and Solarize are available at a 16-bit color depth. And, of course, the list gets narrower when using 16-bit color in CMYK mode.


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