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Adobe Photoshop CS2A critical update to the core graphics application Summary: Adobe Photoshop is one of my very few "Must Buy" applications. The new version, Photoshop CS2, adds a huge number of important new creative and workflow features to this core graphics application, from perspective-based image editing and manipulation to FireWire-based video previews. It's a critical update to an already critical application.
Recommendation: Must Buy (all versions)
Users: Photoshop has the broadest reach of any professional-level graphics application. Its user base ranges from consumers to professionals in graphic design, publishing, DVD authoring, video editing, motion graphics/animation, compositing and broadcast.
Platform: Mac OS X and Windows
Price: $599 (full version); $149 (upgrade); $899 as part of Creative Suite 2 Standard edition; $1,199 as part of Creative Suite 2 Premium edition
More information: http://www.adobe.com
Photoshop is so core to the visual arts that it could coast by for years unchanged and still maintain its dominance in the market. Nevertheless, Adobe continues to engineer innovation into its flagship software and to make it easier and more intuitive to use. The range of new features in Photoshop CS2 doesn't stop at workflow improvements either, but rather goes on to include some major new "wow" features that not only refine but expand the creative process.
Mark this in contrast with the multitude of other developers out there who have been releasing maintenance updates as full version upgrades because they're not willing to put the resources needed into development that would push their software truly into the next generation. Photoshop CS2 is not one of those updates. Sure, it has some of the regular maintenance-style enhancements. But it also has a wealth of important major and minor features that justify the upgrade.
There's so much going on with Photoshop CS2 in terms of new features that it's difficult to decide where to start. So I'll just begin with the most flashy, which is Vanishing Point, and head down the list from there. By now you've no doubt read a lot about Vanishing Point and probably picked up a few negative comments along the way. Frankly, I'm not sure how anybody could see this technology as a negative unless you were expecting it to be something it's not. So let me try to demystify this for you.
Vanishing Point introduces a certain level of 3D compositing and image editing into Photoshop. It is not true 3D. It doesn't involve 3D layers in the way that Adobe After Effects does. And it doesn't work within the main Photoshop interface. Vanishing Point behaves like a filter. When called up, it activates a Vanishing point workspace in a new window, complete with its own set of tools. Within this workspace, you can create grids that define the perspective in your image, then paste and manipulate data, clone elements from one plane to another, paint and perform various transformations, all relative to the perspective grid you've set up.
I've already gone into considerable detail about Vanishing Point, so I won't repeat myself here. If you'd like to learn more about it (incl;uding a QuickTime movie showing the creation of perspective grids), please take a look at my article spotlighting this feature by clicking here.
Also new on the creative front are grid-based envelope distortions and image warping. This new feature appears under the Edit menu along with all of the other types of transformations available. When you apply it to a layer, it allows you to select one of the standard warp styles that you're used to encountering when you warp text--arc, bulge, fish, flag and the like--as well as to apply custom grid-based warps, AKA envelope distortions. Below you see an image that's warped with the "Flag" warp style.
But you can go far beyond something like this with your own warps. You begin with a simple grid composed of three rows and three columns. (Unlike envelope distortions in Adobe Illustrator, the number of rows and columns in Photoshop's Warp feature can't be changed.) Then you just grab points and start moving them around. You can also adjust tangent handles to fine tune the warp. And, because all of the image warps in Photoshop are grid-based, you can start with one of the preset Warp styles and modify it directly to suit your needs.
Note that with the grid-based warps, you can effectively create page curl effects by dragging a corner of the layer over the rest of the image. (The back side of the curl is a mirror image of the original.)
Photoshop CS2 also adds animation capabilities. It inherits an Animation palette identical to the one in ImageReady, and it allows you to performa the same functions. You can add and remove frames, tween frames, convert frames to layers (and vice versa) and otherwise manipulate frames as you see fit. This is a great advantage for rotoscoping and animation because, of course, it gives you access to all of Photoshop's powerful tools. (ImageReady itself doesn't have all of the features Photoshop has.)
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