Price: Creative Cloud from £39 plus VAT
Pros: Good set of useful tools; especially for interactive projects
Cons: Blurs for video a bit pointless; for Creative Cloud members only
Photoshop CS6.1 (or if you prefer, Photoshop 13.1) is the latest in Adobe’s trickle of updates to Creative Suite 6 for subscribers to its Creative Cloud offering. It follows minor feature add-ons for Illustrator, and Dreamweaver, and finishing off Edge Animate and Muse.
Some of the features here are useful, if not mind-blowing. Character and Paragraph Styles can now be shared between files, which is rather useful for graphics and web work.
Photoshop CS6 added a series of blur effects – Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift – with on-screen controls to make positioning the centre, fall-off and boundaries easier. However, these didn’t work with Smart Objects, so you couldn’t alter them later – and if applied to video would affect only a single frame. The same was true for the Liquify filter. Photoshop CS6.1 fixes these omissions. However for video, you can’t keyframe them, so it’s effectively useless except for static shots.
Designers mocking up websites will appreciate the ability to select an element – text or graphic layers, or groups of layers – and copy the underlying values as CSS. If you’re a designer and coder, you can paste this straight into a coding tool.
If you work with developers, don’t assume that this tool means you won’t have to document your designs anymore. Just passing over a mockup and saying ‘get the info out of this’ is almost certainly going to get you a mouthful from your development team. Instead, you can use this to make documenting your own designs easier.
You can also load colour swatches from within HTML or CSS files, which could be useful if you want to quickly mock up an element to be used on a site that you didn’t design.
Conditional Actions (above) allow you to use basic programming terms – If, Then, Else – to modify Actions to do different things, depending on the makeup of an image. These can work based on image information such as RGB or CMYK, or portrait or landscape – or layer properties such as whether a layer is pixels, vectors or adjustment. Conditional Actions are great for image processing tasks such as common resizing images for the web or pre-press processing, but its ability to respond to layer types makes quite powerful for artworking, too.
Adobe has rejigged the Options Bar for the Crop tool to make it simpler to create something specific; for example, a landscape A6 postcard at 300dpi. It has also added a couple of improvements to the 3D tools, including better shadows and tools for generating normals and editing IBLs (image-based lights).
One feature is available to all Photoshop users – well, Mac-using ones anyway – is the support for Apple’s Retina Displays. This has generated a lot of interest, though probably more than it’s due since few creatives own these hyper-expensive laptops. We tested Photoshop CS6.1 on a 13-inch MacBook Pro with such a screen and it works perfectly. Even obscure dialogs such as the Filter Gallery are clean and slick.
In the images above, the top one shows the original Photoshop CS6 on a 13-inch MacBook Pro in Retina Display mode. The middle shows it in 'Full-res' mode. The bottom is Photoshop CS6 13.0.1. This allows you to see the photo in more detail without having to squint at interface elements.
We wouldn’t say you should sign up for Creative Cloud just because of additions like Photoshop CS6.1 – but they’re a neat extra if its pay-little-but-often setup works out better than dropping a wodge of cash for a full upgrade every few years.