Adobe Photoshop set off a revolution in digital image processing 30 years ago, and Adobe’s breakthrough applications continue to move forward because money can buy (preferably rent) the best photo editing software. If you need layered image editing (including printing, 3D modeling, and drawing), you need Photoshop. Designers and photographers can find the most and most advanced tools for their handicrafts in this application. AI-driven portrait selection, automatic font download, and better control of original camera file conversion appear in the latest update.
- Multitude of photo correction and manipulation tools
- Slick interface with lots of help
- Tools for mobile and web design
- Rich set of drawing and typography tools
- 3D design capability
- Synced Libraries and Cloud Documents
- No perpetual-license option
- Premium assets aren’t cheap
- Interface can be overwhelming at times
Start with Adobe Photoshop
To get the latest version of Photoshop, you need a Creative Cloud subscription. This means you need to log in with your existing Adobe ID or create a new Adobe ID. The photography plan costs $9.99 per month, and it also gives you access to Photoshop Lightroom, editing options for photo workflow software, and 10 Adobe Stock images.
You can no longer simply buy a one-time payment license for Photoshop, which will annoy some users who don’t like the software-as-a-service model. Those who feel this way might want to consider options such as Corel’s surprisingly powerful PaintShop Pro, CyberLink PhotoDirector or even Adobe’s own Photoshop Elements, all of which can be purchased directly. If you don’t want to pay anything, you can use the free and open source GIMP software, although doing so is a painful and counterintuitive experience.
The Photoshop Interface
Adobe has been making the Photoshop interface more customizable and usable. You can choose from several target workspace layouts, including 3D, graphics and web, sports, painting and photography, or create your own custom layout of panels and windows. You can even rearrange the program’s toolbar button bar for tasting.
Selecting a new document will display a dialog box that provides templates such as textured geometric masks, instant film mockups, and photo collage layouts. The category filter at the top allows you to limit the suggested templates to “photo”, “print”, “art and illustration”, “web”, “mobile” and “movie and video”. If you have copied the image to the clipboard, the option to open a new image with its exact size will be displayed.
You can choose from thumbnails of recent files and access presets and libraries from the start page. This page displays personalized tutorial content at the bottom. Those who are willing to continue using the old version to start the experience can switch back to the original experience, but I find that the start page makes it easier to understand the content I am interested in, such as recent projects.
The search magnifying glass icon is always displayed on the upper right, allowing you to find program features, your own images, tutorials or Adobe Stock images. I think it’s a good idea to use the search function in complex desktop applications, and some major league software developers agree: for example, Microsoft introduced it to Office 2016 very helpfully. For context-sensitive help, the light bulb icon is always ready to quickly demonstrate how to perform editing.
The interface can also be adapted to current purposes. A typical example is the “select and mask” workspace, which is available as long as you activate the selection tool. This only shows the tools that are useful during selection, such as “Refined Edge”, “Lasso”, “Brush”, “Hand” and “Zoom”, as well as the related Properties panel. The color theme of the interface also provides a pleasant, context-sensitive consistency. If the window border is set to light gray, all dialog boxes will also be gray.
For devices such as Microsoft Surface Pro and now the Apple iPad, Photoshop keeps pace with the times in touch input. Not only can you use touch to pan and zoom an image, but Adobe Photoshop can also recognize gestures, such as swiping with two fingers to undo operations, and swiping with three fingers to scroll through images. Larger tabs and Shift, Ctrl and Alt buttons can all help touch screen users. However, you cannot yet use touch for finger painting. For this, you can try Adobe’s Fresco application.
New Selection Tool
Selecting objects and people in photos is one of the most important things in the app – and one of the biggest problems. In the last few releases, Adobe has added the Select Objects, Select Theme, and Select & Mask workspaces just mentioned, as well as the Refine Edge option.
Select Subject uses an artificial intelligence (known as Adobe Sensei) to automatically identify and select the main object in an image. Selecting objects is on the same toolbar button as the Quick Selection and Magic Wand tools. When any of them are active, the Choose a topic button appears in the options bar at the top of the program windows. In testing, pressing this did an extraordinary job of selecting people when the background was relatively uniform. More complex backgrounds left some ill-chosen areas.
With the June 2020 update to Photoshop, there’s an improvement to the Pick a Theme tool that solves one of the most common selection tasks and problems. Picking people’s hair has long plagued photo editors – even with tools like Refine Edge. Adobe says it finally fixed this problem once and for all with an update.
Adobe Stock, which was created after Adobe acquired Fotolia in 2015, is a repository of over 40 million images, vectors, illustrations, and video clips. Non-Creative Cloud members can still purchase assets from Stock. Creators can also sell their assets and get a 33 percent drop in all sales. That’s not bad considering the industry standard is 25 percent.
You can work in any Adobe desktop application that supports Adobe Library, including Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and After Effects. Selecting Search Adobe Stock opens a website where you can search for content and download it or sync it with your Creative Cloud Library. But you can also search the Stock directly in the Library panel and insert it into your image, where it will be watermarked until you purchase a license. After obtaining the license, it keeps any changes made.
You can apply all modifications to Photoshop’s still image – including exposure, cropping, and filters – to video clips. Photoshop can even handle multiple paths and keyframes using the same fast rendering engine that Adobe Premiere Pro video editor supports. There are only a few transition options available, but all of them are transition options. Each video track you add becomes a Photoshop layer that can be individually customized.
You also get all the standard digital video editing tools to combine, split and trim your clips. The audio tools are minimal, but you can set the percentage of the soundtrack volume, increase the volume, mute, or mute. Movie files are saved as PSD files, but by selecting File / Export / Render Video, you can create a video file with H.264, QuickTime or DPX encoding. You also get a decent selection of resolutions designed for both large screens and mobile devices, including 720p, 1080p, and 4K options.
Beyond Mere Photoshopping
Adobe Photoshop makes it easy to do amazing things with digital images: every time I research its features to review a new version, I discover new possibilities, so great is the depth of the program. Integrated photography, advanced writing tools, and organizational and synchronization features such as cloud documents and libraries are unique to the application.
Outside of photography, you won’t find a better, fuller or more precise drawing and typography tool that is constantly being improved. Adobe understands the move towards mobile and web design, along with the need for 3D tools. Photoshop’s position as the premier image editing tool remains secure.