Discover the hottest new features in Photoshop CS6 and hear what the world’s best designers have to say about it. lets see the features in Adobe Photoshop CS6

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop CS6 is largely an under-the-bonnet release, bringing a few new tools and filters but concentrating on greater speed, efficiency and ease of use. But the improvements are great, and this Photoshop CS6 review will reveal all!

Those looking for the much-heralded Deblur filter will be disappointed: it’s far too early for inclusion this time around. In fact, those looking for big splashy show-off features in Photoshop CS6 will also be looking in vain.

Before we begin: security check

Before you begin, you should ensure that your copy of Photoshop CS6 is the most recent release version. A security exploit, enabling malcicious users to compromise your system, was reported at the start of September. Simply go toHelp>Updates in Photoshop CS6 and apply all updates. Users of Creative Cloud will have these updates pushed to their system when they next connect to the service.

Acceleration in Photoshop CS6

Photoshop CS6 makes full use of your computer’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which provides tremendous acceleration in many areas. So the Liquify filter, previously a sluggish experience, is accelerated to provide smooth, real-time smearing even with brushes up to the new maximum limit of 15,000 pixels; the new Oil Paint feature adds a paint-like texture, with controls that operate on the full-screen preview in real time. Of course, all this depends on you having a fast enough processor and graphics card; although CS6 will run on Windows XP/Mac OS X 10.6 with just 1Gb RAM, you do need a hardware-accelerated OpenGL graphics card to get the most out of it.

liquify in photoshop cs6
The Liquify filter in Photoshop CS6 is now smooth as silk, with real-time operation even at huge image sizes and with brushes up to 15,000 pixels in diameter

The new features

The first thing you notice about Photoshop CS6 is its new interface. You now have the choice between four base colours, from near-black to pale grey – so Photoshop can look more like Lightroom if you choose. Everything has been subtly tweaked, from the hundreds of redesigned icons (the Pen and Lasso tools now indicate their active hotspots more clearly) to a crisper, more consistent layout.

filter layers by type

Photoshop CS6’s new dark look will appeal to photographers, as it’s less distracting. The ability to filter layers by type is also a major enhancement

New HUD with key info

A new Head Up Display system (HUD) in Photoshop CS6 provides key information right at the cursor. This is context sensitive, so will show dimensions when dragging out a marquee, angles when rotating a selection, and so on. It also applies to the three new Blur filters, each of which provides a different type of blur – Field, Iris and Tilt Shift – with strength and radius controls directly on the image, rather than just in a side panel. All three new filters are also GPU accelerated for real-time previews.

Tilt-Shift in photoshop cs6

Tilt-Shift is just one of the three new Blur filters in Photoshop CS6, each of which works in real time thanks to GPU acceleration. The controls are placed directly on the image for ease of access

Photoshop CS6 filters

There’s just one new tool in Photoshop CS6, the Content-Aware Patch tool, which takes the technology introduced in CS4 (Content-Aware Scaling) and CS5 (Content-Aware Fill) and extends it to a tool that allows us to select and move or extend objects in a scene, patching their original location more or less seamlessly. In practice, the results depend very much on having the right image; it’s a great idea, but doesn’t always come up with the goods.

Content-Aware Patch tool in hotoshop CS6

The new Content-Aware Patch tool in hotoshop CS6 can both move and extend objects – working well with organic objects, less well with man-made structures

A major new filter is Adaptive Wide Angle, which allows you to correct camera distortion simply by drawing over lines that should be straight. A hugely powerful tool, it allows even stitched panoramas with multiple perspectives to be corrected into a single landscape shot.

adobe Wide Angle filter

The new Adaptive Wide Angle filter in Photoshop CS6 does a great job of correcting camera distortion: simply drag over straight lines to make the adjustment

Enhanced Camera Raw

Also good for photographers is the enhanced Camera Raw dialog, which now has more powerful versions of tools such as Clarity (there’s now no halo effect, even at maximum strength) and Defringing (the controls are gone, replaced by a single checkbox which just does the job). For the first time in Photoshop CS6, it’s also possible to apply localised noise reduction.

adope camera raw

Enhancements to Camera Raw in Photoshop CS6 include a greatly improved Clarity control, as well as the ability to apply localised noise reduction using adjustment brushes

Lighting Effects filter in Photoshop CS6

The Lighting Effects filter has had a major overhaul, ditching the previous tiny preview in favour of a full-screen, GPU-accelerated preview that shows changes in real time. It’s of particular benefit to Mac users, for whom Lighting Effects disappeared in Adobe Photoshop CS5 unless they were running the program in sluggish 32-bit mode.

Tool enhancements

Designers will love the new Paragraph and Character Style panels in Photoshop CS6, which allow favourite combinations to be set and adjusted at will – as well as the fact that Shapes layers are now true vector objects, which means you can now apply strokes inside, outside and centred on paths, as well as being able to stroke open paths. Those strokes can now be dotted and dashed, and can be filled with gradients.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 will now not only save in the background, allowing you to carry on working while it’s saving, but will also auto-save a version avery few minutes so that, in the event of a crash, you can pick up from where you left off. If you still manually revert to a saved file, though, it will always go back to the one you deliberately chose to save, rather than its own intermediate version.

Photoshop CS6 Crop tool

The Crop tool has been reworked so that cropping now pans the image behind the crop window. It seems a little unintuitive at first, until you rotate a crop, when it suddenly makes sense: now, the image rotates behind the window, so you can see how it will look without having to crane your neck as you did previously.

The Select Color Range tool now has an option to select skin tones – and, within it, a separate option to select faces. In practice, it works remarkably well: it’s not perfect, and when used in conjunction with a mask on an Adjustment Layer it will require some manual fine-tuning, but it’s a big help.

adobe skin tones

The Select Color dialog in Photoshop CS6 can now select skin tones automatically, with a special Face Detection mode that performs well – even when the subjects are wearing hats and sunglasses.

Extending Actions in Photoshop CS6

Actions, the means by which you can automate repetitive tasks, have been extended so that they can now store brush movements as well as menu and selection choices. This means that for the first time it’s possible to record an entire painting operation, and have it played back with a single keystroke.

Layer tweaking

Photoshop CS6 includes a lot of small enhancements that will generally make much life easier for those working on complex artwork. The Layers panel now has built-in filtering, so you can choose to view just layers set to Hard Light mode, or those containing text, or Smart Objects, or Adjustment Layers – or just about any parameter you can think of. It’s now possible to change opacity, light mode and colour coding on multiple layers, so if you search for all the text layers in a document you can change them all to yellow for easy reference. The Mask and Adjustment panels have now been combined in a new Properties panel, which is resizable for ease of adjustment.

It’s also now possible not only to use Layer Groups as the basis of Clipping Masks, but to apply Layer Effects to an entire Group – previously, they could be applied only to individual layers. And the Eyedropper tool has now been tweaked so that it can sample underlying layers as if intervening Adjustment Layers weren’t there, which makes patching and retouching very much easier.

Beyond image editing in Photoshop CS6

Users of the Regular edition of Photoshop CS6 will be delighted to learn that movie editing capability has made the leap over from the Extended edition. This means everyone can now edit movies right inside the app: you can apply all the standard selection of filters and distortions to moving images, as well as adding animated layers on top.

You’ll still need to buy the Extended edition if you want to use the 3D Layer tools, which have had a major overhaul in this release. New HUD controls allow you to extrude, revolve and twist 3D objects directly in the middle of the artwork, as well as adding bevels and inflation.

Changing light direction is simply a matter of shift-clicking on a shadow and dragging to where you want it. There are many more 3D enhancements, including text and Bezier outlines on extruded shapes that can be edited after extrusion has been applied, and the ability to define a Ground Plane inside the Vanishing Point filter, and then use it as the basis for snapping 3D objects and locating shadows.


The ability to define a ground plane in Vanishing Point in Photoshop CS6 means you can integrate 3D objects into your scene with greater ease – and greater realism

Creative Cloud update

Now available as part of a Creative Cloud subscription, Photoshop weighs in at around 670MB. Once you’ve signed up for Adobe’s new service, you simply download an installer app, which keeps tabs on the apps you have on your system. And this isn’t software ‘in the cloud’; Adobe Photoshop CS6 is still installed on your system, and you don’t have to stay connected to the web to use the app. This means that the initial download can take a fair bit of time, so ensure you factor this in before you start the installation process.

We’ve only just started using Creative Cloud, but the option to store your files in the cloud, quickly drag and drop images into the browser, create colour swatches from your pics, and add the ASE swatch files to Photoshop is already getting us excited. There’s not a huge amount of integration with Photoshop just yet, but with the option to roll out incremental updates via the Creative Cloud service, we can’t wait to see what Adobe has in store over the coming months.

Photoshop CS6 pricing

Full £556 (ex VAT), Upgrade £159 (ex VAT), £38.11/month as part of annual Creative Cloud subscription and £57.17/month as part of month-by-month Creative Cloud subscription. For details on where to buy, please visit the Adobe Store.

Photoshop CS6 system specs

For system specifications for Adobe Photoshop CS6, and other apps in Adobe CS6, please visit our Adobe system specs page.

Designer views of Photoshop CS6

We’ve spoken to a number of designers from across the creative landscape – from 3D, web design, illustration and more – and asked them to reveal their favourite new features in Photoshop CS6. Here’s what they had to say!

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