Adobe Photoshop CS6 Review: 7 Improvements for Web Designers

Adobe just released the Adobe Photoshop CS6, and I must to say, it feels like I’m in web designer’s heaven. They have done serious improvements that will just blow your mind. Here we’ll focus on the great stuff for web designers, ranking the top 7 improvements (including a lot of features) that will just make your life easier.

After so many years, I agree with Jesus Diaz when he says that “For the first time in many years, this one is a must-have update”, not only because of the cool features, but also because now it’s focused in the really important stuff, the things that helps you to get the job done, improved the tools that you use most and that’s pretty much what matters in the end.

The great thing here is not the features update. I mean, we love new features, but the key point is how those updates affects our workflow. And boy, Adobe has made things much easier for us this time, making Photoshop an even better tool to get things done faster and faster.

Let’s take a look at it.

#1 – Performance – Thanks to new Photoshop CS6 graphics engine

Photoshop CS6 Review

This is the very first thing you’ll notice when you first open and use Photoshop CS6. I don’t have a really powerful computer (Intel i3, win7), but it’s kind of frustrating when I have to wait a few seconds just to create a new file. Now it’s just there, when the canvas show up, just hit CTRL + N. Though there are a few beta problems (like things not loading), it’s way better than CS5 in here.

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With the new graphics engine, Mercury, everything you do will be really, really, really faster. I just can’t describe how amazing it is to hit “liquify” and the whole document is just there, waiting for the craziest things you want to do in real time.

Filters, zooming, cropping, brushes, save for web… Everything is surprisingly faster, no “pixilation” or “rendering”, just hit and it’s there.

Long story short: You’ll save a lot of time and headache because you just don’t need to wait to see things working.

#2 – Web Design features for image editing – Better tools, new features

When I was a Fireworks-guy, around 5-7 years ago I used to say that Photoshop wouldn’t be good for Web Design since it was too focused in photo editing. Just like that, I didn’t trust in an editor that works with millimeters instead of pixels.

Of course it was long before Photoshop CS6. Now it has so many cool features that you can use for websites and web design-related photos that it’s just impossible to say a word against it.

Cropping

Now you can rotate stuff while cropping, and it has a lot of other guides to help you, like golden spiral (which I just loved). Ok, it all was there before, but the crazy thing is that now the “selector” stands centered while the whole to-be-cropped image moves in the background. It just feels much better this way!

Blur gallery – Including Tilt Shift & Bokeh

Many developers like to use fancy effects for featured images and post images. Actions help a lot on this, but you just can’t beat a built-in filter.

Now, with Photoshop CS6, if you like Tilt Shift, Bokeh and a few other effects you can use them with one click. And again you’ll be amazed how real-time this thing is.

RAW Import

A lot has been said about this one. RAW formats store pretty much anything about your images and with this improvement Photoshop CS6 can deal a lot better with them, including easy brightness / contrast corrections, color corrections, selective colors, complete curves control and much more.

Image correction tools

Pretty much anything you find under Image > Adjustments has gone better. Curves, Levels, Shadows / Highlights, Brightness / Contrast. So again with one click you get a much better result and corrections.

#3 – Shortcuts – Photoshop CS6 has much better visual feedback

Everything you do now you have much better visual feedback.

If you move a layer you have a box telling you how much pixels you moved. If you want to change the size of an element, you’ll see the new dimensions while you drag it. Feel like rotating? Ok, you’ll get how much degrees you changed from the original point as you move your pointer.

It looks like those “title” attributes for HTML element, Photoshop CS6 made it really easy to understand what is going on.

Another thing was pretty annoying to me was the lack of feedback when you changed the brush size via shortcuts. I used to hold ALT + right click + drag the mouse up / down, right / left to change the brush settings but I always had to use the common right click to check if they were what I wanted.

Now just while you’re changing the settings you’ll see the new diameter, hardness and opacity.

Last but not least, the well known layer search.

It’s a really cool feature if you are the organized type. You can just search by layer name, effect, mode, attributes, and color.

Also layer selection has been improved and it’s easier to do things like duplicate multiple layers or groups with CTRL + J (instead of right click > Duplicate layers), change multiple layers styles and so on.

#4 – CSS3 like stuff – Photoshop CS6 “Paragraph styles” and crazy borders

And now it comes the really golden stuff for front-end developers.

With Photoshop CS6 we have what they called “Paragraph styles”. And that works pretty much like CSS selectors. So, the designer can set different styles, like h1, p, h2, and if by change the client asks to change the “Main title color” you just go in the paragraph styles box and edit it, it’ll automatically apply to every element with this style.

Also, the front-end guy’s life will be way easier since he’ll just have to get all those styles and translate them to CSS (ok, it’s NOT just like that, but it’ll save a lot of time anyway).

Also we have a few improvements for shapes.

There are merging options and crazy borders styles, dotter and dashed. Also there are more fill options for borders like gradients. You just have to select the shape and press “P” or select the path tool and you’ll easily change all of this stuff.

#5 Layer styles improved – Again, pretty much similar to CSS

Now you can apply layer styles to the whole group and it’ll propagate to its children, pretty much as it works on CSS. Where you add stuff to the container and all children can inherit properties like colors and shadows.

#6 Content-aware move – A.k.a Photoshop CS6 wizardry

It’s just impossible to say how amazing this feature is. You can just remove stuff, move stuff, change the source (if the content aware didn’t work as you expected because the element next to what you wanted to remove isn’t a pattern).

Well, I’ll leave you with this crazy video showing how it works. Hold your jaws.

#7 Video – Ditch windows movie maker now

I just didn’t see too much people talking about this. Besides it deserves a great respect in my opinion.

Photoshop has now cool features for quick video editing, which makes it a perfect alternative to Windows Movie maker and similars.

It can work pretty well if you want to edit homemade videos or your own marketing stuff. It’s simple and it works, that’s all that I know.

Actually it can import and edit pretty well videos, use video groups, add every element that you see in the usual panel, add transitions to elements… Well, it’s much powerful than ever!

BONUS: #8 – “One more thing”… A few general improvements

As a wise guy used to say “One more thing…”.

A few interface options

Now you can choose between 4 interface colors. You can change it under “Edit > Preferences > Interface”.

The one I liked most is the default (2nd from left to right), what about you?

TAB now does what it meant to do.. sometimes

If you are renaming layers and press tab you won’t see the whole window rearranging panels. You’ll be lead to the next one and you can rename it too until the end or if you press “Enter”.

Better anti-aliasing for imported objects

If you import elements a lot you’ll see minor updates in the overall look of the imported element.

Shapes merging, cropping and so on

Now shapes can be combined, substracted, united per intersection, substracted per intersection. Before the best thing you could do was to convert them to bitmap and pray to God so the client won’t ask for changes.

Conclusion

Don’t know if I mentioned it before but it stills beta. I’ve got myself a few bugs, but it’s just amazing how it’s better. I wish I could buy my copy right now, how about you?

Photoshop CS6 Video Review

A web designer and entrepreneur from Itajubá (MG), Brasil. Just loves writing about obscure topics and doing some cool stuff. Get in touch at @roch_br.

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56 Comments
  1. Rawaf Mar 27, 2:45 pm

    Thank you for your Photoshop CS6 review , it’s perfect and comprehensive :)

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    • Rochester Mar 27, 6:15 pm

      Thanks!

      Photoshop CS6 is amazing indeed, you should give it a try ;)

      []’s

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      • james mcbride Apr 16, 11:25 pm

        i like cs6 too but there is a major bug in the Place in that the whole image is screwed up upon placement. it’s on when you double click and actually put it in its layer but unless you rasterize the layer the same thing happens when you attempt any kind of transformation. At least this is true with my Superstition cs6 portable edition anyway.

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        • Rochester Apr 20, 7:47 pm

          Hey James, here it’s working fine..

          And the funny fact is that it popups up an alert like “Your graphics engine is not officially supported”. Anyway, it’s still beta so don’t try using it to replace your stable copy!

          []’s

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  2. Kathleen Mattson Mar 27, 6:18 pm

    My first reaction was “But I just got used to 5.5!” — but this truly does look like a worthwhile upgrade. I wonder if there will be a similar level of upgrade in the rest of the CS apps? Definitely worth looking into. I’ll skip the beta, but get in line for my copy. Thanks for the nice review.

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    • Rochester Mar 27, 7:43 pm

      Hi Kathleen,

      As it’s a beta product I experienced a few bugs, nothing really big, but enough to ruin your productivity, so I don’t recommend using it as your main editor for now.

      About the other products update, I heard a little about Adobe Edge, but I haven’t tried yet.

      []’s

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  3. Andrea Bolaños Mar 27, 8:27 pm

    :) Thank You for this Review! I really appreciate it!

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    • Rochester Mar 27, 9:22 pm

      Hi Andrea!

      You’re welcome. And keep coming, we have much more great content to go!

      []’s

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  4. mr.vahdat Mar 27, 8:47 pm

    thanks for good Photoshop CS6 review . i put this content in my blog .

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    • Rochester Mar 27, 9:26 pm

      Hi mr.vahdat!

      What if you post your own opinion with a link for us? It would be apreciated :)

      []’s

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  5. Marco Mar 27, 8:56 pm

    I am going to upgrade, for sure, but once all the bugs have been dealt with. So kids, never go first!! Wait a few months until the release is stable enough.

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    • Rochester Mar 27, 9:24 pm

      Hi Marco!

      Totally agreed. I’ve been playing with it for a few days and I must say that it’s NOT stable to work yet, you can lose precious data.

      Once it crashed so hard that even my firefox had to be restarted.

      []’s

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  6. Adrian Mar 27, 9:21 pm

    Personal, i’m really excited of new Photoshop. I like new features. Seems that this is the most powerful upgrade ever with terrific improvements.

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    • Rochester Mar 27, 9:25 pm

      Hi Adrian!

      Same thing here! I’m pretty sure that the final release will be even better for performance, so let’s hope for the best now!

      []’s

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  7. Sergiu Mar 27, 11:44 pm

    Thank you for this awesome review!
    The most thing I wanted to see in this version is the “Debluring” option… Seems that I will have to wait more :)

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    • Rochester Mar 28, 5:43 am

      Hi Sergiu!

      We have the unsharp mask filter that works kind of good (ok, not THAT good :D), which was improved a little bit also on CS6 IMHO.

      Actually we could write a tutorial on this ;)

      []’s

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  8. micha Mar 28, 10:45 am

    > Shapes merging, cropping and so on
    maybe i didn’t get it right what yo are talking about here, but in my PS this feature has been there for ages. at least since CS1

    http://localhostr.com/files/oe788YX/capture.png
    but besides that: great review.

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    • Rochester Mar 28, 9:10 pm

      Hi micha!

      It’s a little better than previously. Now it’s pretty much same as fireworks, if you know what I mean.

      Thanks!
      []’s

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  9. Rachael Mar 28, 11:07 am

    I’m getting more excited about CS6 every time I see a review of the beta – I haven’t got round to downloading it ye, but I think I am going to now!

    I’ve seen a lot about the new border/stroke styles mentioned, and thought that was great but the one thing I haven’t seen mentioned but I’ve thought, that will really save me time is the search layer function – when doing a web design in photoshop I usually end up with 100’s of layers, which I lock and can never seem to find without scrolling back and forth for ages – This will make it easy for me to find the layer which I am looking for much quicker than before.

    From the first sneak peek of the new Illustrator with its new pattern tool – which is something I have been wanting for ages – it’s looking like the CS6 range may be getting decent upgrades across the board.

    Thanks for your review!

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    • Rochester Mar 28, 9:11 pm

      Hi Rachel!

      I mentioned the layer search, yeah :)

      As I said, if you are the organized type, it’ll help you a lot indeed!

      []’s

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  10. ainos Mar 28, 11:52 am

    esta versão promete! o facto da sua interface estar a preto também é do novo ou já existe? pena que custa tanto dinheiro… obrigada por mostrar! fiquei com água na boca! :D

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    • Rochester Mar 28, 9:15 pm

      Olá Ainos!

      Você é de Portugal? Parece quem sim pelo sotaque :)

      Sim, temos as opções de cores agora, tem uma ainda mais escura que essa que eu usei (usei a padrão, tem uma preta, preta mesmo).

      É meio caro de fato, mas vale muito a pena, é uma ferramenta incrícel!
      —————
      Hi Ainos,

      Are you from Portugal? It loks like so, judging by your accent :)

      Yeah, we have the interface color options now, ainda we have one ever darker than the one I used (that one was the default, we have one really back).

      It’s a little bit expensive, but it worth it, it’s an amazing tool!
      []’s

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      • ainos Mar 29, 12:17 pm

        sim sou, e como vi que você é do Brasil, nao me entimidei e comentei em português! :) obrigada, espero ver mais reviews e trabalhos seus por aqui! ;)

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        • Rochester Mar 29, 8:35 pm

          Bacana! Fico feliz de ver mais amigos lusófonos por aqui. E vem mais posts em breve, fique ligada :)

          []’s

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  11. Alexandra Mar 28, 12:01 pm

    Great review of Photoshop CS6 – I’m myself using the test version right now and I’m really excited to find any of the improvements. So I think I’m gonna skip the upgrade to CS 5.5 and get 6 right away. But there’s one thing you got wrong – I’m using CS3 most of the time and there and the older versions as well control+j worked for me just as well.

    Now I’m looking forward to the final release. I’d like to know if it’ll be Creative Suite 6 or just Photoshop since I’m using the complete CS and when I update, I’d like to update all of them.

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    • Rochester Mar 28, 9:17 pm

      Hi Alexandra!

      Thanks a lot!

      I wasn’t talking about the CTRL+J shortcut. Now you can duplicate multiple layers at once with it (try selecting multiple layers or layer groups and hit CTRL+J, it just doesn’t work). It’s kind of amazing, you can just pick a few layers, press CTRL+J and it’s there!

      []’s

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  12. Arnold Mar 29, 6:04 am

    If Photoshop CS6 is now geared more for web designers then why does Adobe still bother to keep Fireworks around? I have read Fireworks is better than Photoshop for creating websites

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    • Rochester Mar 29, 8:38 pm

      Hi Arnold,

      I used to work only with Fireworks. It works much better with vectors, shapes.. You know, it’s much more web focused, but I think Adobe is trying to put those “vector” style into Photoshop, making it better and better than fireworks so people will stop using it. It’s just my opinion, you know :)

      []’s

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      • Geoff Dupont Apr 12, 4:03 pm

        Still got a looooooong way to go to reach Fireworks’ functionality web-design wise though. The fact of the matter is that FW was designed from the ground up to be a web design package. Photoshop was not. To acheive the functionality of FW in this respect, PS is going to have to have a lot more things added than simply paragraph styles etc. etc.

        For example – What about trying to find a layer that is hidden behind other layers?
        Master pages?
        Properties panel?

        If they did manage to slip all the funcionality of FW into PS, PS would be such a bloated package that I think that in itself would cause problems.

        Web designers ought to have seen the light ages ago and all switched over to the right tool for the job, which is Fireworks.

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        • Erik Apr 17, 2:54 am

          You know you can right-click with the move tool to get a list of the layers below, right?

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        • Rochester Apr 20, 7:51 pm

          Hi!

          Of course there will be differences, but I think that’s more up to you to chose which is best for you. Both tools will work great for web development, and Photoshop has evolved well its “web” features.

          Regarding the points you said, as Erik pointed you can right click and it’ll show every layer there, also for master pages functionality you can use separated psd files (that are included as smart objects) and the properties panel is much better now, but still a little worse than fireworks regarding “pixel perfect” control..

          []’s

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    • Dave Aug 17, 12:24 pm

      Hi Arnold,

      that is true, Fireworks is more than 50 times better than Photoshop!
      Need a proof?
      http://www.reinegger.net/50_reasons_not_to_use_photoshop_for_webdesign.html

      Reply
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  13. Sonja Mar 29, 8:34 am

    Wow, there are some much needed changes there. The content aware tools look absolutely amazing – I can’t wait to start using CS6!

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    • Rochester Mar 29, 8:38 pm

      Hi Sonja.

      It’s pure magic, I just can’t wait to see the final release too :)

      []’s

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  14. Andrew Mar 29, 3:35 pm

    Nice review! I have yet to check out the beta, planning to today. You mention about combining/subtracting/etc shapes. This could already be done, at least as of CS2. Here’s a real quick tutorial I made up. http://aspecteleven.com/wips/shapes_tut.png

    Or is there more to this in CS6?

    Cheers!

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    • Rochester Mar 29, 8:43 pm

      It’s way better.

      It works now like a “group”.. Don’t know how to explai but you can easily modify the positioning of the shapes even after you merge them.. So if for instance you substract you can go there and select the “deleted” are and move it around..

      It’s better :)

      []’s

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  15. Ralchev Mar 30, 2:34 am

    Will there be “solo” layer view soon?

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    • Rochester Mar 30, 8:14 am

      Hi Ralchev,

      I don’t get it! What do you mean by “solo” layer view?

      []’s

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      • Erik Apr 17, 2:56 am

        Like in Illustrator when you isolate one layer while working on it? I guess you can just option-click the eye to only show it already, so…

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  16. photoshop Mar 30, 2:34 am

    Amazing! I really look forward to updating photoshop. Content aware seems fun!

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    • Rochester Mar 30, 8:14 am

      Hi!

      Yeah, this is amazing indeed. You can see the “sneak peeks” from Adobe labs, that’s quite amazing!

      []’s

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  17. Simon Mar 30, 8:34 am

    Adobe rewrote a ton of code in CS6 and it looks great for the most part, but so far the speed of the playback for Actions is slower than CS5 and the treatment of fonts can be unsettling. More details on the Adobe forums.

    http://forums.adobe.com/message/4284849#4284849

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    • Rochester Mar 30, 7:40 pm

      Hi Simon!

      Thanks for pointing it out! I haven’t tried actions indeed!

      []’s

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  18. Afroeuroforum Apr 6, 6:54 pm

    Wow, this is really huge. Thje best thing i like about this new upgrade is the video editing and the new content aware editing. That was really great. Love it. I guess i’ll try my hands on the Beta to familiarize myself with it.

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    • Rochester Apr 17, 7:32 pm

      Hi!

      Good luck with it then. I’ve been using it regularly since and it’s just amazing. The video editing works really weel :)

      []’s

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  19. LOUIE Apr 9, 6:43 am

    can i add effects in video??

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    • Adrian Apr 9, 9:52 am

      Yes, you can add effects in video, like for images.

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      • LOUIE Apr 9, 6:23 pm

        it means in video i can edit some scene to add some effects in person??

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        • Rochester Apr 13, 5:21 am

          Hi Louie,

          Yep, just like that. Amazing, huh? :)

          You can also use adjustment layers or apply effects in separated layers so it’ll apply to multiple frames!

          []’s

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  20. Frederic Apr 12, 6:13 pm

    Hi

    thanks for this review
    Pretty cool stuffs in this CS6 version .
    But still missing real time axial or radial symmetry …. (and don t answer me the 3d uv set stuff …. )

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    • Rochester Apr 13, 5:25 am

      Hi!

      I really don’t know what you’re talking about.. sorry :)

      []’s

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  21. realarthd May 6, 2:52 am

    very good! if people want to know how to download and install on mac os x, watch this video tutorial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0jm4BV3k2M

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  22. Stuart Jun 21, 12:41 pm

    Thanks for the review :)

    Just to be straight – I love Photoshop. I do however feel that this cs6 release of Photoshop is missing the boat a little. I feel like Photoshop is still a Photo editing tool that us Web and Interface designers have adopted because it’s the best that there is. I wanted to see in this release a much more evolved Effects toolkit on the layers panel. So that we can apply effects much in the same way that we do in css. We could stack multiple drop-shadows, inset-shadows, strokes, gradients etc on top of each other. Then be able to change the stacking order of these layers. Change the top, left, bottom and right borders colours, width, opacity independently. We can’t do these things. We can only apply one of each effect, and Photoshop predefines the stacking order.

    Web Browsers and interface rendering displays have hugely evolved in the past few years, and EVERYONE is using the interfaces we design every day. Surely this makes this type of design the primary aim for a tool like Photoshop. It can be argued that Photoshop was/is a photo editing tool, but none of the other Adobe tools do pixel based design as well as Photoshop and it’s why most Web/Interface designers use it. I think it is what Adobe intends us to use? A few small evolutions and Photoshop could nail it.

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    • Kent William Jul 29, 8:37 am

      @Stuart, I agree wholeheartedly—Adobe seems to focus more on features that enhance the photo manipulation, which I think is fine, in a sense, since for many design tasks, Illustrator and Fireworks really are the tools of choice.

      For example, in illustrator, you get the effect stacking you describe with the appearance panel. Fireworks isn’t quite as powerful, but it is still way more immediate than Photoshop’s layer options panel, and allows you to do a number of things (gradients, patterns, multiple glows) in a more intuitive fashion.

      In the past, Illustrator was less pixel-friendly, but they fixed the most glaring problems in that regard; now it’s easy to have stuff snap to pixels by default, and it’s easy to preview pixel output. A big benefit from using Illustrator is that it’s far and away the fastest of the three for handling complex documents. The downside is that Illustrator still (as of CS5.5, I have yet to try CS6) handles resized bitmaps badly, and optimization / export is still better in Fireworks.

      But as a whole, right now, I wouldn’t use Photoshop as my main design tool. It’s too cumbersome/takes too long to get the results, and more often than not, the right approach is to do layouts, vectors, patterns, and export in Il/Fw and then import/edit whatever needs to be raster in Photoshop.

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  23. Ari M Sep 1, 1:14 am

    Thanks for the round up. Although, the last feature you highlight can be done in previous versions of photoshop. Its a bit of a pain, but if you select each anchor point in a shape you can cut/copy them into another shape/mask. It copies as a separate shape too so you can tweak it as you see fit.

    Just FYI!

    Thanks :)

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    • Leigh Jan 14, 6:24 am

      Not sure if you’re still using a <CS6 version but you can select whole shapes at a time using the path selection tool (black arrrow). Makes copying and combining/subtracting shapes much easier!

      Reply
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