Is Photoshop CS5 worth the upgrade? New features and improvements unboxed

Is Photoshop CS5 worth the upg...
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Bedroom" illustrated by Adobe Beta testers David and Sarah Cousens at Coolsurface using Photoshop CS5's new Mixer Brush feature
Bedroom" illustrated by Adobe Beta testers David and Sarah Cousens at Coolsurface using Photoshop CS5's new Mixer Brush feature
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The launch of Adobe Creative Suite 5 is undoubtedly the most well publicized yet. Even if you weren’t keeping an eye on Adobe Blogs (John Nack’s “Sneak peek” previews of new features coming to Photoshop are worth checking out in particular), chances are, the steady flow of leaked demonstrations got your attention on YouTube or Twitter.

With an eye-catching, lengthy list of new features to digest, the top question is whether it’s worth the upgrade from the already feature packed CS4?

Adobe's Creative Suite caters to so many different creative bods and chances are, once you’ve found your niche there are features that might not even see the light of day on your computer. Adobe knows this and rather than force the Master Collection on everyone, once again it will help keep the costs down by releasing five different editions of the Creative Suite, all targeted towards different industries or specialist subjects. So, as well as the full bundle there's the Design Standard, Design Premium, Production Premium and Web Premium. With the launch of CS5 there are new versions of all Adobe’s main 14 products as well as the introduction of four new online services as well as Flash Catalyst CS5.

Photoshop is, and always will be Adobe’s flagship product, so that’s what we’re going to concentrate on here. Still available in Standard and Extended form it comes bundled in either of its guises in all of the available suites, as well as the Master Collection.

Content-Aware Fill

Top of the new features list and a previewed sneak peek that got a lot of Photographers and retouchers salivating in advance is the new Content-Aware Fill. No longer is it necessary to dab away at pesky unwanted objects. This new and improved feature of the Spot Healing brush automatically removes image elements with details that match the lighting, tone and noise of the surrounding area. And we’re not talking skin flaws, dinky dust bunnies or even the odd bit of litter here and there, we mean pretty huge objects and areas. Sure, zoom in and interrogate Photoshop’s doings and it’s never going to be absolutely perfect, but it’s a pretty impressive addition and a great time-saver, even if for just giving you a head start.

Improved Edge Selection

This may not be a biggy to those who’ve already invested in a reliable plug-in such as Fluid Mask or Mask Pro (thinking about it... what are those guys going to do now their market has been snatched away from them?) but CS5 sees big improvements to the Refine Edge feature and, in particular, its Edge Detection capabilities. There’s nothing particularly radical here other than it’s a native feature, it’s reliable and it does the job. Speaking of old, trusty plug-ins, the same goes for the new HDR Pro feature. Rather than auto stack and combine multiple exposures, however, Photoshop CS5 now offers users more control over the HDR merging process. HDR can either be fairly subtle or highly surreal and as well as greater control over the image output HDR Pro also gives users the chance to save style presets for quick fixes once you’ve found an effect that suits you.

Mixer Brush and Bristle Tips

There’s always been a gap in the Creative Suite for decent painting tools, and with Corel pinching part of the digital artist market with its successful Painter program it really was missing a trick for a long time. Now though, with the new Mixer Brush and a Bristle Tips feature it’s possible to blend colors, much like Painter. As well as allowing painters the ability to control the wetness of canvas colors, load and mixing rates it’s also possible to determine whether the brush is refilled or cleaned after each painting stroke.

Bedroom" illustrated by Adobe Beta testers David and Sarah Cousens at Coolsurface using Photoshop CS5's new Mixer Brush feature
Bedroom" illustrated by Adobe Beta testers David and Sarah Cousens at Coolsurface using Photoshop CS5's new Mixer Brush feature

"Bedroom" illustrated by Adobe Beta testers David and Sarah Cousens at Coolsurface using Photoshop CS5's new Mixer Brush feature.

Puppet Warp

Another feature previewed before the main launch, Puppet Warp gives users the opportunity to push and pull elements within an image. More impressive is the fact you can define a stacking order of different pin markers. Adobe Evangelist, Russell Brown’s Sneak Peak is definitely worth taking a look at to see how this feature could be used constructively.

Booster features

Of course, there are plenty more features introduced to Photoshop CS5 that should provide improved workflow tools to photographers and designers alike., including:

  • The introduction of Adobe Raw 6 plug-in
  • Automated lens correction (custom profiles for correcting lens distortion)
  • 3D extrusions with Adobe Repoussé (Photoshop CS5 Extended only)
  • Improved 3D realism and rich materials (Photoshop CS5 Extended only)
  • Better black-and-white photo conversion
  • Mini Adobe Bridge for use in-program

A special mention should also go to the fact both Photoshop CS5 and CS5 Extended now offer cross-platform 64-bit native support.

Who’s this good for?

Adobe has really come up trumps with Photoshop CS5 offering a number of key new features for both photographers and digital artists – with far more generous, creative additions than the transition from Photoshop CS3 to CS4. For the Mixer Brush, Puppet Warp and Content-Aware Fill alone this latest version could save huge portions of time on a professional level. However, there’s also the consideration that you may already have a nice enough set-up in the form of Corel Painter or other trusty Photoshop plug-ins. Chances are though, once you've got over the initial first steps of getting used to a new bit of software you won't look back.

Official launch and pricing info

A global online CS 5 launch event will take place on Adobe TV on April 12 at 11am US Eastern Standard Time.

Pricing ranges from US$1,299 for CS5 Design Standard (upgrade from US$499) to US$2,599 for the Master Collection (upgrade from US$899).

Stay tuned to for further analysis of the truckload of features in the new CS5.

Via: Adobe.

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Wow, thank you for this review. What can you tell us about the new Photoshop CS5.5 release? I found some articles that outline the features of Adobe CS5.5, but what are your thoughts?