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Adobe adds more magic to Photoshop, Creative Cloud apps

Adobe continues to deliver on its promise of frequent updates to its Creative Suite applications and services with this week’s Creative Cloud update. There is something there for everyone, divided by Adobe into three categories: Adobe Magic, or cool new features and tricks for image, video, and audio processing; Efficient Workflows, or features that help you get your tasks done faster; and Performance improvements. There are some of each in the new version, which is called the Creative Cloud June 2016 release. Of course, the most fun parts are the Magic, so we’ll start there.

One of the annoying side-effects of rotating an image to straighten out the horizon or for artistic effect is needing to crop it down to only the pixels that are in both the original and desired framing — or fill in the missing portion by hand. Photoshop can now help you backfill the rest of the image with something that looks like it might belong there. Like the rest of Adobe’s content-aware tools, this is a pretty nifty trick. Here you can see it in action as I rotate a portrait and let Photoshop do the rest:

Another great use for this tool is for those of us who like to print on canvas. With canvas, you can print on the outside edges. But unless you’ve deliberately framed your image very loose, there typically isn’t a good way to do that easily. Either you wind up with too little of your image on the front (with the rest being on the wrapped sides), or you have to paint in areas for the wrap (or give up and just print a solid color there).

Content-aware crop is the perfect solution to the above problem. It can fill in plausible additional content when you use it (simply use the crop tool to make the image larger — enough to accommodate the wrapped sides — and turn on Content-aware). What makes this an ideal use case is that the sides certainly don’t have to be perfect. They aren’t really part of the main image, so as long as they’re “good enough” the effect works perfectly. Here I used it to create a canvas-wrap-sized version of an image of a Burmese fisherman that looks great on canvas — and even better with realistic content on the wrapped sides:

Adobe has also made Content-aware fill four times as fast, which is probably part of why the new Content-aware crop feature operates quite quickly.

We’re all used to seeing funny or misleading “Photoshopped” images, on the web and in print. Perhaps fortunately, it is usually pretty hard to modify images so that they pass more than a cursory examination. With Face Liquify, Adobe puts changing people’s faces and expressions within reach of anyone with Photoshop. The Liquify command now automatically recognizes faces, and allows you to widen or narrow eyes, lips, and noses, or even the entire face or head.

You can also slightly magnify the size of a smile or frown, although I wasn’t able to actually change one into the other. The changes themselves are fairly subtle, but they are so easy, and look like they have been done professionally. The new feature will be a hit not only with portrait and wedding photographers, but also with hobbyists who just want to make their families look a little different. One of its more remarkable feats was that it allowed me to adjust the size of eyes that were hidden behind sunglasses.

With the rapid growth in the creation of 360-degree video — which is a more descriptive term than VR, since it typically doesn’t allow the viewer to move around in the scene, although it can be used as part of a VR experience — it is natural that Adobe would extend Premiere Pro to support the editing and rendering of panoramic videos up to 360 degrees. It does this by adding a VR editing mode to the program and source viewers that can display a settable portion of the overall captured video.

To use the new mode, you’d typically use its Settings dialog to the horizontal and vertical field of view of your camera (360 and 180 for a full sphere) and then adjust the monitor display FOV settings to reflect the most likely headset choice. The new VR mode supports both mono and stereo input videos, and can render either mono or stereo. One nice tweak is that the renderer has a VR setting that causes it to add the needed tags to make sure online sites and headset software know how to render the video (otherwise this is a separate step after you upload to YouTube, for example).

For those creating commercial content, the ability to quickly search for, preview, and license images and video is crucial. Adobe has been integrating its stock library into its Creative tools for a while, but now the combined solution is more seamless than ever. You can now license images right from the Layers panel of Photoshop, or the Canvas of Illustrator or InDesign. Adobe has also added a new, curated collection of 100,000 images, but hasn’t provided many details beyond that. For photographers and videographers who want to contribute to Adobe Stock, Adobe is planning a new Contributor Portal that it appears will use object recognition to automatically tag submitted images.

Perhaps not as headline-grabbing as the update to Adobe Stock, the Libraries panel has also been enhanced, with additional searching and filtering options. This will be a welcome upgrade for teams that have been trying to use Adobe-cloud-hosted Libraries to share assets. Another nifty feature is that Photoshop will look for a font from your system (or your licensed fonts) that matches the typeface used in a document or photo. That’ll save a lot of time for anyone who has tried to match the look of another web page or document without knowing exactly what typefaces were used or which of their own typefaces it is similar to.

Personally, I still think of the set of tools Adobe licenses for use on the desktop as Adobe’s Creative Suite, but Adobe no longer distinguishes between apps and services that way. All its capabilities are now under the rubric Creative Cloud, and increasingly new features relate to sharing assets with teams using its servers — like its CreativeSync capability — or are built entirely as online experiences, like its new Adobe Spark family of applications. For teams that are built around creating using Adobe’s tools, this makes perfect sense. And Adobe continues to deliver value for those teams. For the more casual user, Adobe is likely to have its hands full, as consumer-focused companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google compete with it to be the primary cloud service provider and repository for user’s images and videos.

In the meantime, the good news is that for anyone with an appropriate Creative Cloud subscription — Photography or Photoshop single-app for the Photoshop changes, Premiere single-app for the Premiere changes, or All Apps to get everything — the updated versions are immediately available through your Creative Cloud application.

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