Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting Into CS4

Among the useful features in the latest version of Photoshop are the new Adjustments panel and the Masks panel

This Article Features Photo Zoom

cs4About every 18 months, there’s a common question on the minds of most photographers: Should I upgrade to the new version of Photoshop? For some, it’s a no-brainer, and they buy the upgrade as soon as it’s available. Others want to see that it truly will improve their workflow before they commit their dollars. In any event, all photographers are interested in what the latest version has to offer in terms of improvements and new features, and it’s no different with the newly released Photoshop CS4.

cs4Some Finesse
The first thing you’ll notice when you launch CS4 is that the interface has received a fairly significant refresh. There’s no longer a title bar to consume extra screen real estate unnecessarily. Additional buttons have been added to the right of the menu bar to provide quick access to common (as well as a few new) features. Image windows can be collapsed into tabs to help you focus on a single image even when you need to have many open. And you now have greater flexibility in organizing the panels to strike the best balance between having easy access to the controls you need and letting your images consume the majority of the display.

The new Adjustments panel has been significantly improved in Photoshop CS4.
A central panel now contains a collection of all the adjustment layers options. Think of it as Adjustment Layers Command Central.
If you have a display adapter (and operating system version) that supports OpenGL, you can take advantage of incredibly smooth zooming, panning and image rotation. You also can make use of “flick panning,” which enables you to literally “flick” the image with the mouse and have it glide smoothly in the direction of your gesture.

There are many other small interface improvements that make a big difference when using CS4. For example, most dialog boxes now will allow you to drag images around without closing the dialog box first. There’s also the ability to hold (rather than press) a shortcut key for a given tool to access that tool temporarily and then return to the previously active tool when you release the key.

2) Selecting the Photo Filter brings up this dialog box.
Adjustments Panel
The new Adjustments panel represents a relatively radical departure from the previous approach to optimizing your photographic images using adjustment layers, at least in terms of how you interact with those adjustment layers. This feature might catch some photographers off guard because adding an adjustment layer to an image no longer causes a dialog box to appear. Instead, all of the necessary controls are found in a central Adjustments panel.

3) The Curves
dialog box.

4) The Black & White dialog box.
This might seem like a trivial change at first glance. After all, you’re really using all the same controls for each type of adjustment that was presented in a dialog box in previous versions, only now those controls show up in a different location. But when you delve a little deeper, you’ll find this can streamline your workflow considerably.

To start with, there’s no longer a need to click OK on a dialog box before you move on to another type of adjustment. So you can add a Color Balance adjustment layer, fine-tune the controls on the Adjustments panel and immediately add a Curves adjustment layer and start refining the controls there. When you want to change an existing adjustment layer, simply click on the thumbnail for that layer on the Layers panel, and the controls will appear on the Adjustments panel just as you left them. The effect is to be able to more fluidly switch between adjustments, similar to the experience of working with images in Adobe Lightroom.


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