The amount of time and effort spent producing even basic graphics in product packaging, brochures, magazines or Web sites is not always obvious. But digital artists often put weeks of work into the initial designs, then spend more time on retouches, colour correction, and other finishing effects. Any application that makes image editing easier and faster delights artists and their managers.
Adobe Systems Photoshop 6.0 should make them all the happier. This major upgrade to what is rightfully the standard-bearer of image-editing applications makes huge leaps in artistic options, usability, and automation that can be applied to producing Web, print, and multimedia artwork. Thus, Photoshop 6.0 earns a score of 5 stars.
The introduction of built-in vector functions, coupled with improved Web workflow and a streamlined interface, help users work more quickly without needing other pricey image-editing and Web graphics products.
True, computer artists have other fine choices, including Corel s CorelDraw 10 and several Macromedia products, such as FreeHand 9 and Fireworks 4. But our testing found that none of the competitors' offerings could match Photoshop's feature set, ease of use, and integration with complementary applications, such as ImageReady 3.0, which comes included, for Web graphics, animation, and film and video production.
Pixel-perfect and more
In the past, when artists needed to combine sharp text or objects with photos, they created and manipulated text and shapes using a vector-drawing program such as Adobe Illustrator, then imported those components into Photoshop to build the final illustration. Photoshop 6.0 now boasts vector-drawing tools that let users easily and efficiently create and edit a variety of basic or custom shapes and stylised text without having to switch to another application.
To assess the application's vector-drawing capabilities, we used the text tool to add sharp text to a brochure cover that included multiple photos. In a few moments, our headlines were in place. In the past, this was a labour-intensive task that required the aid of a service bureau using high-end pre-press equipment.
Additionally, Photoshop 6.0's text warping capability let us freely twist and wrap text; significantly, the text remains editable no matter how it's manipulated.
Using the vector-shape tools also gave us the chance to test some important user interface changes. For example, after we selected the rounded rectangle tool, a new context-sensitive toolbar appeared that allowed us to quickly change the shape's characteristics, such as the radius of the corners. What's more, the new layer style feature lets users pick a special effect (perhaps a glow), modify the settings, and save the style for future use. Users can save these style updates, as well as customised symbols, such as a company logo, in a library for others in a workgroup to share, thereby eliminating the need to rebuild them.
Layer it on
Photoshop's content layers are essential for eliminating unwanted parts of an image or applying colour correction without altering the underlying image. Using this technique, users can experiment with different effects by merely turning on and off layers without resorting to less flexible Undo commands to revert to the original image.
Moreover, now users can switch from one type of adjustment (such as brightness) to another (colour saturation, for example) without having to start over with a new layer. Plus, Photoshop 6.0 introduces a new fill layer, which made it easy for us to apply gradients and patterns quickly.
You might imagine that organising all the various layer types could be a problem, especially because the layers in a typical document may now number upward of 800 (99 layers was the previous limit). But the new layer sets are an elegant solution. We colour-coded layers, dragged them into folders, then locked the sets, thereby preventing inadvertent changes. Because users can quickly locate related layers, the productivity gained from this feature alone justifies a switch to Photoshop 6.0.
Web doesn't take a backseat
Earlier versions of Photoshop missed the Web train and relied on add-on utilities to optimise graphics for online use, to assemble the graphics into Web pages, and to create animations. Version 6.0 delivers production-oriented features for the Web as well as tighter integration with Adobe ImageReady 3.0, a separate application for Web animation and advanced optimisation work, which is included. For instance, Photoshop 6.0's native slicing tools precisely break up an image and separately optimise sections for fast Web download. Moreover, Photoshop then automatically generates HTML pages that recombine all of the image slices, so you don't need to be a Web programmer to create a functional Web page.
The application eases the task of incorporating more elaborate effects, such as button rollovers. We created graphics for the different button states (such as up and depressed) as different layers in Photoshop. By simply pressing the ImageReady button in Photoshop, the layered file was automatically saved and opened in ImageReady. To make workflow even more efficient, ImageReady includes the same vector-shape tools and layer commands as Photoshop. ImageReady 3.0 also offers creative new functions, such as animation of warped text and layer effects.
Users can now optimise images for the Web using masks. With this technique we applied a high-quality compression setting to the main part of a photo while using a low background setting. The resulting file was small and suffered no noticeable quality deterioration.
Photoshop 6.0's vector features, Options toolbar, multiple layer enhancements, and typography improvements take centre stage. But other changes boost productivity, such as an enhanced cropping tool, higher-quality PDF output, and superior color management that lets users easily calibrate monitors and printers.
Unquestionably, a Photoshop 6.0 upgrade is in order for existing users as it should yield higher-quality graphics to grab the eyes of your clients. And even if new users only touch a small part of the program, such as the Web features, Photoshop 6.0 will offer a quick payback in time and money saved.
The Bottom line
Business Case: Using the vector-drawing tools and the layer-style feature, designers can create crisp, resolution-independent text and graphics. The context- sensitive tool option bar boosts productivity. Users can organise hundreds of layers in a single document.
- Added vector shapes and text
- Elegant and convenient layer styles
- Swift creation of Web graphics, including rollovers and image maps- Streamlined interface for easier learning and better productivityCons:
- None significant
Platforms: MacOS 8.5 or later; Windows 98/2000 and Windows NT 4.0.
Price: Photoshop 6.0 is currently shipping for an estimated street price of $1550.
Adobe: 1300 550 205