Loads of design tools for mobile and Web. The ultimate in photo correction and manipulation. Content-aware move and patch. Video editing. Synced Libraries. Integrated stock library. Complementary mobile apps. Cons No perpetual-license option. Interface can be overwhelming. Some tools don't show progress bars. Bottom Line Adobe Photoshop remains the gold standard in image editing software.
Its rich environment for both design and photo manipulation remains unrivalled. If you need layered image editing, including typography, 3D modeling, and drawing, you need Photoshop. The latest update adds AI-powered object selection, lots of new brush capabilities, support for spherical panoramas, and more.
This means you need to sign in with an existing Adobe ID or create a new one. You can no longer simply buy a one-shot license for Photoshop, which has turned off some users who don't like the software-as-a-service model. Those who feel this way may want to consider options such as CyberLink PhotoDirector , Corel Paintshop Pro, or even Adobe's own Photoshop Elements, all of which can be purchased outright. And if you don't want to pay a cent, you can use the free, open-source GIMP software, though doing so is a painful, counterintuitive experience.
To install the application, you first install the resident Creative Cloud helper program, which handles updates and syncing your files online. This where you can find Adobe news, stock images, and the Behance creative social community more about this later. Installation took about 10 minutes. Mac users must be running macOS If you haven't hopped aboard the Creative Cloud CC train yet and are still clinging to your ancient licensed version of Photoshop, you've missed out on other recent feature additions, including Content-Aware Crop, Face-Aware Liquify, Artboards, touch and stylus input support, the Design Space view, synced libraries, touchscreen support, a glyph panel, and lots more.
Photographers and photo editors also benefit from tools for haze removal and more navigation options. You can get more templates by searching Adobe Stock in the bottom of the dialog, but I only found a few templates there when searching on the word "collage.
Some templates are on the hefty side: One I chose was larger than MB. A Saved section lets you quickly get back to frequently used templates. You can check out stock templates in your web browser, or just download them within the application.
You can still pick from thumbnails of your recent files, and access presets and libraries from the start page. The page shows personalized tutorial content at the bottom.
Those who'd rather stick with the legacy starting experience can switch back to it later, but I find that the start page makes it much easier to get to things I'm interested in, such as recent projects. The ever-present magnifying glass icon lets you find program functions, your own images, tutorials, or Adobe Stock images. I think a search function in a complex desktop application is a great idea, and some big-league developers agree: Microsoft wisely introduced it to Office , for example.
For context-sensitive help, the lightbulb icon is always at the ready for quick demos of how to perform edits. Adobe keeps making the Photoshop interface more customizable. You can choose from among several targeted workspace layouts, including 3D, Graphic and Web, Motion, Painting, and Photography, or create your own custom layout of panels and windows.
You can even rearrange the program's toolbar button rail to taste. Photoshop's icons now sport the flat, 2D, non-skeuomorphic style that started with Windows 8, later landed in iOS 7, and has since become a widely adopted interface design standard. The interface also adapts to the purpose at hand. A case in point is the Select and Mask workspace, which is an available option whenever you have a selection tool active.
This shows only the tools useful during selection, such as Refine Edge, Lasso, Brush, Hand, and Zoom, along with the relevant Properties panel. The interface's color themes offer a pleasing, context-sensitive consistency, too.
If you set the window borders to be light gray, all dialogs will likewise be gray. Speaking of selection tools, new for the January release is Subject Select, which uses AI called Sensei by Adobe to automatically determine and select the main object in an image. It's not actually a new tool, but an option for the Quick Selection or Magic Wand tools. When either of these is active, a Select Subject button appears in the options bar across the top of the program windows. Pressing this did a remarkable job of selecting people when the background was relatively uniform.
More complex backgrounds left some mis-selected areas. Photoshop is keeping up with the times in terms of touch input, such as that that supported by the Microsoft Surface Pro.
Not only can you use touch to pan and zoom images, but Photoshop also recognizes gestures, such as a two-finger swipe to undo and a three-finger swipe to scroll through images.
Larger tabs help touch-screen users, as do soft Shift, Ctrl, and Alt buttons. You can't yet use touch for finger painting, however New for the release is support for the Surface Dial.
It offers a nifty way to adjust brush size, opacity, and more. I was unable to get the dynamic brush adjustment to work, which is supposed to let you make dial changes as you're drawing. I also wish the dial worked for more slider controls, which would make adjustments easier and more precise.
Tools for Photographers Though it's now packed with drawing and font tools, Photoshop got its start as a photo editing and printing application, and it remains the most powerful photo editing software there is.
Along with its completely photography-focused sibling, Lightroom, Photoshop offers the most support for raw camera files, and the most in correction and effects. From removing or adding objects with content-aware tools to lens-profile-based geometry correction to histogram adjustments to stained-glass effect filters, Photoshop has it all.
It's impossible to cover every feature here, but I'll take a closer look at a couple of the standout tools. Content-Aware Crop. A few years ago, an app called Anticrop gained momentary celebrity in the tech world. As its name suggests, it lets change you change the aspect ratio of an image by adding to the sides instead of simply cutting them off.
The Photoshop tool works similarly. Just check the Content-Aware box while using the crop tool, and the app fills in anything in the crop selection that falls outside your image's boundaries.
It's really an extension of Photoshop's Content-Aware Fill tool. Like that tool, Content-Aware crop only works well with patterned image content, such as a forest, sea, or sky. It's particularly convincing with the latter. Note in the image below all the extra clouds generated in the sky on the right to create a more spacious square composition. Face-Aware Liquify. Face detection has reached an increasingly high level of accuracy in recent years, to the point of recognizing individual facial features, as well as whole faces.
Face-Aware Liquify tool lets you convincingly transform facial expressions, turning, for example, an RBF into a smile. This brilliant tool finds facial features like eyes and mouths and gives you the ability to manipulate them with sliders for resizing the eyes, nose, face width, and jawline. You can even edit the eyes independently with Face-Aware Liquify. A chain icon lets you either lock together editing of the two eyes or edit them separately. You can apply some very flattering changes, or some ridiculously unflattering ones, as you can see in my test images.
For me, the coolest part of this feature is that the resulting image still looks human. It's not like simply smearing a portrait with the old-fashioned, non-face-aware Liquify tool. Note especially the added smile at lower left. Camera-Shake Reduction. One of the hottest features of Photoshop CC is camera-shake reduction.
The tool analyzes the photo to find the path of shake motion, and then aligns the shifted pixels. It sounds simple, but it's harder to get right than it may seem. This is because the path won't be the same everywhere in the photo unless you shook it exactly along a single plane, which is highly unlikely.
You can use the tool's best guess, or select a region or regions in which you want the blur trace to be estimated. You can also adjust Blur Trace Bounds, Smoothing, and Artifact Suppression—the last two let me create a less sharpened-looking result.
I'd love to see a simple effect-strength adjustment like you get with Smart Sharpen which, by the way, has a Reduce Noise slider. Shake Reduction is not a panacea, but it's definitely a finer effect than even the Smart Sharpen tool. If the subject is simply out of focus, it won't help you; a simply blurry subject won't be fixed.
Camera Raw Features. Photoshop CC offers several advanced capabilities in its Camera Raw module, including a geometry correction tool called Upright. This lets you fix parallel vertical and horizontal lines. Its Auto setting attempts to fix perspective errors, but you can choose to align only verticals or only horizontals, or mess with the perspective to taste with transforming sliders for pincushion and barrel distortion, vertical, horizontal, and aspect ratio.
You can even use Camera Raw as a filter, applying all its manifold photo adjustments—color temperature, exposure, geometry, all of it—to any image layer. You can apply Camera Raw adjustments to video, too, and use a noncircular healing brush. As in Lightroom, you also get a radial filter that lets you apply the adjustments to an oval shape, such as a person's head—very useful for highlighting that bit of anatomy.
New for the Camera Raw utiltility is Profiles. These give you more options for how Photoshop converts raw files into viewable images.
October 28, Ready to become a Photoshop power-user? We review the best photoshop plugins available in Open Photoshop. Check the "Additional Plugins Folder" box to accept new files. Download a plugin or filter to your desktop. Open your Program Files folder and select your Photoshop folder. Open your Plugins folder, found inside your Photoshop folder.