Adobe delivers a new bundle of joy

Version 3 of Adobe’s Photoshop has a variety of new innovations which should expand the program’s market into the high-end users sector, says Sutherland Lyall

SBHD: Version 3 of Adobe’s Photoshop has a variety of new innovations which should expand the program’s market into the high-end users sector, says Sutherland Lyall

Adobe’s Photoshop is one of those programs that designers can’t do without. If you’ve only just got to grips with version 2.5, version 3 is going to come as a shock, with new features that are going to change the way you use Photoshop.

The main innovation is the layers palette. In previous versions combining several photo elements into a final image was difficult unless you also used Specular Collage. This was because, once placed and deselected, elements became fixed parts of the final image and couldn’t be re-jigged. Now, image elements can be placed on separate layers, and can be worked on and positioned without affecting the rest of the image. This means that photo elements can be moved around as if they were in Illustrator or FreeHand. Indeed, the palette looks and works identically to its counterpart in Illustrator – although we’re about to look at changes in the new version of that soon.

The only down side is that using layers takes up a lot of memory. Instead of using screen proxies, like Live Picture or Collage, each layer is stored as a bitmap image. Adobe’s attitude seems to be that if you want to use more than a few full-sized layers at print quality, you’ll just have to buy a lot more RAM.

Providing you have bought the RAM, the addition of layers makes combining images a much faster and more refined process, and makes the whole package a lot more flexible.

Another innovation is the Quickedit feature. This lets you preview a large file, select a section of it and then work on it without having to open the file itself. When you finish, it applies any changes to the original file. So you can make quick alterations to large files without having to open the whole thing. It’s also an effective way of coping with the memory problems that Adobe seems to anticipate you’ll have.

The user interface has been improved by letting you drag and drop elements from file to file on screen. This makes copying and pasting redundant and frees up your clipboard for other things. Menus such as brushes and colours are now stored as tabbed cards on floating palettes. These are user-definable so that you can group commonly used menus. They are all collapsible, to save space on screen. Also, many more filters have been given preview windows to let you see their effect before applying them.

Several new filters have been included. The Lighting Effect filter, unsurprisingly, allows you to simulate light falling on the image. You can define colour, intensity and direction of up to 16 lights per image. Other new filters include Dust and Scratch, for retouching damaged artwork by looking at surrounding pixels, and Mezzotint for a velvety printed look.

Photoshop comes with a CD-ROM containing the main app, Adobe Acrobat Reader, lots of clip-art, some filter demos and Filter Factory, which lets you design your own plug-in filters. In this, you import existing filters, which are described in numerical formulas. You then change the values in these formulas to alter the filter. This is not the most user-friendly feature, more of a hackers special for those who like a bit of code. Considering what it can do and considering that most designers are innumerate, this is a bit of a shame. Maybe the Kai’s Power Tools guys should get on to redesigning this for those of us who prefer buttons and sliders.

On the output end, several improvements have been made to make separations easier. Foremost of these is the CMYK preview which shows on-screen how colours will look, without having to convert RGB images. This incorporates a “gamut warning” feature which highlights areas that fall outside the printed colour range. A new Sponge tool lets you desaturate or saturate areas of colour by brushing over them in the same way as the Dodge and Burn tools. There’s a Replace Colour feature that allows you to select areas of similar colour and change their hue, saturation and brightness. And Selective Colour Correction lets you adjust separate ink levels using numerical values for fine control.

It looks as if this upgrade will keep Adobe’s photo-manipulative feet firmly under the table and expand its market into the higher-end market previously dominated by Silicon Graphics and Paintbox packages. Dealers might be advised to bundle it with RAM Doubler and MaxRam – and a chip deal – so that everyday designers can fully appreciate it.

Finally, you’ll have read about the new Power Mac prices by now, the same as before but with faster chips and 256Kb level 2 cache, quite a lot faster speeds and bigger hard drives. And that several manufacturers are now officially cloning Macs. Of most interest will be the graphics clones from accelerator board people Radius, probably. I say probably because with the introduction of the PCI bus it looks even more likely than it did last month that PC accelerator board manufacturers will be able to produce blinding speed at rather less than Radius currently charge – and video boards too.

I know it’s never the right time to buy but hold off until the end of the year if you can. By that time too, Apple may have reduced it ridiculous $2000 price tag and gross royalty charge for the new QuicktimeVR.

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