It's an exciting time for graphics geeks, Web monkeys, and image jockeys with Adobe's recent release of Creative Suite 2 (CS2). Creative Suite 2 ships in two versions: Standard and Premium (shown in Figure 1). Both versions include Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, and Premium ups the ante with GoLive and Acrobat Professional. New productivity tools include Adobe Bridge, Version Cue, and Adobe Stock Photos. As usual, Adobe has added some compelling new features and made upgrading a no-brainer.
Figure 1 Creative Suite 2.
Some of the new features are not quite ready for prime time, however, or at the very least require some simple workarounds. Because the suite includes so many applications and new features, I will concentrate only on some of the highlights from Photoshop and Illustrator. So buckle your virtual seatbelt and get ready for the thrill ride ahead.
Photoshop CS 2
Photoshop is everyone's favorite image manipulation and editing program. You might wonder what Adobe could possibly add to Photoshop to make it better. Somehow Adobe has indeed managed to think of a few things. Some of the new additions aren't specific to Photoshop, and we'll explore them in more detail toward the end of this article. For now, let's start with Photoshop's brand new tool, Vanishing Point.
Vanishing Point, shown in Figure 2, is one of those tools with a lot of potential. It allows you to draw a three-dimensional grid on an image and then manipulate a pasted object to follow the perspective created by the grid. For example, imagine that you have a photograph of a wall and you want to add a banner or logo that looks like it's been painted on.
Figure 2 The Vanishing Point work environment.
Unfortunately, the tool is still in early development and needs a lot of tweaking and user feedback before it can truly shine, but it does fill a void in Photoshop's capabilities list. For example, you have to create a new, empty layer above the image you're working with, and cut or copy a raster image—be it text or some other graphic image—to the clipboard and then paste it into Vanishing Point. Once working with the pasted image, the tools at your disposal are somewhat limited—you can flip the pasted image horizontally or vertically, use the Paintbrush and Clone Stamp tools, pick up colors with the Eyedropper tool and pan around with the Hand tool. And, of course, you have the ability to create and alter the perspective planes and make selections with the Marquee, too. Hopefully, future versions will include full access to all of Photoshop's editing tools and brushes. For now, you can only paint with a round brush, but it's pretty cool watching the brush change perspective as you move it across different planes.
The Clone Stamp tool comes in handy when creating effects such as making a skyscraper disappear into the clouds or a crowd of people seem to go on forever. I used Vanishing Point to stencil the informIT logo onto the side of a building. First, I found a nice façade at Stock.XCHNG, a great source for free images. Next, I selected Vanishing Point from the Filter drop-down list and created a perspective plane by selecting the Plane tool and clicking in areas that matched the edges of the walls. For demonstration purposes, I created some extra planes by holding Control (Command) and clicking an edge of the original plane and dragging away from it, as shown in Figure 3. Vanishing Point automatically created new planes at right angles from the original each time I did this and found it to be a very useful and fun feature. Once I was happy with my grid, I clicked OK and created a text layer for the InformIT logo.
Figure 3 Setting up planes in Vanishing Point.
One of the shortcomings of Vanishing Point is the fact that you must rasterize any text before you can use it with Vanishing Point, and you must also cut or copy the text and then paste it into the Vanishing Point work environment. I noticed that when text was placed on a plane whose angle was more perpendicular to the camera's angle (as with the cube shown in Figure 2), the more "jaggy" or aliased the text became, as you can see in Figure 4. I hope this is something that Adobe will fix in future versions of Vanishing Point. It helped when I created the image at a higher resolution and then down-sampled, but this step shouldn't be necessary.
Figure 4 Aliasing in text.
After I pasted and positioned the text in Vanishing Point, I used the Transform tool to resize it. You can hold the Shift key to maintain the correct aspect ratio and rotate objects by clicking and dragging outside their selection handles. After I had things looking the way I wanted them, I clicked OK and then created a selection mask from the blue channel and used it to remove parts of the text where they covered the mortar between the bricks. This step also helped hide some of the jagged edges on the text. I then changed the blending mode to Darken and ended up with the InformIT logo stenciled on a brick wall! (See Figure 5.)
Figure 5 Your ad here!
You may be familiar with Smart Objects from Adobe GoLive. They have now shown up in Photoshop CS 2 in the form of specialized layers. Smart Objects are described by Adobe as "containers" for embedding raster or vector image data. Smart Objects allow you to perform nondestructive transforms on layer contents, such as resizing an object without losing image quality. They retain data from Illustrator vector files and allow you to edit that data within Illustrator whenever you want. You can also create unique or linked instances of an object that either reflect the changes made to an instance or retain their original appearance.
I started by creating a simple star shape in Illustrator, copying it, and pasting it into a Photoshop document. Photoshop asks you whether you want to paste the object as a Smart Object (the default), Pixels, a Path, or a Shape Layer. I chose Smart Object and then created a linked duplicate by selecting Layer > New > Layer via Copy. I then used Control (Command) T to increase the star's size and rotate it. By selecting Layer > Smart Objects > New Smart Object via Copy, I created a copy of the star that wasn't linked to the original. You'll see why in a minute. I then created several more copies using combinations of the above techniques. Double-clicking on the thumbnail preview of one of the stars in the Layers palette opened a copy of it in Illustrator, in which I changed some of its attributes and saved the object as a new Illustrator file. I repeated the process to create three unique types of stars and even replaced one of the stars with a moon, as shown in Figure 6. So this is a potentially powerful tool.
Figure 6 Playing with Smart Objects.
Unfortunately, Smart Objects are still going through some growing pains, and I found that Photoshop wanted the files saved to a specific location with a specific name. It also changed the dimensions of the moon I created to match the dimensions of the star it replaced, forcing me to reshape the moon by hand. Once these bugs are ironed out, Smart Objects promise to be a real time-saver because you maintain original copies of objects and change their appearance at will. You can even create Illustrator files with multiple layers and hide certain layers while turning others on. A very useful feature, although the distortion issue needs to be addressed.
New and Improved
There are so are many new features included in Photoshop CS 2 that it would take up all the space set aside for Illustrator CS 2 just to cover them! So here they are in a nutshell. The remaining items have been updated, adapted, or gleaned from other Adobe products.
- Red Eye removal, a staple in Photoshop Elements for quite some time, has finally made its way into Photoshop CS 2.
- Camera Raw has been updated with the capability to crop, auto correct, batch edit, and perform nondestructive edits to images.
- Multiple layer control allows you to select several layers at once, regardless of whether they're consecutive or not, and apply transforms to them.
- Image Warp, shown in Figure 7, allows you to apply the same types of warp effects you used to be able to apply only to text. It's great for creating curved effects such as labels on bottles, curly paper and so on.
Figure 7 Image Warp.
- A new Spot Healing brush that doesn't require you to select a sample area before painting (see Figure 8).
Figure 8 The Spot Healing brush.
- Finally, a font preview!
- Animation tools similar to those found in ImageReady.
- New blur tools—including Box Blur, Shape Blur and Surface blur—provide great special effects and even more blurring options.
- The new Smart Sharpen filter offers greater control than Unsharp Mask, even controlling the amount of sharpening in highlight and shadow areas. You can also save your settings and recall them later.
- The new Reduce Noise filter cleans up noise, artifacts, and grain from digital images, JPG compression, and scanned film and photographs.
This list just scratches the surface; Photoshop CS 2 offers dozens of other new features and improvements.
Illustrator CS 2
The changes that Adobe makes to Illustrator have always been more exciting to me than new features added to Photoshop, and Illustrator CS 2 is no exception. Live Paint and Live Trace alone are worth the upgrade. Once again, some of the tools have some maturing to do, but they're a good indication of things to come and are already a huge improvement on past versions.
Live Paint and Live Trace
These two new additions are my favorites. In the past, you had to use Illustrator's Auto Trace tool and click inside or outside of a shape in an image to create a vector copy of it, one piece at a time. Rather tedious and hit and miss, to say the least. With Live Trace, Illustrator now allows you to select an entire image and create a "vectorized" version of it, based on several presets or your own custom settings. Obviously, line art looks better than complex photos, but Illustrator handles photos with better results than many other competing products. Vectorizing scanned line art is a snap with Live Trace.
I created a quick line drawing, scanned it, and placed it in Illustrator. With the drawing selected, I chose Default from the fly-out menu next to the Live Trace button at the top of the Illustrator dialog box (the Comic Art setting also worked quite well) and then clicked the button to achieve the results shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9 Live Trace.
After I was happy with my traced image, I clicked the Live Paint button, changing the entire tracing into a Live Paint group. I then selected the Live Paint Selection Tool in the toolbox. With this tool selected, "paintable regions" show a red outline around them as the mouse cursor moves over different areas of the Live Paint group, as shown in Figure 10.
Figure 10 Live Paint regions.
With the Live Paint Selection Tool selected, you can click in an area you want to fill and then select a paint swatch from the Swatches palette to fill that area. You can use solid colors, gradients, and even patterns as fills. You can see the finished drawing in Figure 11.
Figure 11 Live Paint results.
Unfortunately, Live Paint also has a few quirks. When converting drawings created using the Paintbrush tool into Live Paint objects, Brushes, live effects, and transparency are lost. You can get around this problem by copying your brush strokes to a new layer above the original, hiding them, and then painting the object and unhiding the brush strokes. This small shortcoming aside, Live Paint and Live Trace are my choice for best new tools in Illustrator CS 2.
This is a feature that has been a long time coming for Illustrator, but it's one of those little things that makes life so much easier. Until now, there were only two options: creating an underline by hand and resizing it every time you changed your text, or purchasing a $25 plug-in just to get underlined text. Granted, the plug-in, which can be accessed at the Proper Code website, has some nicer features, at least now you have a choice. You can also strike through text, which is another bonus. Hopefully Adobe will take a cue from Proper Code and include more features in the future, such as different colored underlines, underlining text only (not spaces), and skipping letters with tails (such as "j", "g" and "y"). It would also be nice if Illustrator applied strokes to the underlines and not just the text, as shown in Figure 12.
Figure 12 Using Underline in Illustrator.
Another favorite, this feature showed up in Photoshop CS and is now available in Illustrator CS 2. The Control Palette offers tool-specific settings that change based on which tool you have active (see Figure 13). For example, if you're working with text, you'll be able to access stroke and fill settings, change fonts, and set paragraphs to be left-, center- or right-justified. If you're working with the Ellipse or Rectangle tools, you can choose stroke, fill, brush type, and graphic style settings. You can probably see the workflow improvements and speed increases the Control Palette will provide you.
Figure 13 Control Palette.
And the Rest
As with Photoshop CS 2, Illustrator CS 2 offers many other new and improved features and tools. Here are just a few of them:
- Illustrator now supports Photoshop's Layer Comps.
- You can now save custom workspaces with different palettes showing or hidden, positioning them wherever you want. Illustrator will remember those settings.
- You can control the positioning of a stroke along a path by choosing whether it's centered, inside, or outside the path.
- There is improved Wacom graphics tablet support.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Adobe has leveraged Creative Suite 2's workflow with new tools such as Adobe Bridge, Version Cue, and Adobe Stock Photos. Here's how you might benefit from these tools.
Adobe Bridge, which is based upon Photoshop's File Browser, is accessible from any CS 2 application. Bridge allows you to view thumbnails of your raster and vector images, resize them with a handy slider, browse PDF files, and access color preferences (which, by the way, can be shared between Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator). Bridge also supports ActionScripts and allows you to process Camera Raw images. Topping it all off is Bridge Center, a centralized area to view RSS feeds and tips & tricks, see which files you recently accessed, and have quick access to recent projects (see Figure 14). Speaking of projects, that's where Version Cue comes in.
Figure 14 Using Bridge Center.
Version Cue, shown in Figure 15, allows you to easily track files and projects (it even takes care of file naming for you). You probably have been guilty of giving files names like book_cover_final_06.ai. I know I have. Now all you have to do is provide a base name, and Version Cue takes care of the rest: It displays thumbnails, comments, and dates for files, which makes it simple to see which one you're looking for. You can even view the alternate versions of a file you created for that picky client. Version Cue allows teams to share files and work together on projects, ensuring that no one accidentally overwrites someone else's work, and tells team members when a file is in use by someone else.
Figure 15 Tracking file versions with Version Cue.
Adobe Stock Photos
The Adobe Stock Photos service, which is accessed through Adobe Bridge, allows you to browse and purchase images from various stock photo services (see Figure 16). With access to more than 230,000 images, you're bound to find stock images to enhance your project, and the powerful search features, detailed information and nonwatermarked comps provided for each image will make your job that much easier.
Figure 16 Browsing Stock Photos.
Upgrade Your World
If you haven't already taken the plunge and invested in Adobe's Creative Suite, now is the perfect time. If you're thinking about upgrading, what are you waiting for? As I mentioned there are some flaws with some of the tools that will hopefully be fixed with a patch or possibly in the next version of Creative Studio (such as the lack of transparent gradients in Illustrator), but the improvements far outweigh the niggling shortcomings. You'd do yourself a great disservice if you stuck with your old version of Photoshop, Illustrator, or Creative Suite.