Adobe’s annual update to Photoshop and its other creative applications offers a host of incremental improvements.
For years Adobe has set the standard in image-editing, desktop-publishing, web-design and other high-end creative tools with its Creative Suite. Like other major software developers, the company moved to a subscription model a few years ago, changing the name to Creative Cloud, although the main applications are still full desktop programs for Mac or Windows – and Adobe still seems to have an appetite for annual announcements.
Some years the bundle of new features unveiled in June each year amounts to a major update, but this year Adobe Creative Cloud 2016 (or 2015.5 as it's being officially called) is more of a consolidation than a huge step forward.
As such, big new features are slim on the ground. Photoshop's Content-Aware crop is the most significant, but even this is an extension to an existing tool. Content-Aware crop uses the Content-Aware fill algorithm to seamlessly fill in those gaps that appear in the corners of an image when you need to straighten an image, so you don't need to crop in even further.
You could probably achieve the same effect by manually selecting and using the Content-Aware fill tool, but this is a quicker, more efficient method that will save time for those who do a lot of cropping and straightening.
Other Photoshop improvements
The second new tool is Face Liquify, essentially a more advanced version of a feature first introduced in the Photoshop Fix mobile app. Put simply, this automatically recognises faces and allows you to manipulate facial expressions, including altering the shape of your subject's faces, changing frowns to smiles and so forth. For wedding and school photographers who regularly shoot large groups of people I can see this being an absolute godsend.
Match Font scans text within an image and will suggest a similar one from its database, and lastly, Select and Mask improves the tools available for selecting and cutting out complex shapes such as fur and hair, allowing users to simply paint over these areas.
A host of little refinements
Elsewhere within the Creative Cloud suite, Adobe has chosen to refine rather than overhaul. Images brought in from Adobe Stock can now be licensed directly within projects with a right-click. Photographers and illustrators can now contribute to Adobe's Stock image library from within the application itself, with tags applied automatically based on the type of content.
And while there are no major feature upgrades for the rest of the Creative Cloud applications, there's a host of small tweaks and improvements. The ability to license Stock images is extended across the portfolio, for example. There's a new Read only Library function, which makes it easier to prevent collaborators inadvertently altering important assets that need to remain consistent.
Adobe's Animate (previously called Flash Pro) improves the ease of lip syncing, the granularity of PSD file imports, and motion triggers can now be used to move parts of a character's body, while Illustrator gets improved export options and Premiere Pro gains virtual reality video editing capabilities.
Serious pricing for serious users
Creative Cloud pricing reflects its target market of creative professionals, starting at $11.99 per month for the 12-month ‘Photography’ plan that includes Photoshop and its companion image organising tool, Lightbox. Other applications cost $22.99 each per month for individuals, or $57.99 per month for the full suite.
That’s not cheap but it does offer a lot: Photoshop, Illustrator (drawing and illustration), InDesign (desktop publishing), Dreamweaver (web editing), Muse (web design), Acrobat Pro (PDF editor), Animate (for web animations), Premiere Pro (video editing), After Effects (video effects), Audition (audio editing), InCopy (word processor), as well 20GB of online storage and a portfolio website. Use of the Adobe Stock library is an additional $35.99 per month.
Pricing for business teams is significantly more: $34.99 per user per month for each application or $79.99 for the full suite. That includes a team website and 100GB of storage for collaboration, although it still seems comparatively pricey for businesses that can’t get volume pricing.
The latest Creative Cloud update is available to subscribers now.