Review: Adobe Photoshop CS6

Adobe Photoshop CS6 is here.

I’d been working with the Beta version of Adobe Photoshop CS6 since it came out as I prepared a tutorial version with which to teach workshops, and I was excited when I received a review copy of Photoshop CS6.

I’d prepared a tutorial version of an App for the Apple Store on the CS5 Photoshop and its had a good run and has been well received. I was looking forward to getting a CS6 version ready to coincide with the launch of Photoshop CS6, but I got a little behind and Adobe released first the Beta version and then the completed version of Photoshop CS6 before my tutorial was finished. As I write this my new tutorial is in the pipeline for approval in Apple’s App Store; look for it soon as Adobe Photoshop CS6: A Tutorial for Beginners. The CS5 version is already in the Apple Store as almost the same name, Adobe Photoshop CS5: A Tutorial for Beginners.

So, now that I’ve had the release copy of Photoshop CS6 in my hands for a couple of weeks this is what I can say about it.

It’s fast!

It’s really fast!

The first time you load Photoshop CS6, the application has to spend a little bit of time extra while it finds all of its parts. The second time you open it, you will be suitably impressed.

On my three year old Mac Pro I barely have time to note the splash page before the application is open, and only a few seconds later the image I’ve selected is showing itself in the Camera Raw window. I feel almost the same way when it opens on my equally old 17″ MacBook Pro. I can only imagine what it must be like on a new computer. Admittedly, that’s not very scientific with no stopwatch involved, but the speed is noticeable.

This new version of Photoshop is not a big, splashy rewrite where you feel like it’s a completely new program that you are learning. Rather, it is a polishing and honing process that enhances speed, ease of use, and efficiency. It’s a bit like a gem cutter taking a sparkling stone and cutting those facets onto it that turns it in a fiery diamond.

The number of new features that are first noticeable are varied but not so much so that an older user of CS5 won’t be right at home. In fact, many of the new features are not instantly noticeable; instead, they are hidden in menu columns that we think we already know.

But the overall look of Photoshop has changed to a dark  gray background with white lettering and light gray symbols as the default—you actually have a choice of four colors ranging from near black to pale gray.

The first thing that I noted was that a window appeared on the top right of the adjustments pane that allowed you to select between: Essentials, New in CS6, 3D, Motion, Painting, Photography, and Typography.

When you select one of those options the open tools which usually appear to the right of the open image are automatically opened to the relevant tools for the procedure you have chosen to perform. I find this a great time saver and convenience. Once the tools are selected, a previous user of CS5 will feel right at home.

The graphics acceleration that I already mentioned shows itself in things like the liquify filter which previously was a slow and sluggish movement and is now a real-time tool. If you have processor enough in your computer and enough ram, most of Photoshop’s filters and adjustments run in real time.

Camera Raw now begins its adjustments with a “0” as the center number, thus adjustments can be “-” or negative numbers as well as the traditional “+” or positive numbers; this makes it much more intuitive.

The cropping tool now shows a overlay of a rule of thirds, a grid, a diagonal, a triangle, Golden Ratio, and Golden Spiral to aid in determining composition. About 50 years ago in college I had a course called “Structural Analysis of Masterpieces” where we laborously drew analyses of paintings on transparent acetate taped over photocopies of famous paintings. Looking at the options that Photoshop can bring up to analyze a composition as it is cropped brings back fond classroom memories and makes me aware of how far technology has come and how much the current Photoshop user can take (and use) for granted.

Oh, you’ll still have to buy the Extended version of Photoshop CS6 if you want to use the 3D tools. Since my primary use of Photoshop is in teaching the basics of the program itself with an emphasis on retouching, I have limited experience with the 3D tools and video editing which are the main the differences between the regular and extended editions of Photoshop CS6.

The blur tools bring new options with the Field Blur, Iris Blur, and the Tilt-Shift blur. Each of these duplicates the effects often seen with the popular adjustable tilt-shift effects lenses that can be had in various camera mountings.


Background Save means that you can hit the SAVE button and keep on working without having to worry about how long those PSD files used to save as you worked.  Auto save can be set in Preferences > File Handling and can be set to save in as short a time as 5 minutes behind your working moment. If I had a wish, it would follow as close as one minute behind me—well, maybe Adobe will do that someday.  But as stable as the program is in reality there is not much of a gamble involved.

People sometimes send me images that are the exact size where they have forgotten to set up a bleed on the edges. The Content Aware tool has become a welcome additon as it has two modes. Move (where it will seamlessly remove and replace equally seamlessly) and extend (where it will copy and replace seamlessly) thus it can extend the edges of an image without your having to clone and repair. It’s a wonder.

I almost forgot the Adaptive Wide Angle filter with which you can make corrections from the distortions of various lenses.  Barrel and pin-cushion as well as straightening are all readily available from this filter.

There are some other things that probably should be considered and will be by other reviewers, but each reviewer goes after those points that influence their own work, and I’m no exception. I’ve picked out the things that seem the most important to me, and those are the ones I’ve emphasized. For me, the speeded up workflow and the acceleration of the graphics have made a great deal of difference and probably allowed me to get an additional six months or more out of both a desktop and a laptop that I thought had become too slow for my purposes and that I felt needed to be replaced; and like a lot of artists, the replacement equipment budget is always under consideration.  But I heartily recommend the upgrade as it should pay for itself in time saved in increased graphics performance and improved workflow alone and all the new features are almost whipped cream on top of the dessert… Am I excited; in a word YES!

Adobe’s Photoshop CS6 (US $699.00) and CS6 Extended (US $999.00) are available in single user units that can be installed on one laptop and one desktop machine. Photoshop is also available as part of the CS6 Design and Web Premium (US $1899.00), CS6 Design Standard (US $1299.00 to $1899.00), CS6 Production Standard (US $1299.00 to $1899.00) and the Master Collection (US $2,599.00).  Too, it is available as a part of The Cloud subscription structure and in Education and Institutional Pricing. Upgrade versions are also available.


  1. I’m looking forward to buying your Photoshop CS6 app for the iPad. I have your CS5 app and have found it very informative and easy to use. Keep up the great work and give that step-son of yours a little grief for me. :)


  2. Do Adobe not allow European buyers to buy and download from their US site?