Apple has spent the last four years promoting Mac OS X as the future of the Macintosh–that Apple’s existence hinges on the public’s adoption of the new operating system is not an overstatement. And yet, for many Mac users, moving to OS X has been contingent on a factor that Apple can’t control: the availability of an OS X-native version of Adobe Photoshop.
With Adobe’s announcement of Photoshop 7.0 for OS X, the wait is finally over.
But OS X compatibility isn’t Photoshop’s only new feature. Building on the improvements in previous versions–which saw the introduction of the History palette, editable text, layer effects, vector-based drawing, and a host of Web tools–Adobe (800/833-6687, www.adobe.com) offers several innovative new tools designed to make graphics professionals more productive, whether they spend their time painting, retouching, sorting through large image collections, or building rollover effects for the Web.
Adobe says it will ship Photoshop 7 this spring. Since the program is still a beta, we can’t yet test it for speed or reliability. But we can give you an in-depth sneak peek at one of this year’s most anticipated software releases.
OS X Native
In addition to running on OS 9.1 and 9.2, Photoshop 7 is fully compatible with OS X 10.1.1 and higher. This is good news for designers, photographers, and prepress professionals who have been cautiously waiting for Adobe before making the transition to OS X.
An OS X version of Photoshop fills the last remaining gap in Adobe’s suite of graphics and publishing tools (OS X versions of InDesign and Illustrator are already on store shelves) and affirms the company’s commitment to Apple’s new operating system. But don’t expect any OS X-only features. As with Adobe’s other OS X applications, Photoshop 7 offers the same features and functionality on both operating systems. However, the move to OS X does mean that Photoshop, notorious for hogging system resources, can now take advantage of OS X’s inherent strengths, such as protected memory and preemptive multitasking.
One problem Photoshop 7 users may face in OS X is a lack of plug-in support; plug-ins have yet to run natively in OS X (see
“The Waiting Game”
later in this story). But according to Adobe, most Photoshop 6 plug-ins will work with version 7 in OS 9 or in OS X’s Classic mode. However, plug-ins that require direct access to SCSI devices, such as scanners and printers, may not work even in Classic. Therefore, if you depend on a third-party plug-in for your day-to-day work, you should find out whether the manufacturer has plans to update it.
Painting and Retouching
Photoshop has never been known for its painting abilities, so one of Adobe’s priorities for Photoshop 7 was to overhaul the program’s painting engine. To that end, Adobe enlisted programmer Jerry Harris, codeveloper of the Mac’s first color painting program, PixelPaint. The results are some of Photoshop 7’s most impressive new features–not just for artists, but for anyone who uses a brush, whether it’s to retouch, mask, dodge, or smear.
With Photoshop 6, Adobe axed the floating Brushes palette. In version 7, they’ve brought it back (with its old keyboard shortcut, F5) and put it on steroids. The revised Brushes palette features multiple panels and more than 50 new settings and variables; combined, they give you new levels of control over your brushstrokes (see “A Better Brush” below). Although they’re not as powerful as those in Procreate’s Painter 7 (800/772-6735, www.procreate.com), Photoshop 7’s painting tools let you easily create effects you couldn’t in previous versions of the program. For example, you can now add jitter to your brushes, spread paint droplets, mix foreground and background colors, paint textured strokes, and scale custom brushes. Most brush parameters respond to input from pressure-sensitive tablets. Photoshop 7 even introduces support for more-sophisticated stylus input such as tilt and thumbwheel, bringing the program up-to-speed with the present generation of tablets from Wacom (800/922-9348, www.wacom.com).
Of course, all these settings take some getting used to. Fortunately, the bottom of the Brushes palette includes a live preview window, so you can immediately see the effect of different parameters on your brush. The program also ships with hundreds of brush presets, so you can start painting without having to set your own.
The Healing Tools
Photographers and designers who find themselves spending a lot of time laboriously fixing scratches, blemishes, and other imperfections with Photoshop’s Stamp tool will appreciate Photoshop 7’s two new cloning tools, the Healing brush and the Patch tool. They provide quicker, more-consistent results for basic touch-ups.
Like the Stamp tool, the Healing brush clones pixels to cover up flaws. But instead of copying colors from one portion of an image and applying them to another, the Healing brush clones only the texture, drawing the color from the area around the imperfection (see
“Brush Me, Heal Me”
later in this story). This makes the tool well suited to touching up wrinkles and other facial imperfections, since the color in such areas may be fine even though the texture needs to be fixed. The Patch tool performs the same function as the Healing brush, but it lets you select large areas for healing rather than manually brushing on the effect. Neither tool will take away all the mundane work of retouching photos, but by sampling color and texture independently, Photoshop is often able to create patches that appear entirely consistent with their surroundings.
Some longtime users will be surprised by the disappearance of the Airbrush tool from the toolbox. The Airbrush feature is now available to painting and editing tools via a toggle in the Options bar. This means that you can use any brush to lay down a continuous stream of color, even when you hold the cursor still–useful when you want to gradually build up color for an effect such as dodging. You can also control the rate at which an effect flows, analogous to the old Airbrush tool’s Pressure setting.
A Better Brush
The reinstated Brushes palette contains eight panels, 50 new options, and a wealth of presets. A large preview window at the bottom of the palette shows you how your creation will look.
The File Browser
Managing your digital images sometimes takes more time than editing them. You must sort through meaningless file names, rotate portrait shots, and review multiple versions of the same scene. For years, less-expensive image editors, including Adobe’s $99 Photoshop Elements, have addressed this problem by offering image browsers, windows that let you preview entire folders of images. Now Photoshop includes one as well. The File Browser feature offers an efficient way to view, manage, and select your files without ever leaving the program.
Getting the Big Picture
As in Photoshop Elements, the File Browser palette in Photoshop 7 is resizable, and you can dock the File Browser when it’s in the way. But this is where the similarities end. Whereas Photoshop Elements’ browser is bare-bones and difficult to navigate, Photoshop 7’s is full-bodied and handy, giving you a folder explorer that shows all of the thumbnails for a selected file (with three options for thumbnail size), as well as the ability to view metadata and EXchangeable Image File (EXIF) data imported from your digital camera (see “Rank and File” below). The latter is especially useful for digital photographers, since it can contain everything from the date and time an image was captured to the exposure and flash settings.
Controlling Your Photos
Photoshop 7’s File Browser also helps you manage your files. Instead of having to repeatedly switch between the Finder and Photoshop, you can now move and rename your files from within the File Browser. You can sort thumbnails by several different criteria (such as the date modified or color profile), or you can assign your own ranking values–useful when you’re trying to sift through proofs and compare the best shot with several close runners-up. You can also rotate a portrait shot so that it’s upright; Photoshop then automatically rotates the image when opening it. There’s one problem: Photoshop 7 saves all the information from its File Browser in an independent cache file linked to the folder name, so if you rename the folder, all the thumbnails–as well as ranking and rotation instructions–are lost. This is bad news for designers who share networked volumes: ranking and rotating applied from one computer on a network cannot be seen by others.
To address this shortcoming, Photoshop 7 lets you save a separate browser catalog for a folder of images. Networked Photoshop users can use this catalog to access previews and ranking and rotation instructions. You can also include the catalog with your images when archiving them to a CD. Although this information is readable only by Photoshop, it ensures that any work performed inside the File Browser won’t be lost later.
Workspace and Presets
You may spend a lot of time moving palettes, adjusting tool settings, and generally tweaking your environment, especially if you occasionally change your monitor’s resolution, as when you’re gauging artwork for the Web. To expedite these housekeeping tasks, Photoshop 7 lets you save workspaces and tool presets for easy access anytime.
When you save a workspace, Photoshop records the locations of all on-screen palettes and toolboxes. This means that you can set up multiple workspaces, each customized to a specific task, such as file browsing, retouching, or Web design. Workspaces come in handy when you’re sharing a computer with one or more coworkers.
Tool presets can save you even more time. These let you store a tool’s settings for reuse later. For example, say you have a printer that creates 3.25-by-4-inch snapshots. Rather than manually setting these specifications with the Crop tool each time you want to print, you can just select the appropriate preset. Likewise, you can use presets to store custom brushes, clone settings, selection modifiers, and more. Presets also let you keep a record of how you create an effect, so you can replicate it without a lot of fuss.
Rank and File
In addition to image thumbnails, Photoshop 7’s File Browser provides a navigation tree (top left) and access to EXIF data saved with digital photographs (bottom left).
The Small Stuff
The rest of Photoshop 7’s changes are minor modifications. Some are intended to address user complaints and suggestions; others advance Adobe’s mission to expand promising technologies. Here are a few of the new Photoshop’s highlights:
If you create a lot of text in Photoshop, you’ll appreciate the addition of the Check Spelling command, which is identical to the same command in other Adobe applications. In addition, you can now search for and replace text.
Introduced in Photoshop 6, the Liquify filter lets you distort an image by twisting or stretching its pixels. Version 7 brings some nice improvements to this filter–for example, the ability to zoom and scroll inside the Liquify dialog box, save a distortion grid for use on another image, and take advantage of unlimited undos. To get a better sense of how your distortion will fit in with the rest of your image, you can view other layers within the Liquify dialog box.
The quick-fix commands Auto Levels and Auto Contrast correct the lightest and darkest colors in an image, but they scrupulously avoid the midtones. In Photoshop 7, Adobe introduces the Color command, which attempts to automatically correct an image’s gamma values and remove color casts.
Photoshop 7 offers five new Blend modes, which let you mix the colors in brushstrokes and layers to create custom dissolves and other effects. To help minimize confusion, Blend modes are now organized more logically than they were in previous versions, with all modes that lighten an image in one group and all that darken an image in another.
To rename a layer in Photoshop 6, you had to option-double-click on it. Photoshop 7 finally lets you rename a layer directly inside the Layers palette simply by clicking on it. The same is also true for channels and paths.
You can now sample any color visible on screen by dragging it from the image window into the background. This means that you no longer need to copy and paste a color from, say, Adobe Illustrator; you can sample it without ever leaving Photoshop.
Visible Transformation Handles
When you applied a transformation to a very large layer in Photoshop 6, the transformation handles sometimes extended outside the visible area of the window, meaning that you had to zoom way out to see what you were doing. Transformation handles now behave as they did in the old days; they’re always visible inside the window.
Photoshop 7 lets you use repeating patterns as textures, useful for emulating paper or canvas effects. The program will ship with predefined patterns, and you can use the Pattern Maker filter to create your own. This filter saves time by automatically generating multiple complex patterns from a selected portion of an image, but there’s no way to paint or edit the patterns.
Whereas previous versions of the Picture Package command let you print multiple copies of a single photo on one page, Photoshop 7 lets you combine multiple photos–great when you’re trying to make the most of expensive coated ink-jet paper stock. You can also label the pictures, although you have little control over the label’s position on the page.
When saving Photoshop documents as annotated PDF images for viewing in Adobe Acrobat, you can now assign passwords and disable printing or copying. This is particularly useful when you are distributing photos from a Web site for approval.
Like many of Adobe’s applications, Photoshop 7 lets you check out and edit files from a WebDAV server, even if that server isn’t located on the local network.
When Adobe began bundling its stand-alone Web-graphics application, ImageReady, with Photoshop 5.5, the pair were a powerful one-two punch for Web designers. Photoshop, with its advanced image-editing features, provided the tools necessary for everyday graphics work, while ImageReady came packed with tools for creating dynamic Web elements such as rollovers and animations. In the latest versions of Photoshop and ImageReady (which has jumped from version 3 to version 7, to bring it into parity with Photoshop), Adobe adds some clever twists on image optimization, as well as several interface improvements geared toward increasing the productivity of Web-graphics pros.
Straight to the Web
The most essential and frustrating day-to-day task Web designers face is optimizing graphics for the Web–finding that delicate balance between maximum image quality and minimal image size. So it’s not surprising that when Adobe looked at upgrading Photoshop and ImageReady, it focused most of its attention on the programs’ optimization tools. ImageReady 7 and Photoshop 7 both feature several new tools aimed at giving designers more flexibility and better results when exporting their images to the Web.
Setting Your Priorities
Optimizing Web output is all about making tough decisions. For example, keeping your company’s name crisp and legible may be more important to you than preserving every detail of a background image.
Photoshop 7 and ImageReady 7 make it easier to tailor your GIFs and JPEGs by letting you prioritize layers of text and vector art, keeping them relatively intact when it’s time to compress your images.
By clicking on a small button in the Optimize palette, you can set a range of quality levels for your images; the software then calculates appropriate settings (dither and lossiness for GIF; quality for JPEG) for your image and attempts to maintain as much quality as possible in those text and vector layers. The end result can be GIFs and JPEGs that retain crisp, clear text even though other parts of the images are dithered or show greater evidence of artifacts.
The GIF file format doesn’t support partial transparency. As a result, when you create a semitransparent effect on a GIF image–a feathered drop shadow, for example–you currently have to matte that image, replacing the semitransparent pixels with opaque ones, to match the background color of your Web page. If you don’t, you’ll be left with a strange halo effect where your smoothly antialiased text or drop shadow ought to be. Unfortunately, matting your graphic also requires that you open and re-export the image with a different matte every time you change your page’s background color.
To address this dilemma, Photoshop 7 and ImageReady 7 offer dither transparency. This option creates the illusion of partial transparency by combining transparent and opaque pixels in a dither pattern. As with standard image dithering, you can choose from three different dither-pattern algorithms when setting up a transparency dither.
It’s a clever idea that works, more or less–a GIF with dither transparency will look equally good on any solid-color background and will look fine even on a multicolored pattern background, unlike images with solid-color mattes. Unfortunately, the dithering is still rather visible (see “A Different Dither” below), and most conscientious Web graphics designers will likely continue to use matte colors (and create multiple iterations of graphics for pages with different background colors) rather than sacrifice the quality of their images.
Another addition to both programs is a simplified way to define a GIF file’s transparency. You can now quickly map any color to transparency by clicking on a button in the Color Table.
In both programs, the Color table has also been changed to give users much better feedback about changes to their images. Now when you change a color in your image–including making it transparent–the Color Table displays both the original color and the new color in diagonal wedges of its square.
In previous versions of ImageReady, creating rollovers–images that change when you move your mouse over them–could get confusing, requiring numerous, repetitive trips between the Rollover palette and the Layers palette. And it was far too easy to misassign layers or button states. ImageReady 7’s new Rollover palette aims to change all that.
Unlike the old Rollover interface, which was modeled on the timeline-based Animation tab, the new Rollovers palette more closely resembles the Layers palette. The Rollovers palette lists each separate rollover action of your image, and beneath each action there’s a breakout of what button states you’ve currently got programmed. By using the palette, you can make changes to rollover states with ease, especially if you’re creating disjointed rollovers (where mousing over one item causes another item to change). You can also opt to have the Rollovers palette display animation states, making it your one-stop interface for modifying your design’s dynamic characteristics.
Users of Photoshop’s Web Gallery feature, especially those who are concerned with copyright infringement, will be happy with the new Watermark feature, which automatically generates watermarks, including ones that contain copyright information, photo or illustration credits, and just about anything else you might imagine.
In general, the new Web features of Photoshop and ImageReady 7 are modest in nature. But there’s one big exception: ImageReady’s Rollovers palette. If you’ve ever struggled while creating complex dynamic interfaces in ImageReady, you may feel that this one feature addition is worth the upgrade price.
A Different Dither
Traditional transparent GIF effects (top) are attractive, but must be matted to a particular background color. Using ImageReady 7’s dither-transparency feature, you can create a transparent effect that looks the same on any background (bottom).
An OS X version of Photoshop means that graphics and prepress professionals can, for the first time, seriously consider moving to Apple’s new operating system. The only question is: Will their favorite Photoshop plug-ins move with them?
Many Photoshop users depend on plug-ins for everything from high-end color correction to unusual image effects. But although most Photoshop 6 plug-ins should work fine with Photoshop 7 running in OS 9 or in OS X’s Classic mode, they do not yet run natively in OS X.
Many plug-in developers say they’re already working to convert their products to OS X; however, the process–rewriting hundreds, if not thousands, of lines of code–takes time. As a result, many companies are taking a selective approach to Carbonizing their software. Instead of trying to rewrite code for every program it offers, Alien Skin Software (888/921-7546, www.alienskin.com), maker of the popular Eye Candy plug-in series, says it will focus on having OS X versions of its newest products, such as Eye Candy 4000, available when Photoshop 7 is finally ready to ship. As a result, anyone who depends on Alien Skin’s older plug-ins, such as Xenofex, will have to wait for the next versions to get OS X compatibility.
Andromeda Software (800/547-0055, www.andromeda.com), which offers more than a dozen Photoshop filters and plug-ins, is taking the slow and steady approach to OS X compatibility. “We’re definitely planning to Carbonize everything,” says Product Manager Louann Barbeau. “But it’ll be gradual. We’d love to see them all at once, but our engineers are swamped.” According to Barbeau, Andromeda will Carbonize each of its plug-ins as it updates them–usually within a year of the last release.
Of course, if you aren’t the patient type and are looking for some instant OS X satisfaction, there are a number of OS X options already available. For example, Procreate (800/772-6735, www.procreate.com) began shipping its masking tool, KnockOut 2, and its suite of image filters, KPT Effects, last year. Likewise, Auto FX Software (205/980-0056, www.autofx.com) has released OS X versions of two of its plug-in suites–Dreamsuite 1.10, and Photo/Graphic Edges 5.0–with its color-correction software, AutoEye, soon to follow.
With Adobe at last making a full commitment to Apple’s new operating system, more and more third-party plug-in developers will begin making the switch as well. Until then, if there’s a particular Photoshop plug-in you just can’t work without, you’ll need to backtrack to OS 9.
You can quickly fix a multitude of flaws with Photoshop 7’s Healing brush and Patch tool; both let you copy texture from one part of an image to another while preserving the latter area’s original color. To show you how to put these two new tools to work, I started with a less-than-perfect photo of myself (left) taken with an Olympus E-10 digital camera. I then went to work on giving myself a digital makeover.
Using the Healing Brush
My first task was to erase the tiny bumps from under my eyes. I selected the Healing brush by pressing the J key (the shortcut previously assigned to the Airbrush tool). Then I option-clicked inside the image to set the point from which I wanted to clone the texture. In this case, I chose the shadow to the side of my nose, where the skin appeared smoother (left).
Having set the source point, I painted over the flawed portion of the image. I began my brushstroke inside the shadow just below my eye. This ensured that the shadows from the source and destination areas would align properly. After Photoshop completed the drag, it took a moment to blend the colors around the brushstroke (right) with the texture from the source.
If you’re not satisfied with the results, you can undo the healing, deselect the Align option in the Options bar (to avoid replaying the same stroke), and try your drag again.
For larger areas that don’t respond well to the Healing brush, such as the scars on my forehead, the Patch tool can offer an easier solution.
First, I selected the area I wanted to fix with the Lasso tool (left). (You can use any selection tool or method you like for this part.) I feathered the selection slightly to blur it and soften the transitions.
Then, with the Patch tool selected (shift-J), I dragged the selection outline to an area of the image with smoother skin. The moment I released, Photoshop healed the selection, using texture from the new area (right) and the colors that surround the original selection outline.
The results are smooth skin and a much-improved complexion.
There are some issues that Adobe didn’t address with this update. For example, you still can’t edit keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop, the program lacks a good red-eye reduction filter similar to the one in Photoshop Elements, and it has no resizable previews in filter dialog boxes (or in the Variations window). Photoshop’s effects filters remain unchanged and static, despite the introduction of equivalent dynamic filters in Adobe After Effects several years ago. (As a result, a growing number of motion designers use After Effects for their still-image work.)
But in the end, most of these are quibbles for the hard-core Photoshop geek. For most users, Photoshop 7.0 offers enough new features–OS X support; the rewritten paint engine, with its innovative Healing brush and “natural media” feel; the integrated File Browser feature and new workspace tools; AppleScript support; and small but important Web-productivity enhancements–to make upgrading more than worthwhile.
This article appears in full in the April 2002 issue of Macworld. DEKE McCLELLAND is the author of the award-winning Macworld Photoshop Bible (Hungry Minds, 2000). He is also host of the 12-part video series Total Training for Adobe Photoshop (Total Training, 1999). KELLY LUNSFORD is a Macworld associate editor, and she teaches Web design at the University of California at Berkeley.