Retina display updates: Adobe Photoshop CS6 13.0.2/13.1 and Illustrator 16.0.3, and Creative Cloud thoughts

Photoshop CS6 and Illustrator CS6 icons

Photoshop CS6 13.0.2 and 13.1 released, along with Illustrator 16.0.3

Adobe has released Adobe Photoshop CS6 13.0.2 and Adobe Illustrator 16.0.3 with support for Retina/HiDPI displays. Adobe Photoshop 13.1 is also available now only for Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers, combining Retina/HiDPI support with new features not available in 13.0.2.

[Update, December 20, 2012: Adobe has released Photoshop CS6 13.0.3 and 13.1.1 to fix a few bugs.]

There are aspects of this mix of updates that have caused a lot of confusion, so the point of most of this article is to help straighten it all out. First of all, some users appear to be under the impression that only Creative Cloud subscribers get the Retina and bug fix updates. The way it really works is that everybody gets the Retina display updates and the stability fixes (Photoshop 13.0.2 and Illustrator 16.0.3), but only Creative Cloud subscribers get the new features (Photoshop 13.1). For those who make a living keeping up with Creative Suite applications in education or enterprise, this has important implications that I talk about at the end of this article.

Adobe Photoshop 13.1 includes these new features:

  • Apply Liquify and Blur Gallery to Smart Objects, so you can now use them nondestructively.
  • Conditional actions, so that your actions can respond to rules.
  • The return of the Resolution field and Crop to Front Image buttons in the Crop tool. Many users complained about the loss of the Resolution field in the Options bar for the redesigned Crop tool in Photoshop CS6, and this appears to be a response to that.
  • Copy Photoshop document as CSS, which lets you copy layer attributes such as type specs and rounded corners as CSS code that you can paste into a text editor. This means you can design a web site in Photoshop and use the copied CSS code as a shortcut for building the style sheets for that site.
  • Load color swatches from HTML or CSS, so that you can import an HTML or CSS file into Photoshop, and the colors in the file are then loaded into the Swatches panel. This makes it easier to design assets that match an existing site’s color palette.
  • Improved type styles, including the ability to share default type styles across documents.
  • 3D type enhancements. I don’t do much with 3D, so I’ll leave these enhancements to other blogs and tutorial videos. However…note that the video RAM (VRAM) requirement for 3D has gone up and is now 512MB for the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop. (It’s always been 512MB for Photoshop Extended.)
  • Bonus… Photoshop/Lightroom guru Julianne Kost came up with 5 more features, most of which I didn’t know about.

Adobe presented these updates and more during a live streaming video event called Adobe Create Now, which also included information about other new benefits for Creative Cloud subscribers. You can watch a recording of the event at Create Now Event Recap.

Here are more Adobe links describing the updates:

FAQ: What is the Photoshop CS6 13.0.2 update? What is the 13.1 update?

New Exclusive Photoshop Features for Creative Cloud Members! (Includes several demo videos)

Photoshop version 13.1 available now for Creative Cloud members

How to update

To download the updates, go to:


To update Photoshop and Illustrator directly, start the application and choose Help > Updates.

Note: Photoshop 13.1 is only available through Adobe Creative Cloud. In addition to updating directly from Photoshop, Creative Cloud gives you the option of updating through Adobe Application Manager (the utility that lets you install and update all Adobe Creative Cloud software).

Changes to Photoshop zoom levels due to HiDPI/Retina display support

There are some UI changes that aren’t discussed in the announcement. In previous versions of Photoshop, the magnification commands in the View menu and the Options bar buttons for the Zoom tool included Actual Size and Print Size. In the HiDPI/Retina-optimized versions of Photoshop, those two commands have been removed and replaced by the 100% and 200% magnification commands.

Removing Actual Size makes some sense, since it was confusing: Actual Size was physically different depending on the display you were using and the resolution at which it was set. That was because Actual Size really meant a 1:1 ratio between a image pixel and a display pixel, and that made Actual Size an inaccurate description from the start. For example, if you opened a 24-megapixel digital camera image and displayed it at Actual Size, it really wasn’t actual size to two primary groups of users. If you’re a web designer, that 24-megapixel “actual size” image is unusable because you can only see a tiny part on screen and the edges are way off the screen. If you’re a print designer, “actual size” would mean to display the real-world size of the image at the effective output resolution (such as 8×10 inches at 300 dpi), not how Photoshop shows “actual size.” It seems that Adobe thought about this at the same time they were wrestling with HiDPI/Retina scaling issues.

The Print Size command had a similar problem in that for it to be accurate, you had to have first entered the correct Screen Resolution in the Preferences dialog box in Photoshop. And it was never obvious that you had to make that adjustment for it to work right. This basically meant that neither Actual Size nor Print Size did what a new Photoshop user would expect them to, and it also meant Print Size was one Photoshop command that never, ever worked right the first time. These issues are now compounded by the way HiDPI/Retina display resolutions throw out the old resolution model, reflected in part by the new scaling choices available in OS X in the Displays preference. (You might understand this issue a little better if you work in prepress or develop for HiDPI mobile devices, since in both cases one pixel “unit” can represent more than one device pixel.) While a lot of people miss the Print Size command, I can understand why it got canned.

The bottom line is that if you used to use Actual Size, you should now use 100% instead, with the following Adobe note in mind (this is from the FAQ linked earlier):

Retina displays use a higher pixel density than a normal monitor. The individual display pixels are approximately one half the size of previous devices. While working in Photoshop before installing the 13.1/13.0.2 update, as with any other non-Retina optimized application, the number of pixels used is doubled to give a normal, non-miniaturized appearance. This can cause applications to be slightly blurred or pixilated. Thus, when viewing images in Photoshop, the zoom level is effectively double whatever is displayed. At 100% zoom, the image is displayed so that every one image pixel is shown with four display pixels, the same as viewing the image at 200%. With the 13.1/13.0.2 update, Photoshop now displays natively on Retina screens, meaning that image pixels now appear at the much smaller Retina size, thus reducing the amount of screen space they take up when viewed at 100%.

OK, so what do you do if you used to use Print Size? Users are trying to come up with workarounds (the discussion is in this Adobe Forums post, Zoom to ‘Print Size’ feature completely removed from Photoshop 13.0.2. In that thread (see post #13), Adobe engineer Chris Cox said they’re looking for a way to replace Print Size if they can come up with something more workable than they had. For now, Print Size is harder to use than the old way, but for perspective, properly configuring Print Size was never intuitive or obvious in the first place.

Personally, I believe the industry should have a way for monitors to communicate not only the pixel dimensions of the panel as they do now, but also the physical height and width of that panel so that software can automatically work out how to scale content so that one inch displayed by the software equals one inch in the real world. There’s already a way to do something similar in color management, where a color profile tells software how a particular display represents color so that software can automatically compensate and display color precisely. The question is whether the industry will ever decide that display size profiling is a priority.

Creative Cloud controversy and an ominous side effect for educators

Based on the comments in Adobe blog posts and forums, some users are reacting negatively to the way Creative Cloud partitions the availability of new features. The Adobe position is that those new features would normally not be available for free before CS7 due to various issues (including the revenue recognition regulations that also affected some OS X updates that Apple charged for), which means purchasers of perpetual (traditional) licenses are actually not getting new features later than they normally would have. While this may be true, people aren’t happy to see others getting new stuff that isn’t available to them. Adobe may intend for users to see Creative Cloud “exclusive” features as value added to their subscriptions, but many users outside Creative Cloud are perceiving this approach as “excluding” committed customers from features of a product they feel they have fully paid for. It will be interesting to see how this is handled.

There’s something else I’ve started to realize. If certain new features are available only to Creative Cloud members, this has definite implications for anyone whose job depends on keeping their Adobe software competency up to date. In the past, it was possible to buy an Adobe application and assume you were current for no extra charge until the next major update. But with feature-enhanced subscriptions such as Creative Cloud, if you are a Photoshop educator/trainer or author, or if it’s your responsibility to provide Photoshop support to an enterprise or other organization, you have to subscribe to Creative Cloud so that you’re always ready to answer any question that might come from your clients. If you stick to the perpetual license version, you may encounter Creative Cloud clients asking you about functional changes and new features you’ve never seen. So if you do that type of work and you thought you had a choice between a perpetual license and a subscription, the fact that perpetual license users will lag behind Creative Cloud members in receiving the latest enhancements means you pretty much don’t have a choice. To stay current, you will have to subscribe.


  1. Simple – Adobe could charge users a (hopefully) small fee for adding the new features before the next major release.

    1. Adobe could reduce the price for non-Cloud purchasers since they aren’t getting the complete program, or issue updates (not upgrades) so that our software is just as current as Cloud users. It sounds like a ripoff to me and I didn’t know about this. I just upgraded all of my Adobe software to CS6 and didn’t know I was getting half programs.

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