Adobe Photoshop CC 14.2: Perspective warp, linked Smart Objects, 3D printing, better Mac performance

Photoshop CC iconAdobe Creative Cloud icon

Adobe Photoshop CC 14.2 is an update not to be ignored, especially if you use it on a Mac. You’ll get it either for the features or for the performance. The new features include Perspective Warp, linked Smart Objects, and 3D printing support. Performance enhancements include initial support for the GPU in the 2013 Mac Pro, and a fix that prevents OS X App Nap from slowing down Photoshop when it’s in the background.

This article covers some of the highlights from my point of view. For a link to several informative Adobe articles with videos, to learn how Adobe is resetting the clock on the trial version, and to learn how to get the update, skip down to the end of this post.

Adobe Illustrator CC and Adobe InDesign CC also received updates today.

Perspective Warp

Already demonstrated by Adobe in a “sneak peek” without being tied to a specific future version, Perspective Warp is officially part of Photoshop CC 14.2. Photoshop already has several ways to handle perspective. For many years people simulated perspective using the Crop tool to create a crude 2D warp. More recently, the Lens Correction filter lets you alter perspective of an entire image. But where the point of Lens Correction is to compensate for unwanted distortion, Perspective Warp is more of a creative tool that you can use to alter the perspective of parts of an image instead of the whole thing while keeping it believable. For example, it you want to composite two images in one document but their perspectives are different, you could use Perspective Warp to make the perspective of both images consistent. Here’s an Adobe video demonstrating Perspective Warp.

Linked Smart Objects

While Smart Objects bring a lot of power and flexibility to image editing, there’s always been the potential to use them for the types of documents you can build with Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign, where imported content can be linked (to a file outside the document) instead of embedded in the document, and that content is easily replaced by pointing the link to a different file on disk. But up until now that potential has not been realized because Smart Objects could only be embedded.

The new File > Place Linked command in Photoshop 14.2 changes all that. Using that command adds the content to a Photoshop document as a linked Smart Object. It has the usual attributes of a Smart Object, but it lives outside the Photoshop file and is easy to manage. There is no Links panel as you would find in InDesign or Illustrator, but  the Layers panel now displays the status of linked Smart Objects. When a linked Smart Object layer is selected, the Properties panel gives you information about that object along with options for managing it, including a Reveal command so you can find the file on the desktop, update the content if the disk file has been modified, and replace the contents with a different file.

There are those who may wish for a full Links panel, but I can understand why Adobe didn’t add one. A Photoshop document is only one page, so typically there are relatively few Smart Objects to manage. Illustrator can have multiple artboards and InDesign can have up to hundreds of pages, so a full Links panel for those two applications makes more sense because many more objects are likely to be imported into them.

If you use a lot of Smart Objects, linked Smart Objects could potentially reduce the size of a Photoshop file by a significant amount compared to embedded Smart Objects. Photoshop templates that use placeholders are going to be a lot easier to work with now. In addition, if you manage photos or other files using LIghtroom or Bridge and place them as linked Smart Objects in Photoshop, when you edit those files outside of Photoshop (e.g., in Lightroom) you will now find it much easier to update them inside a Photoshop document. That’s a big reason that Linked Smart Objects is my favorite new feature in Photoshop 14.2.

3D printing support

I don’t do much with 3D but another major feature in Photoshop 14.2 is the introduction of support for 3D printing. If you bring 3D models into Photoshop to touch them up, you can print them to devices such as the MakerBot Replicator or to the Shapeways printing service. Adobe talks about it in more detail in the following article.

Photoshop CC Gets Physical: 3D Printing in Just One Click

Mac Pro (2013) support and OS X performance optimization

Adobe claims that Photoshop CC 14.2 supports the powerful GPUs in that mysterious black cylinder, the 2013 Mac Pro. Before you get too excited, read the fine print in Jeff Tranberry’s article (Photoshop CC 14.2 Update). Photoshop 14.2 can fully use one of the two FirePro GPUs in the Mac Pro, but not both (yet). Note that not everything in Photoshop lends itself to GPU acceleration, and some operations can be accelerated more than others. Adobe points out that even just one of the Mac Pro GPUs is more powerful than the GPU in any other Mac. (Similarly, while Adobe Premiere Pro CC now supports both 2013 Mac Pro GPUs for rendering, it doesn’t yet support both for previewing.)

Another performance optimization in Photoshop 14.2 has to do with OS X App Nap, a technology that tries to halt background processes to save battery life and hand over more resources to a foreground application. Unfortunately, as reported by Mac Performance Guide, App Nap was slowing down Photoshop when it was not in the foreground. Adobe now suppresses App Nap for Photoshop so that it runs at full speed at all times. They do not mention whether this is switchable.

Other (but not all) new features and enhancements

Adobe claims that Smart Sharpen is accelerated by supported GPUs more than it was before.

When you choose Edit > Fill, try some of the new additions to the Scripted Patterns option at the bottom of the Fill dialog box. For example, you can generate a range of trees by choosing the Tree script and playing with the settings.

Scripted fill: Tree

When I first wrote about Adobe Generator, I mentioned that there was no way to specify padding or export the entire canvas of a layer. Adobe notes that in 14.2 “Generator can export padding in image assets by using layer masks. Sounds promising, I just haven’t tried it out yet.

You now get up to 10 color samplers, the ability to edit all color samples in the Info panel at once, and a new Clear All option to remove them all at once.

Now there’s a one-click way to unlock a background layer. Just click the lock icon on it!

More details from Adobe

Adobe just published several articles about the new features in Photoshop CC 14.2. Here are links to them. The first two are the most important if you want a complete list of what’s in the update.

Introducing New Features in Photoshop CC (14.2)

Photoshop CC 14.2 Update – JDI features, Mac Pro/OS X 10.9 compatibility and notable bug fixes

How to adjust perspective in a photo (Perspective Warp)

Photoshop CC Gets Physical: 3D Printing in Just One Click

Photoshop Help / What’s New in Photoshop CC (January 2014)

How to get the update

To update from Photoshop, start Photoshop CC and choose Help > Updates.


To update through Adobe Creative Cloud: Start Adobe Creative Cloud if it isn’t running, and it should indicate that an update is available for Adobe Photoshop CC.

Bonus! Trial version reset

In the Introducing New Features article by Adobe that’s linked above, Adobe mentions that they are resetting the trial period for Photoshop. This is pretty significant for those who haven’t tried Photoshop in a while. Normally, once you’ve used a trial version you can never use it again on the same computer after the trial period is up. With Photoshop 14.2, anyone can now use it for 30 days even if they had already tried it before. From the article (bold formatting is by Adobe):

We want everyone to have a chance to try out these new features, as well as other features like Adobe Generator, which was introduced last September with the release of Photoshop CC version 14.1, and those released in the first version of Photoshop CC (version 14). We are excited to announce that we are resetting the trial clock for everyone today. Even if you have previously tried Photoshop CC and your trial has expired, now you can try the latest version of Photoshop CC for an additional 30 days and test-drive these awesome new features.

Discover better photos by getting high (or low)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing a subject, shooting at eye level, and simply moving on; I have to remember to break out of that habit all the time. Walking past a building site the other night, I was intrigued by the color and perspective of the green pipes they brought in. The way the pipes leaned out over the new walls looked like a battleship gun Terry Gilliam would dream up. The eye-level shot I took really didn’t do anything for me and I deleted it, but I really wanted to make the shot work. I remembered to try pushing the pipes up into the sky or down into the ground simply by moving the camera up and down. As a result, I got two shots I liked a whole lot more than the eye-level shot.

Fire Station 21 pipes looking up

Fire station pipes looking down

For the first shot I lowered the camera to about a foot off the ground, and for the second shot I raised the camera as far up as my arms could reach. That simple 6-foot difference produced two noticeably different images.

What the photos don’t show is the chain-link fence around the building site. To make the fence disappear, I moved the camera right up to the fence and shot through it. The fence turned out to be more of a help than a hindrance, because I was able to brace the camera on the fence with both hands to steady a long exposure enough for the camera’s image stabilization to be able to make up the difference. This was made easier because I was shooting with my pocket camera, a Panasonic DMC-LX3 set to shoot raw at ISO 1600. If it had been an SLR, I wouldn’t have been able to rest the entire lens inside one of the chain link holes.

It was the screen on the back of the camera that let me compose the shots without having to lie on the wet ground or finding a ladder. There’s a rather significant group of photographers that’s devoted to the optical viewfinder, and they tend to take a dim view of shooting with any electronic viewfinder. These two shots are examples of why I don’t agree with them. On the camera screen I was able to compose and check the composition at the edges, level (with the help of the on-screen grid option), and check exposure with the help of the histogram and clipping display, and I could do it with the camera at an odd angle far from my face. Being able to read the screen from a distance freed me up to create two very different compositions from the same spot on the sidewalk.

When processing the shot later in Lightroom 3.3, noise reduction, Clarity, and Vibrance were very helpful in cleaning up the image and punching up the color and local contrast. High ISO shadows can be a little purple on this camera, so I reduced the purple saturation in the Hue/Saturation/Lightness panel.