Every web designer is taught to enter colors in hexadecimal values like #47B56C, but hex code can be like an alien language compared to the traditional RGB and CMYK color values that are familiar to photographers, videographers, and print designers. Luckily, entering colors using simpler RGB values is allowed in CSS, and it’s easy to do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Adobe said that moving to Creative Cloud would enable more frequent updates with new features, and so far that seems to be the case. Adobe Photoshop CC 14.1 is now out with various enhancements and fixes, including the ability to automatically export layers as web-optimized assets using the new Adobe Generator feature. Generator may simplify your workflow if you use Photoshop to design user interfaces for screen-based projects such as web sites, games, and mobile apps.
For a link to the full list of changes and to learn how to get the update, skip down to the end of this post.
The basic idea behind Generator is that you can have Photoshop export individual layers for on-screen assets like buttons and menus without having to slice or go through Save for Web. How you name a layer determines whether it exports automatically, and how it exports. For example, if you name a layer “200×100 button.jpg6” you’ll get a file called “button.jpg” that’s 200×100 pixels and exported to JPEG format at the quality level of 6. (Layer groups and smart objects work too.) Whenever you edit a layer named for automatic generation, Photoshop exports them in real time and in the background so you never have to see an export dialog box. Not only can Generator save time and mouse clicks, but the silent background exporting means that you can keep your mind continuously focused on design instead of having your train of thought interrupted by production chores and dialog boxes. The exported files end up in a folder at the same level as the original layered document.
Here’s an Adobe introduction to Generator:
Note: A number of web sites say that to enable Generator you should choose File > Generate > Image Assets. What some don’t mention is that if the Generate command is unavailable (dimmed on the File menu), go into Preferences, click Plug-ins, and turn on Enable Generator.
In this release Generator is not yet ideal. For example, while you can assign a scaling factor to export assets for Retina/HiDPI displays, there are reports that scaling does not take advantage of additional resolution that may be available in Smart Objects. Also, assets appear to be exported only to the bounds of non-transparent objects, with no provision for padding or exporting the entire canvas size of the layer.
In Generator we see two edges of the Creative Cloud sword. Great new features will roll out faster, but possibly with an iterative approach as we’ve seen with many web-based services: The initial release may be allowed to be a little rough around the edges so that the feature can be released more quickly, but for some users an incomplete implementation may be perceived as unrealized potential until a future release fully addresses their workflows. Maintaining the value of the “new features faster” aspect of Creative Cloud depends on how well each new feature rollout successfully balances the competing interests of rapid release and depth of implementation.
Generator is an interesting case because Adobe has made it open source, so if you’re a programmer you may not have to wait until the next update. Just dive right in and make the plug-in do what you want.
You can now assign a custom keyboard shortcut to enter or leave Layer Isolation Mode. Some users have asked what the shortcut is, and the answer is that you need to assign the custom shortcut you want. The reason is that all keys on the keyboard are already assigned to shortcuts, so assigning a shortcut to isolation mode means you’ll take it away from another feature. Appropriately, that decision is left to you.