Adobe improves Photoshop's aware-ness and doubles down on Stock

New features include face-aware Liquify and content-aware crop, plus curated Adobe Stock options.

One somewhat notable new feature is the ability to select text in a photo and match the font. It doesn't work very well, unfortunately.

Lori Grunin/CNET

If there's an overarching theme to the set of new capabilities in Photoshop CC 2015.5 and Creative Cloud, it's efficiency. There's little here that you couldn't do before, but Adobe's concentrated on reducing the number of clicks required to produce results and speeding up aspects of Photoshop. It also includes the continuation of its aggressive push to attract designers to Adobe Stock by making it a lot easier to incorporate into a workflow. The company also announced the availability of the updated versions of its video applications that were announced in April.

The most high-profile addition to Photoshop is Content-Aware Crop, which Adobe sneak-previewed earlier. You can get the same results with the earlier version of Photoshop -- rotate, crop, expand the canvas, select the new area and content-aware fill it -- but Adobe has compressed that entire process into a single content-aware check box as a property of the crop tool. It's really useful when it works, or when the fill area is relatively small or when you don't care that much about the edges of the frame. I'm sure we'll get to see a whole new set of Photoshop of Horrors thanks to this.

The second of the streamlined operations is the process of retouching faces with the Liquify warp tool. There's now a face-aware mode that automatically parses facial features and then serves up warping tools customized and simplified for editing them.

And the final "major" new feature continues Adobe's trend of parceling up Photoshop into task-specific spaces, like Design Space (still in preview). This time it's Selection and Masking space, which really does deserve the abbreviation "S&M"; it still is a really painful task, despite all the work Adobe has put into making it easier. Adobe took most of its selection tools and the Refine Edge functions and gave them their own workspace; the basic tools can still operate within the main window. There's also a new onion skin view.

One somewhat notable new feature is the ability to select text in a photo and match the font. It doesn't work very well, unfortunately. As usual, there are performance enhancements, bug fixes, enhanced support for some file formats and subtle improvements throughout the application, including faster startup and file open and fixes for various graphics-card crashes and bugs.

There are two components in the latest push of Adobe Stock, the company's royalty-free asset-licensing service. On one hand, the company has worked on decreasing the friction of using it. There's more integration with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign as well as with Creative Cloud libraries: it's easier to search, download and license from within the applications, and you can now download directly into Photoshop. It will also be able to autotag on upload, for improved findability.

The other move is segmenting the service into two tiers, starting with photography. The basic tier will contain all the bland, bad or cheesy images which you can license for between $10 and $80. (Seriously, I looked at every piece of vector cat artwork in Stock and ended up creating more useful ones myself, and I'm completely awful at drawing). The new Premium tier will contain curated collections of better, more interesting and better-executed images that won't make you look like a broke animal rescue, priced between $100 and $500.