In just a few short weeks, Photoshop CS5, the latest iteration of Adobe's wildly successful image-editing software, will be arriving in the UK. To whet your appetite, we present for your delectation a quick run-through of three new additions to the software that really set CS5 apart from the competition.
Click through the photos to see why the Puppet Warp, Mixer Brush and astonishing Content-Aware Fill features caused us to suffer a serious mindsplosion.
A photo credit for the farm picture used in this article goes to Flickr user Nic's events.
Now you can see Photoshop has placed a mesh grid over Rich's layer. By clicking on the grid, we can add pins to the mesh that act as joints, or hinges. As you can see, we've placed them over Rich's points of articulation. Now, if we click and drag those pins, we can warp our puppet into any shape we like.
Here you see the result -- Rich dancing his heart out. As you can see, we're not quite experts at using this tool yet, but, as we explore the various options and menus, our warping proficiency will only increase.
Another feature new to Photoshop CS5 is the Mixer Brush tool. This gives users a realistic virtual paintbrush that blends colours dynamically as you paint. You can tinker with just about every aspect of this feature -- from customising the amount of paint on your brush, to changing the degree to which colours will run into each other.
Also new is the Bristle Tips feature, which gives your brush strokes an extra-realistic touch.
The masterpiece you see above was created in a few seconds, by making some sweeping brush strokes and alternating between red and yellow paint. You can see where the colours have blended together, and where yellow paint left over on the virtual brush has led to streaks of yellow in our red brush strokes.
Creating artwork from scratch using Photoshop's brush tools is a popular pursuit among digital artists. The addition of dynamic colour mixing increases the potential of this kind of creativity, and does a fantastic job of enabling you to emulate the look and feel of a real-life painting. Plus, you don't have to lay down any newspaper before you get started.
Content-Aware Fill is easily the most exciting new feature on show. In previous versions of Photoshop, when you wanted to remove something from a photo, you had to select it, delete it and then painstakingly fill in the empty gap using whatever tools you could think of.
With Content-Aware Fill, this task is made much easier. For example, take a look at this lovely countryside scene. Unfortunately, it's full of pesky farm animals that must be eliminated.
When you make a selection using Content-Aware Fill, Photoshop will look at the surrounding area and guess what you would rather have in its place. Here we're making a loose selection around those meddlesome animals, and selecting 'Fill' from the right-click menu.
Poof! Content-Aware Fill has removed the goat, and filled in the space with flowery grass. It took less than 5 seconds, and the result looks fantastic. Now we're going to do the same for the other animals in this scene.
Perfect -- no more animals ruining this otherwise tranquil scene. Also note that Content-Aware Fill has managed to keep that middle-ground fence intact, while removing the beasties completely.
Now that we have a taste for photo manipulation, however, we're going to try removing that fence in the foreground.
Add a few aesthetic touches by tweaking the high dynamic range, whack in a logo, and we've built a wonderful little tribute to everyone's favourite tech site. The total time taken to make this photo so beautiful was 8 minutes.
The bad news is that, if you want to get your hands on all these tasty features, you'll have to pay around £650 for the Photoshop CS5 software, or £190 for an upgrade version.
Your wallet is unlikely to thank you, but, if you're a design professional, Photoshop CS5 may well prove an essential purchase. It packs a huge amount of functionality into a fairly nimble piece of software, and its exciting, time-saving features will keep Adobe ahead of the competition for the foreseeable future.
Photoshop CS5 will be available in the UK on Mac and PC from early May.