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Adobe lights a Fuse with its Photoshop updates for November

A lot of small tweaks to Photoshop and Adobe's first outing for its Fuse people-modeling and compositing technology debut.

Adobe Premiere Clip also makes its Android debut.
Lori Grunin/CNET

Early December brings several holiday gifts for Creative Cloud users. The video application features announced at the beginning of September should start appearing in your update notifications, and the Android version of Adobe Premiere Clip also rears its head in the Google Play store. It's free but you have to sign up for an Adobe account (as many commenters complain).

The whizziest new reveal for Photoshop this go round comes from Adobe's acquisition of Mixamo last June, an integration of that company's Poser-like application Fuse for building 3D people which you then animate and composite within Photoshop. Adobe Fuse debuts in "preview" -- Adobe-speak for what is generally called public beta.

New Photoshop capabilities include the return of the Oil Paint filter; more font filtering in the type panel; a host of new document presets to reflect an expanded set of output devices; a Graphic and Web workspace that doesn't really look that to me. There are also a lot of little changes to existing features designed to streamline the use of artboards and the Export As replacement for Save to Web that Adobe previously introduced.

The most noticeable aspect of this version is the continued flattening of the interface, making it look more like a mobile application than desktop software. There are now onscreen keyboard modifiers -- Shift, Control and Alt -- it defaults to larger tabs along the top, and the web-and-tablet optimized Design Space is no longer in preview. If you hit Control/Command-F you'll be able to search for specific tools and layers within it. And yippee, Adobe now supports customizable toolsets in the tool bar.

When Adobe introduced the real-time healing brush in the last update, a lot of angry users complained about "slug trails," or brush outlines appearing in the healed areas. A new diffusion setting which adjusts how quickly the blend occurs ostensibly fixes that; I couldn't verify since I couldn't reproduce the slug trails.

Adobe has also tried to flatten the learning curve of libraries, though I'm not sure they're all that hard to figure out. You can create a library from an existing document, and when you paste in an Illustrator object it can automatically turn it into a linked object; unfortunately, it's a bitmap, which means you still have to edit the original in Illustrator. I really would like it to bring Illustrator text in as text, shapes in as shapes, and so on. There's now cross-library search -- yay! -- and you can add brushes to the library and drag from layers.

Artboards gain some much-needed capabilities, including locking guides to a specific artboard, improved alignment handling, the ability to lock individual artboards, and easy board duplication.

The type interface has some nice additions, including filtering by class, similarity or favorites. An updated Glyphs palette has more Designer favorites for a given font, and a very useful recently used list. You can also set x-y coordinates for a type layer.

Export As can export multiple sizes simultaneously, export multiple individual assets and layers via the layers palette, and you can directly open and place SVG files.

Fuse is still rough around the edges and looks less like an Adobe application than it should, but given that the acquisition happened less than 6 months ago, I'm impressed with the integration they achieved so quickly. In the Fuse application you assemble a person from body parts, customize their physical appearance (skin tones, muscularity, hair, so on) clothe them from modifiable presets, and change and adjust the textures for all the clothing. You either upload to Mixamo for animating, as before, or add it to a library to bring it into Photoshop.

In Photoshop you apply preset poses and animations (you have limited ability to modify these), and composite them into your documents. You can apply all the the lighting and texture adjustments that have been available in the 3D workspace for a while, with every Fuse texture available for painting and so on. It's potentially really powerful as well as fun to play with, though there's a lot in both that will probably bewilder some newbies.