The first thing you notice with Photoshop CS6 is the new Interface look. All symbols and icons also have a new look. Background Preferences offers four levels of brightness.
Tools such as Marquees and Crop show dimensions and angles as you drag the cursor.
The Brush tool comes with a quick and easy keystroke action to change size and hardness.
Hidden from view is a faster Mercury Graphics Engine so even a modest computer should see improved performance.
A real bonus is Auto-recover. Images are saved continuously in the background and if the programme or computer crashes, an image is recovered automatically. Great for when you have forgotten to save an image for the previous hour.
Content-Aware Move Tool
Content-Aware functions have been expanded in the Content-Aware Move Tool.
It has two modes. With Move, an object can be placed in a new position and it will blend in. With Extend, objects can be expanded or contracted; they are not strectched but new content is created from the existing content.
The Patch Tool also has a Content-Aware option which makes it more versatile for replacing unwanted content with nearby content seamlessly.
The new Crop Tool provides a better visual display of cropped areas. Cropping can be nondestructive allowing the user to go back and make further changes without having to start again.
As well as cropping with the Rule of Thirds, there is a grid for the Golden Ratio. Golden section principles can be overlaid with a ratio, spiral, diagonal or triangle.
Perspective is adjusted with the new Perspective Control Tool.
Character and Paragraph now have their own style panels. The characteristics of letters, words and sentences can be recorded as styles just like in word processing programmes. Change the style and all text where the style is already applied will be updated.
Contact Sheet 11
The function to make a contact sheet of images was dumped a couple of upgrades back, while PDF Presentation was moved to Bridge. They are both back in Photoshop CS6 and are more convenient to use - goody.
There are several improvements which are more useful for artists and illustrators.
The settings in Color Dynamics will adjust colour automatically as you brush.
Better stroke and fill functions on the vector Shape tools.
Easy ways to make lines with dashes and dots.
Brushes come with more functions, such as Pose with tilt and rotation.
The erodible brush replicates the tip of a pencil or pastel as it wears down and changes shape.
An image of the brush is displayed and changes with every change in the brush.
Layers can be filtered according to function, but this is an item that can only appeal to professionals working with dozens of layers, where they want to separate all the Text layers or all the vector stroke layers.
The Animations panel has been rebranded the Timeline in Photoshop CS6 and comes with video editing. Neat movies can be made by combining video clips and adding transitions and separate audio tracks.
Correcting wide-angle lenses
Filter > Adaptive Wide Angle will straighten curved lines resulting from panoramas and very wide-angle images. Draw a line across the curve and it snaps straight. A whole cityscape of can have all the curviture removed and the buildings made rectangular.
Gaussian blur comes with three new blur applications. Blur points can be applied to an image to create blur in very precise spots on the image. With Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt Blur, the differential focus of cameras and lenses can be replicated.
With it, are controls for the Bokeh effect, which is the bright circle of confusions seen when point sources of light are out of focus.
The Basic sliders have been redesigned making them more logical and more powerful.Curves can be adjusted in separate channels.
The Lighting Effects filter has be upgraded. It now works on 16 Bit images. The preview is on the image itself and new controls give a much improved result.
Selection by Color Range has a new choice - selection by skin tone. A selection can be narrowed down to include only a face or areas of skin.
The Auto options for Curves and Levels for Photoshop CS6 are said to be much improved, for people who don't know how to do it properly.
Oil Paint Filter
CS5 had the additional plug-in ofPixelBender and the Oil Paint filter has found a permanent place in the Filter menu.
With a range of settings available, a classic painting look can be given to a photograph.
Is Photoshop CS6 Worth Buying?
With any upgrade I usually say the same thing - go for every second upgrade at the most. A number of the changes will only be of interest to illustrators and drawers rather than photographers.
If you already have CS5, some photographers might find there is not enough new to justify the purchase.
A note of caution, however; it is rumoured that in the future it will only be possible to upgrade one level and if you are two levels behind, then it will be necessary to buy the whole programme again at full price.