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Creative Suite 3 Review

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by , 10th April 2008 at 03:57 PM (2224 Views)

I know its a pain for us a network admins, but the software itself is actually quite impressive.

Photoshop is now seventeen years old. Yes, Seventeen.

I first started using photoshop at version 5, and its useablility and stability shocked me then. I've upgraded to every new version as soon as I've been able to, and I've never been disappointed.

Until CS2.

CS2, to me, felt like a stop gap. CS1 allowed much greater cross application functionality, and many new and easier ways of working than 7 or its predeccssors did, yet CS2 did little to expand upon these.

The only major difference for me was that you were able to select multiple layers, rather than having to link them (something which should have been a feature from the word go). Other than that it was a bit of a let down, so I was apprehensive to upgrade to CS3 (my home machine still isn't).

Now, around 4 months ago, the bursar decided I could purchase the iMac I'd be pestering her for, especially as I was going to be responsible for almost all the schools design and promotional material.

It seemed like the perfect time to test two things which were new to me, CS3 and Leopard (which I'll reveiw soon).

Now, one big difference between between CS3 and all other versions is the number of different packages availble (they seem to have gone the vista route of offering a million options).

so was it going to be design standard, web extended, or one of the many other options? In the end I plumped for the master collection - as I'd be working with web, print and video for my various projects. This desicion was helped in no small part by the fact I could purchase it from my LEA for under £450, a sizeable saving on the £2,034.96 list price (Amazon, and don't even get me started on how the price is the same in dollars and pounds.....).

So after a HUAGE install (24-odd Gb) I was ready to go. So I boot up the old trusty photoshop, and a big shock is there.

The first MAJOR interface and menu design change in YEARS!

Tools are now stacked in these "tabs" and it leaves you with a much larger space for your canvas, multiple windows, etc.

Getting used to that for me wasn't such an issue, as I mostly use keyboard shortcuts in PS anyway, however I imagine a user who was more used to the CS1 or 2 way of working may have a couple of issues adjusting, but we'll find that out soon enough when I put CS3 on the art departments mac's.

As for new tools and toys, the new quick selection tool is one snazzy asset.

Think like a more intelligent magic wand, you can click over an area and it'll make an educated guess at what you wanted. another click will add the next section, a press with alt depressed with remove a section.

the further you get into selecting your object, the better it gets at anticipating what you want to select.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but I've almost (i say, almost) stopped using the quick mask as my selection tool of choice.

Smart objects and smart filters are two other great new features..

Smart Objects isn't really a new feature (they were present in CS2), but in CS3 they're now much more useable, and not hidden away under a plethora of menus.

Now, when you import, place or paste an object, it gives you the option of importing the object as a smart object.

One very good thing you can do with a smart object is the new stack feature.

Say you producing a HDR (high dynamic range) image, and have taken three images of a building to produce this. if the images were slightly differently aligned (your tripod moved, or you weren't using one), you would have had to crop, move and generally fiddle until the images were properly aligned.

With stacks, photoshop can do this for you. Stack the images up, and you can align them so that photoshop looks for matching lines and shapes and makes sure all the images in a stack match up to the same height, shape, etc.

I've also seen this used to remove people from a scene, if you've taken a number of pictures of a building, and want to take out the crowds, you can stack the images up and use the erase function on various layers to get the sections you want visible.

Smart Objects have another new facility in the form of Smart Filters. Smart Filters allow you to apply any type of Photoshop filter to a Smart Object nondestructively, as in you don't permanently destroy any pixel data. As with Adjustment Layers, Smart Filters have a built-in layer mask that lets you easily constrain the effects of the Smart Filter to localized areas of the Smart Object.

now, these smart filters can't be used with the brush or simliar tools, they have a bit of a learning curve, and can be quite fiddly - but used properly can be highly effective.

I've only really concentrated on photoshop here, but the whole CS3 range has impressed me. especially the integration (3d data from Photoshop's vanishing point tool can be taken straight into after effects and used to create 3d flythroughs, for example).

On the whole, I'd say Photoshop CS3 is absolutely worth getting. I've found it's made me far quicker, and I enjoy working with it far more. It also helps that the mac version is optomised for intel processors.

However the price tag for the mastercollection puts it too high for most people. I certainly wouldn't get it for home at full price (i'm going to see if I can qualify for the student edition though)

I hope soon to do a review of Aftereffects/Premiere CS3, as these are two of the other applications which have really impressed me in the new package.

Ciao for now....

Updated 10th April 2008 at 04:00 PM by Domino




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