Adobe Creative Cloud Updates to Photoshop CS6: First Look
by Theano Nikitas -  12/11/2012

For legions of Photoshop users, Adobe on Tuesday unveiled its first updates to Creative Cloud services, offering new features that include retina display support, Conditional Actions, crop tool refinements and other enhancements geared to photography, design, and illustration.

When Adobe first launched Creative Suite 6 (CS6) and Creative Cloud services last April, the company promised that those who subscribed to Creative Cloud would be the first to receive updates to Adobe software, whereas all others would have to wait until the next release cycle.

Now, with the virtual release of Adobe Photoshop Version 13.1, some Photoshop users might regret not having signed up for Creative Cloud, with its long list of new and improved capabilities. Here's a first look at some of the key improvements.

Conditional Actions

Not surprisingly, both Photoshop and Illustrator now offer retina support. Although that's great but expected news, as a professional photographer, the new feature I'm most excited about is Conditional Actions. If you use Photoshop's Actions and you do a lot of (or even a little) batch processing, Conditional Actions will make your workflow much more efficient.

For example, when photographing NY Fashion Week I usually shoot in portrait orientation, but not always. At the end of, or even during, a runway show I'll sometimes flip the camera to landscape. I'll shoot both vertically and horizontally in presentations, where the models are static, just standing on a platform. Since all of my images have to be resized, I used to need sub-folders for each show -- one for vertical shots, the other for horizontal -- before using Automate Batch.

Yet with this smart, new Conditional Actions technology that utilizes logic (e.g., "if x=?, then y=?"), I no longer have to separate images by orientation to resize them. All I have to do is set up and use a single command and I'm done. That's an incredible timesaver.

Another example -- and one touted by Adobe in its press materials -- is the ability to create a command that will automatically place a watermark in the proper position for both landscape and portrait-oriented images.

There are, of course, many other applications for this extremely convenient new feature.

Return of the Resolution Box

With the revision of the crop tool, Photoshop CS6 users get back what they lost from CS5: namely the resolution box that allows you to manually enter a resolution alongside crop dimensions.

With Photoshop CS6, Adobe had removed the resolution box in an earlier attempt at "improving" the crop tool. Instead, Adobe had introduced a separate option under the aspect ratio drop down menu where you could enter height, width and resolution. Granted you could set these as a preset, but I'd found it easier to just type the resolution into the box at the top of the screen.

With version 6.1 for the Creative Cloud, that resolution box is back while dual dropdown menus (aspect ratio and size/resolution) are also available. In addition, on the toolbar, you can -- as in Photoshop CS -- select pixels or inches for your crop measurements. You can still create and save a custom crop preset, but the aspect ratio drop down now offers options, in pixels or inches, along with resolution (ppi).

Smart Object Support for Blur Gallery and Liquify

We seem to be in a bokeh-obsessed world these days and Photoshop's Blur Gallery, which allows you to selectively apply different types of blur to an image, is a great feature. But until now, if you changed your mind, the best you could do was to undo and start over again.

Now, with the Smart Object support in the Creative Cloud updates, you can make non-destructive adjustments to both Blur Gallery and Liquify. In Blur Gallery, too, you can apply blur to specific areas of a video and have these extend to all frames rather than just a single frame.

The Smart Object support also means that you can go back and edit the Blur and Liquify adjustments you made in the past.

Features for Design and Graphic Arts

These last features and enhancements are more in the realm of design and graphic art than photography. but we thought it important to briefly mention them here.

For one thing, if you use Photoshop for mockups, a Copy CSS command will now allow you to copy (into the clpboard) and paste it into a code editor. Also, you can now seamlessly load color swatches from HTML and CSS files.

A new Default Type Styles now allows users to save those type styles and then open them again in a document.

Finally, there are a number of improvements to the 3D features in Photoshop CS6 Extended, giving 3D designers and artists more options and increased control.