Adobe Photoshop 6

by Joe Gillespie — Dec 1, 2000

Photoshop 6 Cover Image

I am always very wary of software upgrades that just bolt-on new features without tackling inherent weaknesses. I certainly can’t say that of Photoshop 6. This time round, Adobe have added some very welcome improvements in addition to the new features which all goes to bolster its kingpin position in the image editing market.

In earlier versions, adding text to images had almost been an afterthought, with a clumsy text entry dialog box and the inability to address text at a character level. In Photoshop 6, text is at last (hooray) editable in position on the screen. Even individual characters can have different typestyles or colours and the ability to fine-tune spacing and kerning brings Photoshop nearer to Illustrator standards from a typographic point of view.

Text is now handled as vectors and can be edited using the path tools, although I must admit that I still prefer to do this in Illustrator for speed and precision.

There is a set of preset (but modifiable) type distortions to give all kinds of curves and swirl effects - fun certainly, but how useful they will be remains to be seen.

Anyone who has used Photoshop as a drawing tool in the past will have been frustrated with the difficulty of drawing something even as simple as a round-cornered rectangle.

The new shape drawing tool draws as paths or as bitmaps by simple clicking and dragging. A pop-up dialog contains many pre-defined shapes but you can also produce your own with the path tool and save them as custom shapes for later use. Even better, vector graphics pasted-in as paths from Illustrator can be saved as custom shapes too, so often-used logos can be called up in a second and rasterised at the required size - a much better solution than resizing bit-maps.

If you don’t have the luxury of a multiple monitor set-up, Photoshop’s many floating palettes can very quickly get out of hand and clutter-up the working screen.

The options palette has been changed to a thin, horizontal, context sensitive toolbar along the top of the screen. As you select tools from the tool palette, all the variations are now visible and within easy reach up there.

On the right size there is a blank grey rectangle to which you can drag often-used palette tabs where they then become drop-down palettes. Getting rid of the floating palettes from the screen certainly frees-up some useful elbow room.

A rethink of the layer effects facility appears in the ‘styles’ palette. Not a new idea by any means, but these styles are preset layer effects that you can apply to layers, shapes or text giving lots of shadow, glow, fill and stroke effects instantly. Unlike filters, these effects always remain editable afterwards, so if a shadow is too strong, for instance, it can be lightened at a later date.

Because layers now have linked sub-layers and each effect is on a separate sub-layer, it is easy to tweak one aspect of an effect leaving others unchanged.

For Web designers, the distinction between Photoshop and ImageReady is becoming increasingly blurred. First of all, ImageReady was a separate product, then it came bundled with Photoshop 5.5. Now, ImageReady 3 and Photoshop 6 have so many commonalities, I don’t see why it is not just folded-in totally, it would save all the switching back and forward. Photoshop can now handle all the Web graphics formats and the slicing and dicing, there seems to be less reason to go into ImageReady.

Further duplication happens in Photoshop’s ‘Save as’ and ‘Save for Web’ file menu items. Is there really any point in having two different ways to save GIFs, JPEGs and PNGs? JPEGs can now be saved at a higher quality than before, level 12, but doing so increases the file size too, of course.

Photoshop has come a long way from its photo-retouching origins. Almost all of its new features are aimed at extending creative design possibilities, especially for Web designers. Unless you only use Photoshop to fix wayward scans, version 6 is a very worthwhile upgrade.

Adobe Photoshop 6
Features red bar95%
Ease of Use yellow bar95%
Value for Money green bar90%
'Must Have' Factor blue bar95%
Manufacturer Adobe
Price $609 Upgrade $199 (Mac/Win )
Summary Photoshop just goes from strength to strength.
Del.icio.us Digg Technorati Blinklist Furl reddit Design Float