My Adobe Photoshop CS4 Review

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by wgilles, Oct 20, 2008.

  1. wgilles macrumors 6502


    Feb 21, 2008
    My Adobe Photoshop CS4 Review

    First, let me say that this review will mostly cover the new features in Photoshop CS4. I am assuming that most users reading this review, at the very least, toyed around with Photoshop CS2 or CS3, the most recent versions of Photoshop. I don’t want to bore you with things you already know. Enjoy.

    Tabbed Window Interface
    The first thing I noticed when I opened my test image was the tabbed window interface, which got some criticism when early screenshots of the new CS4 layout were shown to the public. Some people didn’t like it and said it was ugly, but I think it is a welcome new feature which enhances my personal workflow. Think of the tabbed window interface as tabs in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari; you have multiple windows open at the same time, but there is no need to navigate to the window menu to change windows, you simply click on the tab you want to go to. It works the same way in CS4, if you have multiple images open you can simply click on the tab and go to the selected image. The one thing I found most useful in the new tabbed interface is comparing images; you can cascade the tabs in a variety of ways and view multiple images and even have them all scroll together (which is useful for multiple images of the same subject). Moving things between images is pretty easy in the tabbed windows. You simple select something in the first image and click and drag it over the tab of the image you want to drop it onto, it will open that tab and then just release! Easy as 1, 2, 3! I give the new tabbed window interface a 4.5/5.

    If you have OSX 10.4.11 or later or Windows Vista and a modern graphics card you can take advantage of the new OpenGL navigation interface. Adobe has added some really nice features here which make navigating around your images wonderful. The thing that I find most handy is the “birds-eye view” which is enabled when you are zoomed in on an image and it spills off the open window. For example, let’s say you are looking at a portrait and you are examining the sharpness of an eye and you want to instantly jump to the other eye. You simple hold down the H key and press down the mouse button and it will zoom out and you can drag the cursor where ever you want and it will zoom to the selected area instantly. Cool. You now “throw” your image around the screen. For example, if you are zoomed in and you want to go to the other side of the image and don’t want to use the birds-eye view, you can hold down the spacebar and quickly move the mouse and release the mouse button and it will throw the image. It’s really neat. There is also the new rotate view tool. It is under the hand tool on the tools bar and works kind of like a straightening tool. You can adjust the alignment of your image for easy editing with a brush so you don’t have to work at weird angles. It also changes the way certain tools work, for example, if you rotate an image and want to use the rectangle marquee tool, it will draw a box at the same angle as your image. See the image below for an example. Simply press the ESC key to return to normal view. I give the new OpenGL interface a 5/5.

    Bridge CS4
    Bridge CS4 has been reworked a little bit to function more like Lightroom 2. Now don’t get all nuts thinking you just spent a couple hundred bucks on Lightroom 2 and now Bridge does it all, not the case. Adobe has simple added some organizational tools to Bridge to make it easier to use for people who don’t use LR2. For example, they have added a collections panel with the ability to make quick and smart collections. They have also added some needed work to the way Bridge appears on screen. The filmstrip view can be organized in many different ways and some keyboard shortcuts have been added to make switching between workspaces quick and easy. The filter palette has been organized so it is easier to read and view. It makes sorting by filters easier than ever before. Comparing images in Bridge is now easier than ever before. The loupe in Bridge functions more smoothly and can be moved together with more than one loupe if you have to compare more than two images. See the image below for an example. Bridge has also been given several output features from Photoshop. It now has contact sheet, web site, etc. It is no longer available in Photoshop, you have to do it in Bridge. One plus of this, is that you can now choose from any font on your computer, you are no longer restricted. I give the new Bridge CS4 a 5/5.

    The Adjustments Panel
    I happen to think this is one of the best things Adobe has done in CS4. I know a lot of you are going to disagree with me and say that it is too small and compact...but you must not know about the expand view button! There is no longer a pop up window when you open an adjustment layer, everything is done inside the new Adjustments Panel. Every adjustment also has some presets available in the panel and they all have their own button, which might take a little while to learn what they look like. You can click on an adjustment in the panel and it will open that adjustment in the panel and create an adjustment layer. If you feel that it is too small and you need to see more, click the expand view button and it will pop out and your wish is granted. Adjustments still work exactly the same except for one little difference. You can target specific color ranges to adjust. Lightroom 2 had this feature when it launched and I think it is one of the best features. Let’s say in the image below I just want to adjust the red leaf. I can click the target adjustment button and hover over the red leaf and click and drag and it will adjust just the red leaf. This works in a variety of adjustments such as Hue/Saturation, Curves, etc. See the image below for an example. I give the new Adjustments Panel a 5/5.

    The Masks Panel
    Basically the masks panel just took all the commonly used Mask tools and put them all into one panel, which is great. They added commonly used tools like Replace Color, invert, Vector mask tools, etc to this panel to cut down on using the menus. It really just made everything easier and simpler to use, you no longer have to rely on knowing keyboard shortcuts or knowing where things where in the menus, everything is in one spot. See the image below for an example. I give the new Masks panel a 5/5.

    Smart Objects
    Not really a whole lot of new features here, just a couple fixes. You can now link smart objects and layer masks together so that they move and transform with their linked layer mask. And yes I did say transform, you can now apply transformations to smart objects. I give Smart Objects a 3.5/5

    Dodge and Burn
    This is probably one of the most improved features in CS4. They added a “Protect Tones” checkbox. This checkbox basically keeps the tool from totally washing out or blackening an image. If you have the Protect Tones checkbox on, and I recommend keeping it on forever, it will keep you from destroying pictures. If you have Lightroom 2, think of it as working as nicely as the Dodge and Burn Adjustment brush. It really works great and will not destroy your photos. The Sponge tool has also changed slightly. In the past it used to saturate dodged areas and desaturate burned areas. It works the opposite now, just a little change. I found the new dodge tool to work really well when whitening teeth. Much easier than using a layer mask. The new Dodge and Burn get a 5/5.

    New Preview functions
    This section doesn’t have to do with image preview, but rather tool preview. You can now preview and change actual brush size and hardness. Using Control+Option on a Mac and ALT on Windows you can see the actual brush size and change it by moving the mouse without actually painting anything with the brush. You can also change the hardness of a brush by using Control+Option+Command on a Mac and Shift+ALT on Windows to change the hardness. Pretty easy. You can also switch to different tools for a preview using different keyboard shortcuts. For example, let’s say you want to do a quick selection and then jump right back to the brush tool without clicking 3 different times. You can select the brush tool, then click and hold the keyboard shortcut for quick selection, which is W. You will hold the W key down and paint in your selection, once you release it, it will jump back to the brush tool automatically. There is now a preview of the Clone stamp and healing brush tool. In the past, you had to wait to actually starting painting to see what was being cloned. In CS4 it will show you a live preview before you even paint what you have cloned. This is super handy. New Preview functions get a 4/5.

    Camera RAW 5.0
    Wow. Camera RAW 5.0 has been improved a lot and it has been given a lot of new features. The two biggest improvements are the local adjustment brush and graduated filter tool. These two tools have been in Lightroom 2 since it’s launch. Basically the adjustment brush works like Dodge and Burn, but with a whole bunch of different options. You can change brightness, contrast, saturation, clarity, sharpness, color, as well as exposure with the brush. You can also turn on an auto-mask feature which will detect changes in color so you don’t overlap over something you didn’t want to paint. See below for a preview of ACR 5.0. The graduated filter does what you think it does. It adjusts exposure in certain areas of an image the way a graduated filter on your lens would work. It doesn’t work as well, but it does work! The new ACR gets a 5/5.

    Content Aware Scaling
    Everyone has heard about it and yes it is cool. It basically works by scaling small detail areas, like a blue sky, and keeping everything else the same scale. Sometimes it fails...really bad. But other times, it works great. You will kind of have to learn what types of images will work with content-aware scaling and which ones won’t. It tends to work best if you do the content-aware scale a couple times in the same image. By that I mean scale horizontal from the left a little. Hit Enter to finish, then scale from the right a little, hit enter. Then do the same for the top and bottom. I don’t know why it works better like this, but it does. It’s a cool feature, a little gimmicky, but it works great for certain types of images. The best way to see if you screwed up, is to create a second layer from the original and then once you scale, set the blend mode of the second layer to difference and move it over something that wasn’t supposed to change. Stuff that appears in black is stuff that hasn’t changed.

    Overall I feel that Adobe has added some substantial updates to Photoshop CS4 and a lot of updates to the entire CS4 library of software. They have done significant updates to ACR, especially for users who do not have or use Lightroom 2. I found almost every update to be useful and worth my time to check out. My most useful updates are the Dodge and Burn tools, ACR 5.0, and the Adjustments Panel. These updates will speed up my workflow and allow me to create more simple yet effective adjustments on my images. And the burning question you all have, "Should I spend the extra money on CS4?" Well, I would say if you have Lightroom 2, NO. If you have read this review and none of these updates impress you, then NO. But, if you have read my review and more than 2 or 3 of these updates really matter in your workflow, then yes, spend the money and upgrade or buy.
  2. mrclark321 macrumors newbie

    Oct 21, 2008
    Sarnia, Ontario
    Thanks for the review, I just purchased a 24" iMac and converted from Windows Vista. I still use my Windows based laptop and therefore had to purchase the Mac platform of CS4 and kept CS3 on my laptop so all in all it was a costly change. Still getting used to Mac as well as CS4 but really like both. I have heard some complaints about editing on the iMacs but hope this is really not an issue.

  3. emt1 macrumors 65816

    Jan 30, 2008
  4. NoSmokingBandit macrumors 68000


    Apr 13, 2008
    I love cs4 so far. I've not done alot of work in it, but i love the tabbed canvas and would like to see all programs move toward that interface. On gripe though, in CS3 i could hit 'F' and it would go to a fullscreen mode wwith menus and junk and it would respect the position of the dock, but in CS4 when i hit 'F' it goes behind my dock, which is incredibly annoying seeing as i keep my dock on the left side of the screen. Anyone know how to do it the cs3 way?
  5. FieryFurnace macrumors 6502


    Sep 19, 2008
    Berlin, Germany
    A quick question to those who own CS4 already.

    Do CS4 programs have an option to save files in the old(CS3) format, so a Mac with CS3 could easily open them?
    I ask because my school still has CS3 but I'm about to buy CS4.
  6. mrclark321 macrumors newbie

    Oct 21, 2008
    Sarnia, Ontario
    not sure but if you save as a psd file it should not matter
  7. Kaliemon macrumors member

    Apr 30, 2006
    When you save a psd it should bring up a compatibility dialog and all you have to do is check the box to save it as compatible. The same as CS3 saving files compatible for CS2.

Share This Page