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Photoshop 7 Arrives for Mac OS X

by David Weiss

After one of the longest drum-rolls in software-development history, Adobe has released Photoshop 7.0, which runs natively in Mac OS X. This alone is reason to rejoice, since Photoshop on the Mac is like salt and pepper on the table. But what else does version 7.0 have in store for us? Thereís no radical new "metaphor" here, as when Photoshop 3.0 introduced Layers, but version 7.0 brings with it a broad range of new tools and enhancements, making it not only more flexible and powerful than its predecessor, but also friendlier.

The New Face of Photoshop

For starters, the new version is highly customizable -- you can save the position of your palettes as "workspaces," so that the tools you use most for each project will always be close at hand. Similarly, you can save any tool in any state as a preset with a custom name. Also, you can now check your spelling right within Photoshop, and it works with multiple languages.

Adobe also added a few security-oriented features. You can now add a password-requirement to any files saved in PDF format and you can also add a watermark to your Web galleries, which should discourage neíer do wells from using your images for nefarious purposes.

But beyond the global interface improvements, Photoshop has taken on a whole slew of new powers, and new functions that you would expect to find in other programs.

A New Point of View

Photoshopís new File Browser shows you previews of your image files and allows you to rename them, organize them, and read descriptive information about them. In addition to file name, file size, and creation and modification dates, the File Browser also tells you the image format, dimensions, Color Mode, Resolution, Color Profile, Bit Depth, and Copyright information. And unlike a Mac OS X Finder window, you can adjust the image size, and rename all the files in a folder according to a series of schemes (such as Bahamas01, Bahamas02, etc.), with a single command. You can also rotate images. This affects the thumbnail only, until you open the file.

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Image, Heal Thyself

Photoshop 7.0 puts a new tool in the palette, called the Healing Brush, and if it sounds somewhat mystical, it is. Itís similar to the Clone Stamp, in that it paints one part of an image over another part (you can also paint over an image with material taken from another file), but the Healing Brush also matches the newly painted material with the shading and tone of the surrounding area, so that it blends in much more seamlessly. With the Healing Brush, you can bravely enter delicately shaded areas and remove blemishes, scratches, and other aberrations, while leaving the shading intact.

Letís demonstrate using this ubiquitous rubber ducky image, besmirched with a black brush stroke. If you were to use one long stroke of the Clone Stamp to clean up the image, you would end up with something like the middle image below. To do a better job, youíd have to use several smaller strokes, re-sampling the cloned material each time, so as to match the subtle changes of shading. Now letís try one long stroke of the Healing Brush. Notice that the tool intelligently matched the shading of the area I was painting over (far right image below).

Ducky 1 Ducky 2 Ducky 3
On the left you see an accidental line that needs to be removed. Using the cloning tool in one long stroke doesn't provide good results as shown in the middle image. But the healing brush is much more effective as demonstrated in the far right image.

The Patch Tool has the same powers as the Healing Brush, but it works on selected areas, so itís more precise. Letís take a look at another type of task that has historically taken hours, even in the hands of an expert: Removing an object from a cluttered background. As you can see below, the Clone Stamp will be of no avail for this task. But just take a look at what the Patch tool can do. To get such good results, I patched the area using a pattern of the desk that I created myself (Iíll talk about creating patterns a little later).

With envelope Without envelope
The clone stamp has a hard time removing the envelope from the desk (image on the left), but the patch tool does a much better job (right image).

But the Healing Brush and Patch Tools have their limitations. Letís try removing a piece of paper from the center of the desk the same way we removed the envelope. As you can see, thereís a strange halo effect, so this image will require a bit of extra futzing. The halo comes from the piece of paper to the right of the one we removed; itís so close to the patch area that the Patch tool, with all good intentions, is trying to match the incoming material so that it blends with the paper. Similarly, if you try to use the Healing Brush in an area cluttered with contrasting shapes, youíll end up painting over your trouble-spot with some odd artifacts. But both tools work very well in removing subtle aberrations from wide areas of relatively uniform color and texture.

Halo effect
The healing brush and patch tools do have their limitations. Notice the residue halo effect from a piece of paper that was removed.

Paint the Town Fuchsia

In the realm of painting, there are an incredible amount of new tools and effects. Now, when you open up the Brushes palette, youíll find many more brushes and a highly responsive, feature-rich environment for editing them -- there are now seven different panels for altering the behavior of a brush, and a preview window at the bottom of the palette shows you a sample brush stroke that immediately reflects all of your changes. Unfortunately, Photoshop still doesnít check off the current brush set on the menu, which can be a bit confusing.

The new brushes palette is more feature rich than in earlier versions of Photoshop.

As in previous versions, the brushes can be tuned to a pressure-sensitive pen, but in the new version, many more brush parameters can respond to pressure. And if you use one of Wacomís Intuous2 pens, your brushes can also respond to tilt. Letís take a look at a few of Photoshop 7.0ís brush strokes.

New Brushstrokes
Examples of new brushstrokes available in Photoshop 7.

For each of these strokes, the amount of pressure affects the size, color, and opacity of the stroke. The mode is also set to Linear Burn, so when I paint over an existing stroke, as in the stroke in the middle, I get a darker hue. The stroke on the right is set to mimic the texture of canvas. So does this spell the end of Procreateís Painter? Not any time soon. Photoshopís brush strokes are still comparatively one-dimensionalóbecause they can only paint one color at a time, they donít cause realistic-looking streaks as Painterís brushes do.

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