With each new release of Photoshop, Adobe manages consistently to deliver image-editing features that seem indispensable as soon as they are used, making graphics professionals everywhere wonder how they ever worked with the last version. Given the precedent for innovation in previous versions, Photoshop 6 has a lot to live up to, but it doesn’t disappoint.
For Web designers, Photoshop 6 represents a graphical one-stop shop. As might be expected, many of the new features are primarily relevant to Web graphics. Layer styles allow complex effects to be saved and re-used, so they are easily available when Web pages are updated, and help to standardise a ‘house style’ for Web page look and feel. The improved layers palette now allows layers to be grouped and locked, making manipulation of multi-layered images a breeze without the need to constantly combine similar layers for ease of editing. The upshot of this is that images can be easy to work with while remaining fully editable.
Web optimisation features are about as good as they come, with image slicing and excellent compression features, so it makes a lot of sense to keep master versions of Web graphics in Photoshop format; layers and editable text mean that files are easy to modify for new graphics in the future.
For non-Web users, the new features still warrant an upgrade. Improved palette docking makes the interface cleaner and the editing of large images much easier, and the greatly improved layer management makes complex compositions much easier to manage. Additionally, the new vector tools that are so useful for Web graphics can equally be used to generate resolution-independent clipping paths for high-end print work.
Documentation for Photoshop follows the usual Adobe format of one substantial paper manual and a ‘cheat sheet’ of keyboard shortcuts (some of which are worth learning). The manual is an improvement over previous versions, and gets neatly to the point, making it a worthwhile read for new users and experienced users alike.
Photoshop is often used as justification for high spec computers, and version 6 is no different. The direct consequence of improved layering tools is that it is easier to use more layers, and that means placing ever-greater demands on computer hardware. A fast processor, fast hard disk and plenty of RAM are certainly recommended for this product.
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