There have been some fantastic new feature additions to Adobe Photoshop since I began using it many years ago. It’s weird to imagine how we managed without tools like Smart Objects, the Healing Brush or Type on a Path. Veteran users might even remember the dark ages before Layers! Since the move to the Creative Cloud subscription service, updates and bug fixes have been coming thick and fast. It’s great to now be able to update to the latest version without having to order a new box of CD-ROMs. The recent 2019 Photoshop CC update includes some really interesting developments. Here’s an overview of my favourite new features that have already become part of my everyday workflow.
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All-New Content Aware Fill
Originally added in version CS5 circa 2010, Content Aware Fill has been a fantastic tool for quickly removing objects from images. Previously it was pot-luck whether the technology would sample from the correct area of the picture, but now there’s a much more in-depth interface with additional options to generate perfect results.
The new interface can be accessed via the Edit > Content-Aware Fill menu. Here you can specify the sampling area using the brush or lasso tool to avoid cloning an unwanted portion of the image. Other useful settings include various adaption settings that further manipulate the sampling to blend it perfectly. One really useful, but incredibly simple feature is the ability to output the filled area to a new layer, which really helps promote a non-destructive workflow.
Symmetry Mode for Brushes
I’ve had fun experimenting with Mandala effects before, but I used Illustrator’s Symbols feature to manually set up a series of symmetrical segments. Photoshop now has a series of symmetry tools that open up loads of new options for creating symmetrical designs. Under the ‘Butterfly’ icon in the toolbar when using the Brush tool, you’ll find a series of options to define axes that will mirror the artwork between them.
The Radial and Mandala symmetry options provide useful functionality to easily create complex patterns. Once you have set up the desired number of segments, simply painting within one section will automatically repeat the artwork in all the others, resulting in a beautiful and intricate art piece.
Live Blending Mode Preview
One of my most used keyboard shortcuts in previous Photoshop versions was Shift+Plus/Minus to cycle through layer blending modes to see the result. That shortcut will never be needed again thanks to the new live preview that is shown when an option is scrolled over in the blending mode menu. Not only is this new functionality much faster, it helps you avoid taking up several steps in your History memory.
Colour Wheel Picker
Despite being a really simple addition to the Photoshop interface, the new Color Wheel option for the Color panel is an extremely useful tool for artists. Traditionally I’ve always used the standard Hue Cube, but the Color Wheel separates the hue from the brightness and saturation, making it easy to find the perfect colour. Having the colour spectrum composed in a wheel format also gives you a handy visual representation of complementary and analogous colours.
An option in the Align panel of Adobe Illustrator that I’ve longed for in Photoshop is the ability to evenly distribute objects. In Photoshop this is particularly useful when working with multiple layers, allowing you to easily produce neat layouts with evenly spaced images or shapes. It’s not a showstopper, but it’s a welcome addition that will prove handy for years to come.
Maths in Input Fields
This feature will probably go completely unnoticed to most people, but the ability to calculate sizes by typing simple mathematical equations directly into the input field is one that I’m rather excited about! Being someone who is terrible at mental arithmetic, I’m always having to reach for my calculator to work out document sizes and resolutions. But now, I can simply enter figures such as ‘2500/3’ to work out a third, or maybe ‘780+50’ to add 50px to my canvas size.
If I had one wish…
One feature I’ve been wishing for that still has not officially become part of Photoshop is a shortcut for rotating a brush. Currently we can easily control the brush size via the [ and ] keys, or alter the size/hardness by holding the CMD+ALT keys while dragging on the canvas. Unfortunately we have to tediously bring up the Brush Settings panel to manually alter the Angle. If only there was a pair of shortcut keys to rotate the brush back and forth! Hopefully Adobe will implement this feature in a future update. If you had 3 wishes for new features in Photoshop, what would they be?