Photoshop 6 Features

If it seems like you’ve been using Photoshop for the better part of your professional career and you’re itching to put a leash around the program’s neck and take it for a walk, the following list explains all. Here I’ve compiled a few of the most prominent features that are new to Photoshop 6, in rough order of importance:

  • Object-oriented type: Every update to Photoshop features some kind of improvement to type, but somehow it’s never quite perfect. Now it is. In Photoshop 6, type is fully editable, it outputs at the full resolution of your printer, and it wraps automatically from one line to the next.

In other words, type finally works the way you’d expect! You can even apply leading, tracking, paragraph spacing, justification, and hyphenation, just as in QuarkXPress and Illustrator. The only feature missing is support for tabs.

  • High-resolution lines and shapes: Can you name a graphics program that’s nearly 10 years old and can’t draw a rectangle? If you guessed Photoshop 5.5, stick a gold star on your forehead. But don’t guess Photoshop 6.

It can draw not only rectangles, but also ovals, polygons, and custom shapes. Like text, Photoshop renders these vector shapes at the full resolution of the printer. What’s more, you can fill them with gradients, patterns, and photographic images.

  • Revamped color management: Photoshop 5 introduced profilebased color management; Photoshop 6 makes it better. For one thing, Adobe has made a serious effort to standardize color management across both Photoshop and Illustrator 9, so you can get the two programs to match more easily.

Second, you can work in multiple color environments at a time, so that one RGB image is calibrated for the Web and another for your printer. CMS remains highly complex, but its ability to deliver reliable color is downright extraordinary.

  • Layers sets: This seemingly minor feature makes a big difference in the way you work. Photoshop 6 lets you organize layers into folders called sets, great for making sense of complex compositions.

You can also assign colors to both layers and sets in the Layers palette, wonderful for identifying layers at a glance. Sets are also powerful grouping tools, permitting you to move, transform, blend, and mask several layers at once.

  • Custom layer styles: Photoshop 6 has revamped layer effects such as drop shadow, glow, and bevel; as well as added new ones such as satin and stroke. As before, you can access all effects from a single dialog box, but you can also hide, show, and edit individual effects from the Layers palette.

Best of all, you can save a combination of settings as a custom style available from the Styles palette. From then on, it takes just one click to apply a bunch of effects at once.

  • Advanced blending: Double-click a layer in the Layers palette to bring up the revised and vastly more complicated Blend Options dialog box. In addition to allowing you to blend and hide portions of a layer, you can blend a layer’s pixels independently of drop shadows, glows, and other effects.

You can also hide the layer in one or more color channels and control how a layer interacts with one or several layers below.

  • Preset manager: Photoshop 6 introduces a whole new category of preference settings called presets. These include predefined brushes, color swatches, and gradients, all of which you could create in Photoshop 5.5 and earlier.

But they also include patterns (you used to be limited to one), layer styles, and object-oriented shapes. While presets aren’t as easy to use as they should be, they make it possible to organize a variety of image attributes at the same time.

  • Options bar: The old Options and Brushes palettes are gone, replaced by the horizontal Options bar under the menu bar. The bar makes many features more accessible than before, and even offers a few options that were previously available only by choosing a command or pressing a key on the keyboard. As you’d expect, the Options bar changes to accommodate the active tool or operation.
  • Liquify command: Distortions have long been a weak spot in Photoshop. You could tug an image by one of four corner points, but aside from simple perspective effects, there was little you could do. Photoshop 6 adds the Liquify command, which permits you to paint and erase distortions inside a separate window.

While you can’t zoom or scroll the image—both significant disadvantages—the command provides a wide variety of tools and a lightning-fast preview.

  • Text warping: Artists have long requested that Photoshop add text on a curve, a common function inside Illustrator and other object-oriented programs. Instead, we get something that is at once worse and better. The Warp Text option lets you arc, wave, bulge, and twirl type, while keeping it 100 percent editable.

Unlike true text on a curve, you can’t draw custom paths and position the type on the path. However, you can apply an array of dazzling distortions that fall well outside the capabilities of Illustrator. My biggest complaint: You can’t warp shapes or images. My one question: Why the heck not?

  • Image slicing: Because Photoshop is a pixel-based program and the World Wide Web is a pixel-based environment, most Web artists mock up pages inside Photoshop. Before you can incorporate text, buttons, and other links, you have to split up the page into lots of smaller images that you later reassemble with HTML.

Photoshop’s slicing tools automate this process, permitting you to break a composition into pieces and even generate the necessary HTML table automatically. You still have to adjust the code, but it’s a heck of a time saver.

  • Position printed images: As I hasten to remind folks, I don’t work for Adobe and I have nothing to do with the creation of Photoshop. In the interest of remaining a relatively unbiased outsider, I’m not even part of the Alpha Team, a small cluster of five or six elite users who test each version of the program a year or more before it comes out.

However, I do occasionally have a direct impact on the program, and this, dear readers, is my big addition to Photoshop 6. I remember the meeting like it was yesterday. I said something like, “Gee, fellas, every time you print an image from Photoshop, it just gets plopped onto the middle of the page.”

One of the programmers asked, “Pardon me, did you say something?” To which I rejoined, “Well, I’d like to have control over positioning it. Like, maybe move it to the upper left corner or something. You know, if it’s not, like, a big hassle or anything.”

Then someone said, “Oh, dry up, McClelland.” Someone else said, “I’ll have the salmon,” and everyone ordered lunch. Now whenever you choose File>Print Options, think of me and that fateful day I breathed new life into a tired old program.

  • Text and audio notations: In the interest of facilitating communications between artists, art directors, bosses, and clients, Photoshop 6 lets you add little sticky notes to your images. You can even record an audio annotation.Save the image as a PDF file, and you can open it in Adobe Acrobat or the free Acrobat Reader.
  • Save layers to TIFF and PDF formats: Photoshop 6 supports more than a dozen standardized file formats. However, prior to Version 6, the only format that supported layers was the native Photoshop (PSD) format.

Now you can save layers with TIFF and PDF documents. As I write this, Photoshop is the only program that can read layered TIFF and PDF files, but other programs will likely follow suit in the years to come.

  • Apply JPEG to layers: When you save an image to the TIFF format, you can now have the option to apply three varieties of compression: LZW, ZIP, or JPEG. This means, for the first time, you can apply JPEG compression to a layered file, resulting in smaller compositions than ever before.
  • Improved Extract command: The Extract command has been improved since its introduction in Version 5.5. The Smart Highlighter check box helps you trace around the exact outline of an image element. Two new tools let you clean up the edges after Photoshop generates its automatic outline. Best of all, you can press Ctrl+Z to undo the last operation.
  • Dockable palettes: Photoshop 6 enables you to attach the top of one palette to the bottom of another, an operation known as docking. You can likewise drop palettes into a docking well at the far right side of the Options bar.
  • Actions as droplets: ImageReady has long permitted you to save actions as independent files on disk called droplets. Now Photoshop does too. If you drag an image file and drop it onto the droplet at the desktop level, Photoshop automatically plays the saved action on the file. Note that to save space—this book is getting too big!

For those of you who hopped to the new version from Photoshop 5.0 or 5.0.2, you also have all the new Internet and masking functions introduced in Version 5.5. You can create better GIF images, preview the effects of JPEG compression, dial in hexadecimal color values, and optimize an image to a specific file size.

The magic and background erasers make quick work of isolating a foreground element from an image. Use the art history brush to selectively revert an image and apply creative effects. There are also minor enhancements to the TIFF format, color correction, and contact sheets.

This is Photoshop’s second aggressive whole-number upgrade in a row, right on the heels of the feature-rich Version 5. If you ask me, I’ll tell you Photoshop 5 was more dramatic. After all, can you imagine working without multiple undos, layer effects, editable text, and the revolutionary profile-based color management system that made the entire industry sit up and take notice?

Assuming your response is “No way,” permit me to join in with a hardy “Me neither!” Still, Photoshop 6 is sufficiently impressive that I imagine some will argue that it’s the best upgrade of them all. Of course, those people will be wrong—I mean, I just said Photoshop 5 was better— but their argument has some merit.

Photoshop 6 is what we in the business like to call Seriously Good Software. A big upgrade means big work for me. Nevertheless, I’ve risen to the challenge, making every effort to document the new features with clarity and in their proper context. Just remember to keep an eye peeled for the Photoshop 6 icon and you’ll be over the hump and back into the image-editing groove in no time.