NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
Adobe PhotoShop 6.0
The Ultimate Candy Shop for Graphics Enthusiasts

A Review by Douglas Agee, SWIPCC Member, January 2001
Copyright 2000 by the SouthWest International Personal ComputerClub (SWIPCC-
editor@swipcc.org). All rights reserved.
Reprinted with Permission

Ever wonder what it would be like to be turned loose in a See's candy store without adult supervision? A few years ago-well, many years ago-I dreamed of running amok in such a store, sampling to my heart's content. For starters, I consumed a one-pound box of Rum Nougat, a two-pound box of Maple Walnut, and a three-pound box of assorted chocolates. In a fury of gastro-esophageal ecstasy, I sampled the Milk Bordeaux, Date Nut, Raspberry Cream, Dark Chocolate Truffle, Scotch Kiss, Chelsea, Mocha, Coconut Butter Cream, and Raspberry Truffle-wow! Then, suddenly, I heard the footfalls of the store manager, who had decided to investigate the source of the noises emanating from the front of the store. I panicked and tried to escape through the front door, but alas had gained 350 pounds and was caught chocolate-handed!

Reviewing the new version of PhotoShop is a lot like running amok in the candy store-with one notable exception: there's absolutely no weight gain because PhotoShop is calorie-free! On the other hand, there's a downside to reviewing PhotoShop. I became so absorbed in the new version that I didn't talk to my wife for a week. I neglected to shower, didn't bother to shave, and never used deodorant. Nobody came near me during that period of time, not even my dog! And curiously, while I was checking out one of the new features, a line from an old Bogart film began running through my mind. The line where Lauren Bacall turns to him and says, "You know how to whistle don't you-you just put your lips together and blow." So, you ask, what are the new attractions in PhotoShop 6.0, and why does one of the features bring to mind that famous line? Read on!

The latest version of PhotoShop introduces a variety of new creative tools for use in photo-editing, graphics design, and web creation-such a great variety, in fact, that it would be difficult to cover them all in this review. So I've opted to focus selectively on those that most piqued my interest. These include the tools used for:

  • Creating editable vector shapes and text;
  • Styling words and paragraphs;
  • Distorting images;
  • Extracting images;
  • Annotating images;
  • Creating contact sheets and picture packages.
  • Creating Editable Vector Shapes and Text. With the new PhotoShop, you can create a variety of vector shapes including rectangles, circles, ellipses and polygons. Many of the shape tools have dialog boxes that allow you to set parameters associated with the shape. For example, the dialog box for the ellipse allows you to select an unconstrained ellipse, specify the height-to-width ratio, or set specific height and width dimensions. The dialog box for the polygon allows you to select the number of sides, specify the radius, or select rounded corners. There is also a Shape Library from which you can choose a variety of custom shapes. Or, if you're so inclined, you can create your own shapes using the vector tools, and then store the shapes you've created in the library. To create a custom shape, you can use the Direct Selection tool to place new anchor points along the path of a selected shape, then drag one or more anchor points to new locations, thereby creating the new shape. The vector shapes you create can be used in graphics projects, websites or other applications. The great thing about vector shapes, of course, is that they are resolution-independent, and can be enlarged and printed without loss of definition.

    Along with vector shapes, you can also create vector text that will retain sharp, distinct edges when printed. The text is typed directly onto the canvas, not into a text dialog box as in previous versions of PhotoShop, so you don't have to switch back and forth between the canvas and dialog box when entering text. You can warp or contour the text using a variety of preset patterns. If you're dissatisfied with the pattern, you can introduce slight distortions (vertical or horizontal) to change the contours. And, at any point in the process, you can edit the text by changing the font, color, point size or other parameters. Styling Words and Paragraphs. PhotoShop gives you more control over the styling of words and paragraphs you incorporate into your images. Using the Character palette, for example, you can select the font, set the font size, set the leading and kerning, set the baseline shift between adjacent characters, etc. And, using the Paragraph palette, you can quickly set various paragraphing parameters like the alignment, line indents, and spacing. The bottom line is that you have almost as much control over styles as you do in word processing applications.

    Distorting Images. The new Liquify tool allows you to selectively distort portions of an image while exercising control over the distortion process. In the picture of the young girl, for example, I selectively enlarged the eyes and lips, reduced the size of the nose, and "froze" the cheeks and chin so they would remain unaffected by the distortion introduced in the other areas. The result is a natural looking picture that actually appears sharper than the original because the most important features-the eyes and lips-have been accentuated. To create this picture, I selected ImageThese and other tools in Liquify create distortions by moving pixels within the designated area. For example, Pucker moves pixels toward the center of the designated area, thus shrinking the image within the area. Bloat does just the opposite. Other tools push pixels in a forward direction (Warp), rotate them clockwise (Twirl CW) or counter-clockwise (Twirl CCW), or move them perpendicular to the stroke direction (Shift).

    To me, the most appealing thing about Liquify is the control you exercise over the distortion process. I believe cosmetic surgeons could actually use this tool to show prospective patients how they would appear after surgery. Or, film editors could use the tool to improve the appearance of actors and actresses. If a film studio ever decided to digitally remaster "To Have and To Have Not," an enterprising film editor could make Lauren Bacall's lips look incredibly sensuous! Incidentally, I was using Bloat when the Lauren Bacall line popped into my mind. In a more mundane application, cartoonists could use Liquify to develop images for their cartoon strips. For example, they could make a politician appear more cerebral by using Bloat to exaggerate the size of his forehead. Or, they make him appear deceitful by using a combination of Bloat and Warp to enlarge and lengthen his nose.

    Annotating Images. PhotoShop allows you to annotate PSD (PhotoShop) and TIFF files with text or voice. This is a handy way to keep notes on an image you've been editing or to pass review instructions to colleagues. To annotate an image, you simply select the Notes tool, and then select either Text Notes or Voice Annotation. Clicking on the Text Notes brings up a screen where you can type in the annotation. After you've finished, you can close the screen and a Text Notes icon will appear superimposed on the image. Double-clicking on this icon will reveal the notes screen and allow you to read the note. Voice-annotation is accomplished in a similar manner. That is, clicking on Voice Annotation brings up a dialog box. By clicking on Start and speaking into the microphone, you can voice-annotate the image. When you're finished, you click Stop, and an audio-annotation icon will appear superimposed on the image. Double-clicking on this icon will cause your voice message to be replayed.

    Extracting Images. PhotoShop includes a new image extraction capability called Smart Highlighting that can be used to quickly and conveniently extract a portion of an image from a picture. Consider, for example, the picture of the young girl and baby. Using Smart Highlighting, I was able to extract the image of the girl and baby from the cluttered background. The extraction was accomplished by selecting the Smart Highlighting option from the Extract menu and tracing around the image using the mouse. The tool employs a "built-in edge detection technology" to help define the area to be extracted. Two other tools-Edge Clean-up and Touch-up-were used in conjunction with Smart Highlighting to help refine the edges of the extracted image.

    Creating Contact Sheets and Picture Packages. As with the previous version of PhotoShop, you can create contact sheets and picture packages. A contact sheet is a hardcopy print (of thumbnail-sized images) that lets you see at a glance all of the photos in a particular folder. In PhotoShop, you can now select the font size for contact sheet labels. A picture package is a page layout with two or more images of the same picture, used for printing multiple copies of the picture. PhotoShop now has 20 different picture package templates from which to select-four different layouts for an 11x17 inch page, and 16 different layouts for an 8x10 inch page.

    Other Tools. Besides the tools I've mentioned above, PhotoShop has a number of others I didn't have time to review in this article, including several used for producing web graphics. The new version of PhotoShop includes Adobe's web production tool, ImageReady 3.0, which can produce animated sequences for websites.

    The street price of PhotoShop is around $550, which unfortunately limits its use to professionals and serious amateurs-very serious amateurs! PhotoShop is,* however, the quintessential image editing program and remains the world standard for image manipulation. Possibly, just possibly, you could forego that new television set this Christmas and pick up a copy of PhotoShop 6.0 instead! Working with PhotoShop is like learning to dance-you'll suddenly start exercising the other side of your brain, the side that has atrophied through watching television and listening to politicians. Go ahead, do it! Embark on that shopping spree- run amok in the digital candy store-you only live once! You'll have only your wife to answer to!

    * Footnote: As used herein, the word "is" really means, "is." I'm-well, a traditional sort of guy!

    System Requirements: Pentium-class processor; MS Windows 98, 2000, or NT 4.0; 64 MB of RAM; 125 MB of available hard-disk space (after installation); color monitor with 256-color or greater video card; 800x600 or greater monitor resolution; CD-ROM drive; 128 MB RAM required to run PhotoShop and ImageReady concurrently.

    This article was reprinted from the December, 2000 issue of Throughput, the Journal of the SouthWest International Personal Computer Club.

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