Inside Photoshop CS3

By Nimish Chandiramani Published Date
01 - Apr - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Apr - 2007
Inside Photoshop CS3

Brace yourself Photoshop CS3 (not to forget the rest of the suite) will blow you away

By the time you read this, you will have witnessed the biggest software launch in Adobe's history-twelve products, spanning the entire range of Adobe's flagship products and those of the erstwhile Macromedia. Some months ago, Adobe released the Photoshop CS3 public beta; we've also been treated to a preview of the entire CS3 suite by Adobe's Director of Product Management (Creative Solutions) Will Eisley, and we're at the edge of our seats with anticipation. Here, we take an in-depth look at Photoshop CS3's new features; get the beta off our February 2007 DVD to check these out. We've used a February 2007 beta of Photoshop CS3 Extended, which we got off Adobe for this review. You'll find the following a lot easier to understand if you've used Photoshop for a while, or if you've read our Fast Track to Photoshop in May 2006.

The Obvious
The first thing we noticed about the new Photoshop was the absence of ImageReady. While it was a useful tool, it just didn't make sense, because it shared most of Photoshop's features anyway. You'll find ImageReady's functions embedded within Photoshop itself. The next thing-and we were surprised at this-is that it starts up and runs considerably faster than CS2. In fact, even over time, CS3 runs smoothly where CS2 used to get sluggish. On Windows Vista and Mac OS X, you can even enable GPU support for rendering graphics.

The interface has been spruced up to match the new interfaces of Premiere and After Effects-with docked palettes that can easily be expanded or collapsed as your needs dictate. The layout is the same, though, so you don't have to re-learn anything; the interface affects usability a bit more subtly than you'd think. For one, the quick expanding and collapsing enables you to increase screen real-estate much quicker; no more going to the Window menu to show palettes you closed. The [Tab] key now auto-hides the palettes-moving the mouse cursor to the edge of the screen un-hides them, so you always have plenty of space in which to work.
Fun With Selections
CS3 introduces the new Quick Selection Tool-a crazy mix of the Magic Wand and Magnetic Lasso. It lets you "paint" your selection on areas with the same colour, automatically stopping at the edges. It's replaced the Magic Wand as the default tool when you hit [W], though the latter is also there should you need it. The Quick Selection does tend to get a little over-enthusiastic at times, and we'd have appreciated a "Tolerance" parameter to tweak; nevertheless, even recovering from its selection errors is simple, and we hope to see more improvements in updates and point releases (if there are any). 

Right up to CS2, if you wanted to Feather, Expand, or Contract your selection, you'd have to go to the Select menu, enter a parameter, and guess. CS3 eliminates this with Refine Edges ([Ctrl] [Alt] [R]), which lets you tweak these parameters and watch the effects on-the-fly. Brilliant time-saver, this.

The Flavours Of Photoshop

Photoshop CS3 Standard
The Standard edition is a direct substitute for Photoshop CS2, and is aimed at graphics professionals. It has the same features you saw in the public beta. You'll find it in the Creative Suite 3 Standard editions.

Photoshop CS3 Extended
This one's for people whose demands are a little higher than that of your average design pro. Photoshop Extended features more complex image analysis tools for medical professionals, architects and so on, and a bunch of really nifty features for graphic artists as well. You'll find it in the Creative Suite 3 Premium editions.

Photoshop Lightroom
What started out as just Adobe Lightroom is now part of the Photoshop family, built for professional and amateur photographers alike. Lightroom is all about getting the most out of your raw photos.

Photoshop Elements
This is a cheaper, lighter version of Photoshop for the consumer who wants a lot more than basic image editing. Photoshop Elements gives you features that form Photoshop's core, balancing the requirements of the professional and the Average Joe.

Old-World Charm
Converting images to black and white is now much more powerful than plain old Convert To Grayscale or Desaturate. The new Black & White image adjustment and adjustment layer lets you tweak how each channel will look when the image is converted-you can make a sky white by dragging the Blues slider to the right, make reds appear black, and adjust tinting in the same dialog. You can now take boring greyscale images-night scenes, for example-and add a bit of drama to them.

The New Vanishing Point
When it was introduced with CS2, the Vanishing Point filter let you paint on walls and buildings in perfect perspective. However, after drawing a Vanishing Point plane, you could only make planes perpendicular to it-very cumbersome if the surfaces you wanted to paint on weren't perpendicular. With the new Vanishing Point, you can specify an angle as soon as you tear off a plane, giving you a lot more flexibility. It's still a tricky tool to use, though-read our Fast Track to Photoshop for a tutorial.

Filter Freaks Rejoice!

One of the best ways to pass time in Photoshop-especially when you're short of ideas-is to apply random filters to your image, and hope that one of them or a combination will catch your fancy. For such creative wanderings, CS3 brings you Smart Filters. Once you convert your layer into a Smart Object, every filter you apply to it becomes like a layer effect-they will always be available for tweaking, you can reorder them to see how the combinations look, and you can turn off filters without bothering with undos and history states. The best part is that your original image remains untouched, so you can experiment with ridiculous ease. Even changing the Blending Mode of a filter-something that was available only immediately after it was applied-is now an option you can exercise at your whim.

Send In The Clones
Even the Clone Stamp tool goes one step ahead in CS3. Hold down [Shift] [Alt], and click and drag to see a preview of your cloning. You can also select five different clone sources, which can even be from different documents.

If you've got a really high-resolution image (a few MB, even) and you want to put it up on your Web site, well, you can't. Not without your visitors abusing you, anyway. Photoshop CS3 lets you export your image using the Zoomify plugin (www., which creates a SWF file of your image. You can zoom in and out of it as much as you want, and Zoomify will render only the part you're looking at-just like in Google Earth or WikiMapia, with all the convenience.

Lining Up Perfectly
With all those complex mathematical algorithms at their disposal, the Photoshop team has given us some incredible features for image correction-one of these is the Auto Align Layers feature; even after plenty of uses, we still can't get enough of it. You need to try it out to believe it!

Try this: get your digital camera out and take three photos of your surroundings to create a panorama. Load all these photos into Photoshop, create a new image that's three times the width of a single photograph, and drag each of these photos as layers on to this new image. Use the Move Tool ([V]) to drag the layers around so they roughly line up, with a little bit overlapping. Select all the Layers by [Shift]-clicking them all, and go to Edit > Auto-align Layers. Select Auto and click OK. In a few seconds, your panorama's images will be perfectly lined up!

This is also a handy feature if you've taken two group photos, and each of them has a different person with his or her eyes shut. Auto-align the two, and with some judicious masking, you're on your way to the perfect photo.

To compensate for differences in colour tone and brightness, select all the layers again and go to Edit > Auto Blend Layers. Photoshop will automatically create masks for each layer, making the overall image look perfectly balanced in tone.
Going 3D
Photoshop Extended also imports 3D objects as layers, and you can slap on and edit textures right there-no more switching between Photoshop and your 3D program. Its features are rudimentary, and Adobe insists that they aren't looking to break into the 3D market. Yet.

You can apply effects to these 3D layers just like regular layers, choose from a few preset lighting schemes, and apply rendering schemes that can make them look like line drawings or cartoons as well. Like we said before, this isn't very advanced, and doesn't purport to be. If you've got basic 3D models that need texturing for, say, a document for print, this makes it much easier.

These photos were taken using the camera of a K750i. Note that none of these show the road completely empty

In Photoshop CS3 Extended, you can add to auto-align with Smart Object Stacks. You won't find this in the public beta-that's the Standard version-so read on.
The eight photos you see here were taken from a balcony-we wanted to get an empty road sans cars or people, but we couldn't get a single such shot. The time of day didn't matter-you'll rarely find the street in question empty in the daytime. So unless we cordoned off the area, we weren't going to get our shot-and we don't have that kind of clout.

The photos were then loaded into Photoshop CS3 using the very handy "Load Files Into Stack" script from the Scripts menu (also not in the public beta)-this just loads each photo into a new layer rather than a new file. We first aligned the photos using Auto-align, and then converted the lot into a smart object (Layer > Smart Objects > Convert To Smart Object). We're probably going to sound like excited children here, but this last bit never ceases to amaze us. Under Layer > Smart Objects is Stack Mode-selecting Median under this menu retains the pixels that haven't moved-which means that all the people and cars are eliminated! All this, and the only effort you expend is a few clicks here and there.

In Other News...
CS3 also brings us a bunch of small tweaks that make life that much easier. The Curves dialog, for instance, is a bit more newbie-friendly. New Adjustment Layers are here, too-you can now apply Curves, Brightness & Contrast and Channel Mixer Adjustment Layers. The Brightness & Contrast adjustment now operates on colour brightness rather than absolute image brightness, which makes for some very interesting results. You can also extract images from PDF files and edit them.

Graphics Everywhere
Now that you'll be viewing content on a variety of media, from your cell phone to handheld to who knows what, all CS3 products are tied together with Adobe Device Central. Whether you're creating images in Photoshop, animations and games in Flash or Web pages in Dreamweaver, you'll always have the option to preview the mobile version of your creation using Device Central.

With the CS3 Suite, you can work on your files almost seamlessly between programs. Vector graphics will move swiftly and without losses between Illustrator and Flash, images will shuttle between Photoshop and InDesign in a snap, and site designs will go from Fireworks to Dreamweaver like that.

We'll get you more dirt on the lot when we get our hands on the final release-it's going to knock your socks off; that we know. 

Nimish ChandiramaniNimish Chandiramani