Creative Suite 4
March 22, 2009

I've been limping along with Macromedia's MX04 for Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash. Fireworks - once a beloved staple of my web designing process - had become somewhat unstable and I've grown so proficient in Photoshop that I just didn't use it much anymore.

I had also purchased - on a last gasp student discount - Adobe's Creative Suite 2 for Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Love, love, loved it.

I skipped the update to CS3 ... design software is just so damn expensive and many artists just don't make the moola to hit every upgrade. Generally I strive for an every other upgrade, but after the events of the past couple of years, I was considering waiting for CS5 ... or maybe even 6 (or whatever it morphs into by then). Then I attended one of Mogo Media's CS4 launch demos and oh man. Let me put it this way. The rest of the designers were laughing at me the whole day as we watched the presenters put CS4 through some paces - some showing stunning brand-new features, others showing some features that were introduced in CS3 (or even CS2) that not everyone knew about.

Then I realized that since I'd gotten CS2 with an educational discount ... it was not eligible for upgrade pricing. CRAP! I frantically looked to see if Adobe was still offering upgrade pricing from Macromedia products ... yes! Chances are, though, CS4 will be the last opportunity to upgrade to Creative Suite from the Macromedia suite. So, I bit the bullet and killed my tax return on an upgrade.

Holy cow, I'm so glad I did. First, Photoshop has some just freaking incredible changes. I do a lot of web design and it's difficult to count pixels in a design sometimes. For example, I might want to crop an image right along a particularly fine line. To do that, I'll pump up the view to 1600% (which used to be as high as you could magnify - you can go bigger now, too). But, even at 1600%, if you wanted to count pixels to make sure something was even on two sides, it could be difficult. Now, though, it's a snap - the pixels are clearly defined, even when seeing a solid colour. Check it out:

Photoshop file at 1600% with grid

It seems like such a small thing - and really it is. But it makes a HUGE difference when I'm doing detailed work. It makes using the magnetic lasso easier, makes pathing something easier, it's just amazing what a difference it makes. We did have a situation at work where one designer had an image that did not do this ... and we've yet to figure out why. But luckily I've not had that happen to me yet.

The other new feature of Photoshop that is just freaking incredible is Content Aware Scaling. Basically, let's say you need a picture that's 400 pixels wide. And the image you do have is 300 pixels wide. That's 100 pixels you have to figure out what to do with. If you just stretch the image, it's going to look all stretched and distorted. So, you can attempt to use the cloning tool or something and kind of fake a background extension. Or you can add another image there to fill up the space - maybe make that area black and then put some type in there. Or, maybe you just leave that area white.

Here's an example from crondeau at

Photoshop file at 300 px width with 400 px canvas

The gridded area represents the area that you still need to fill up somehow. If you just use regular stretching, you get a rather stetched out looking adult and kid. The buoys are really weird looking as well. Not the best effect.

Photoshop file at 300 px width stretched to 400 px - looks awkward

But the new Content Aware Scaling does this:

Photoshop file at 300 px width stretched to 400 px canvas

As magic as it looks, if your background has too much detail, it won't really work. Likewise, it's not going to be able to triple the width of your image - maybe not even double it. But it's an absolutely amazing tool.

There were definite improvements in other programs as well - most joyously for me was the ability to sketch with my Wacom tablet in Illustrator. Every time I've tried to sketch before, Illustrator would simply re-draw lines that it thought were too close to one another. Now? Now you can sketch on the computer like you do by hand, making the Wacom tablet an even better tool. WOOHOO!

Posted by Red Monkey at March 22, 2009 5:21 AM | Design | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Tara R. said:

That is way cool! I'm limping along with iPhoto... I wouldn't know what to do with all that power.

March 22, 2009 3:34 PM
Free Pixel Advertisement for your blog