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Our First Look at Photoshop CS6 - Now Available in Beta

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Read Time: 14 min
This post is part of a series called Introduction to Photoshop CS6.
Manage Your Layers More Efficiently With Photoshop CS6

Today, Adobe announced some big news. Photoshop CS6 is now available for download in Beta. For the last several months, we have been speculating about what features we can expect to see in Photoshop CS6. This speculation was fueled by the Photoshop team's release of several sneak peek videos that revealed some exciting new features. Now that the speculation is over and Photoshop CS6 Beta is available for us to download and try, we have been able to make a careful examination of some of its new features. In this article, we will summarize some of our favorite features and discuss why we think you should make the upgrade. Let's take a look!


Before we get started, it's important to note that Photoshop CS6 is a major release. The Photoshop team spent a lot of time streamlining the interface, working on new features, and fixing older ones. For instance, the new interface includes over 1,800 new icons and 250 cursors. Each of these icons had to be customized to work with the new darker interface. In addition, the Photoshop team also spent some time fixing inconsistencies in the UI and rearranging menu items. This is something that hadn't been done in over 22 years. In addition to the new interface, Photoshop CS6 now includes new performance improvements that will enable you to work faster and more efficiently.

Photoshop CS6 also includes long awaited features such as the ability to edit vectors in much the same way as you would in Illustrator, the ability to easily add strokes and dashed lines, as well as new ways to organize your layers, and let's not forget about new background save and auto recovery features. Photoshop CS6 is a major upgrade that has more than 62% more new features than CS5 had over CS4. It also includes 65 user inspired enhancements that were a result of Adobe's efforts to reach out to its customers through blogging and social media channels. It is changes like these that make us extremely excited share with you some of what you will see in Photoshop CS6.


Photoshop CS6 received a major overhaul of its user interface. This was the first major change to the interface since Photoshop was created over 22 years ago. It includes over 1,800 new icons and 250 new cursors and is much more consistent with other apps like Lightroom. The most prominent feature is the darker interface that allows you to focus more on the image that you're working on. In addition, the Photoshop team also spent some time reducing some of the visual clutter that was present in some of the menu items.

New Vector Shape Layers

One of the most exciting features of Photoshop CS6 is a feature that users have been wanting forever, true vector shapes; and no, we're not talking about the old Photoshop shape layers that use vector masks to produce the shape you need. We are talking about true vector shapes that do not require layer styles to produce a stroke or gradient. Those elements can now be quickly added to your shapes in much the same way as Illustrator.

Stroke Enhancements

In addition to the new vector shape layer feature, Photoshop CS6 will now allow you to add strokes to your vectors in a much more efficient way. You may have seen the sneak peek video explaining how to create a dashed line. The ability to add a dashed line is fantastic but Photoshop CS6 now does much more than that. You can align your stroke to the inside, outside, or to the center of your paths, and even get sharp corners, something that was really tricky to do in earlier versions.

Layer Management

If you work with PSD files that use a lot of layers, then you know how frustrating it can be to search for layers in your layer stack. Users have been asking for ways to help manage their layers for a while. The Photoshop team was listening and delivered big time. This update to the layer panel is huge! In fact, it might be one of the most important new features of the entire release. Photoshop CS6's new layer search feature will allow you to quickly filter through your layer stack to find the layer that you are looking for. You can filter layers by kind, name, effect, mode, attribute, and color.

For instance, if you want to locate all of the pixel layers in your layer stack, you can do this easily by clicking on the pixel layer icon. You can also search for adjustment layers, text layers, shape layers, or smart objects. In addition, you can also search your layers for specific layer styles including drop shadow, bevel and emboss, etc. Another fantastic feature is the ability to search for layers that have a specific blending mode applied to them. For instance, if you needed to search for all the soft light layers in your PSD, you could do that easily with just a couple of clicks.

Background Save and Auto Recovery

As a designer, one of the worst things that can happen to you is for Photoshop to crash on you after you've spent hours working on a project without saving. Wouldn't it be great if Photoshop could save your file for you automatically in the background while you work? Well, now it can! Photoshop CS6 includes background save and auto recovery. This means that you can set Photoshop to automatically save your files in the background while you work; and if there is a crash, Photoshop will automatically recover the file that you were working on.

Editor's note: my computer locked up while working on this article. This forced me to turn off my computer to restart. When I opened Photoshop CS6 after the restart, the document that I was working on was there for me to continue working on. In this case, the Auto Recovery feature worked perfectly.

Content Aware Patch and Move Tools

When content aware fill was announced in CS5, people described it as “magical” or “impossible.” Now that we have had a couple of years to play with it, most people will probably agree that it still does a great job of removing objects from images but many people wished that they could tie it in with some other tools, like the patch tool for instance. Photoshop CS6 includes 2 new content aware features; content aware patch and content aware move.

Content aware patch will allow you to use the patch tool to grab image data from another part of your image and then blend it in with the part of the image that you want to replace.

Content aware move will allow you to move pixels to other parts of your image without having to use multiple layers.

Blur Gallery

Photoshop CS6 includes 3 new types of blur effects: field blur, iris blur, and tilt-shift blur. In addition, these new types of blur use a new HUD interface that will allow you to quickly change and adjust the settings of your blurs.

Type Styles

Adobe InDesign includes a Paragraph and Character styles feature that will allow you to quickly make changes to the appearance of text in your document. These features can be huge time savers for print designers that want to apply global changes to their text. Photoshop CS6 now includes similar Paragraph and Character styles that you can use to apply global styles to text.

New Video Timeline

One of the most surprising and exciting new features for Photoshop CS6 is the ability to work with video. Photoshop CS6 now gives us the ability to edit video in an easy-to-use, intuitive interface. In Photoshop CS6, you'll be able to open video, edit it, apply transitions, text, and even audio. And since you're working in Photoshop, you'll now be able to apply many of the effects available in Photoshop's toolset to your video, as well. This includes things like layer adjustments, filters, masks, and more.


For Photoshop CS6 Extended, the Photoshop team put a lot of research into how people wanted to use 3D in their work. As a result, the 3D features in Photoshop CS6 received a significant upgrade. These changes boiled down to improvements in both performance and usability.

The 3D workspace panel, and the new property panel available in CS6 will allow you to quickly make changes to your 3D object. An improved 3D interface will also simplify your workflow by allowing you to make changes to your object simply by clicking and dragging the object around on your canvas. In addition, you'll also be able to change the color of extruded text, and even apply warps and transformations to live text just as you might expect.

Property Panel

In this release, the Photoshop team also introduced the property panel. A smarter move tool knows what you're clicking on and will now present you with some options to make the editing process a bit simpler.

Performance Enhancements

Photoshop CS6 also includes several performance enhancements using their new Mercury Graphics Engine. This means faster rendering for 3D, no more lag when working with Liquify.

Liquify Brush Size

Retouchers who work with large images know how annoying it is to work with a small brush in Liquify. In Photoshop CS6, the Liquify brush size has now been increased to 15,000.

All New Crop Tool

Photoshop CS6 includes an all-new crop tool. The new crop tool will allow you to quickly straighten your images using a feature that used to be incorporated into the ruler tool, allow you to constrain your crops using user created presets, the ability to quickly toggle your crop between landscape and portrait orientation, a way to view your crop using different grid views, auto centering and much more.


If you're a digital painter or frequently use brushes in your work, Photoshop CS6 includes 2 new brush types; brushes with erodible tips, as well as airbrush brushes. Erodible tip brushes behave in a way similar to charcoal pencils. The tip of the brush will slowly erode as you draw. The airbrush brush will give your work a realistic airbrush effect.

Adaptive Wide Angle

Adaptive Wide Angle is a feature that the Adobe team explained at a sneak peek event in New York City before the release of the Beta. Adaptive Wide Angle will allow you to correct lens distortion from a photograph taken using a wide-angle lens.

Photo by BruceW.

Preset Sharing

In Adobe Photoshop CS6, sharing your presets between computers, coworkers, and friends has never been easier. Preset sharing will allow you to quickly export your brushes, presets, patterns, workspaces, and more between computers or even different versions of Photoshop.

Skin Aware Selections

This slightly obscure feature will allow you to detect skin tones by going to Select > Color Range > then by selecting Skin Tones from the drop down menu. You can even ask it to detect faces.

Auto Adjustments

Photoshop CS6 now supports an auto feature for Levels, Curves, and Brightness/Contrast.

Scripted Patterns

In Adobe Photoshop CS6 you can now apply scripts to your patterns to get them to fill your canvas in new ways including Brick Fill, Cross Weave, Random Fill, Random Fill, Spiral, and Symmetry Fill.


JDI stands for “Just Do It,” in Photoshop CS6, the developers were given some time to work on small new features and fix older ones. Below is a list of each JDI that was completed for Photoshop CS6.


  • HUD brush resize and hardness can now change opacity
  • Increase brush size to 5000px
  • Change color dynamics to per stroke instead of per tip (user option for old behavior)
  • Brightness/contrast slider for textures when painting
  • Brush projection for static tips
  • Brush cursor reflects brush dynamics for round and captured tips
  • Show the sample size popup for the various eyedropper tools (black point, white point, etc.)
  • Add ignore adjustment layers options bar item for the eyedropper
  • New mode for eyedropper to select layers current and below

File formats

  • Read common stereo image pair formats (JPS, PNS) Allow for more bit depths in TIFF files
  • Read BIGTIFF format
  • Give the user choices regarding how they want transparency treated in OpenEXR on file open


  • Policed throughout app
  • Use consistent grammar style in the title of dialog windows (no commands such as "Choose a color:")


  • Add a contextual menu item that deletes a layer effect not just disables it
  • Add dither options to Layer Styles for Gradient Overlay and Gradient Stroke
  • Allow 00 or Shift 00 to work when setting layer/fill opacity (previously no way to get 0%)
  • Add bicubic sharper & bicubic smoother options when free transforming layers
  • Allow changing of blend modes for multiple layers at once
  • Allow locking of multiple layers
    o CMD+J to duplicate layers and layer group
  • Allow changing color labels to multiple layers at once
  • Layer tooltips to include layer name (if defined)
  • Opt+click on toggle arrows (groups and effects) in layer panel should close all targets
  • Show blend if/Blending Effects badge on layer
  • Show correct opacity and blend mode values for hidden layers
  • Tab goes to next layer on inline layer rename, SHIFT + TAB goes to previous
  • New command to raster layer effect into layer, merging the selected layers into themselves
  • Reorder effects in the layers palette to match the Z-order style/blend mode (bottom most effects in terms
    of blending order, drop shadow is below the other effects


  • Resize Liquify brush with shortcuts
  • Increase maximum Liquify brush size Add option to load last mesh


  • Add new document presets for common devices (e.g. iPhone, iPad, etc.)
  • Add new Gradient Map presets for toning and split-toning
  • Sticky reorganization of tool presets (changes persist after re-launch) Add Contact Sheet II as an Automation option


  • Add the ability to return an array of guides in a document from the scripting SDK
  • Add ability to access tool name associated with the tool preset name via scripting
  • Make the marquee, lasso, and mask panel feather values support decimal places like the feather dialog
  • Remember feather radius when showing dialog for selection from a path


  • Improve dragging of vector curves
  • Don't hide smart object icon when transforming a layer
  • Rotate 90 with even x odd pixel dimension to be smooth (bjango.com)
  • Undo or disable auto -rotate on open


  • Remove the app bar and reduce the drag/app bar over 30%
  • [Windows] New/open document to context click on a document tab (has always been on Mac, now
    on Windows too)
  • Add "Don't show again" checkbox to Purge warnings


  • Enable Split Channels for documents with layers
  • Select Hex field by default and allow clipboard pastes with # in contents (i.e. #fffffff)
  • Increased GPU stability by prequalifying GPUs on the fly before use
  • Auto-select the best resample method based on the type of resize
  • Enable Invert and Threshold adjustments for masks in 32 -bit
  • Hold SHIFT during startup to disable 3rd party plugins
  • Add warning message that 16 -bit images cannot display their file size in the Save as JPEG dialog
  • Add command to insert "lorem ipsum" for type

System Requirements

If you are wondering about the system requirements for Photoshop CS6, here are some additional details:

  • 1GB of RAM.
  • 2GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation.
  • 1024x768 (1280x800 recommended) resolution display with 16-bit color and 256MB (512MB recommended, required for Photoshop Extended) of VRAM.
  • OpenGL 2.0 capable system.
  • DVD-ROM drive.
  • Internet connection and registration required for software activation. This software will not operate without activation. Broadband Internet connection required for online services.
  • Some GPU enabled features and 3D features are not supported on Windows XP.


Whenever Adobe releases a new version of its Creative Suite, designers often have to decide whether or not it makes sense to upgrade. We personally know a lot of designers who decided to skip CS5. For them, CS5 didn't include enough new features and just wasn't worth the upgrade. After taking a careful look at Photoshop CS6, we have decided that it is certainly worth an upgrade.

Photoshop CS6 is packed with new features and tweaks that will significantly improve your workflow and enhance your toolset. Notable new features include a revamped 3D workspace (in Photoshop CS6 Extended), layer management tools, background save and auto recovery, vector and stroke enhancements, as well as a new video editing timeline, as well as a brand new crop tool. Photographers and retouchers will also enjoy working with the enhanced Liquify tools, as well as the new Adaptive Wide Angle filter.

Photoshop CS6 includes is a significant improvement over Photoshop CS5 and is by far the best version of Photoshop to date. While the decision to upgrade is yours, we believe that you should definitely download Photoshop CS6 and give it a try when it is available. Once you've had some time to work with it, we think you will be as impressed as we are.

What Do You Think?

Now that we've had our say. What do you think? What features are you looking forward to? Will you make the upgrade?

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