Review: Photoshop CC 2018

Photoshop CC 2018 review: quick links

It’s 28 years since Photoshop was released into the world. In that time, Adobe has built the software into the ultimate image manipulation tool, used daily by professionals and hobbyist creatives alike – many of whom could count Photoshop keyboard shortcuts as their second language. 

The latest update, Photoshop CC 2018 (version 19), dropped in October 2017. It brings with it a host of new features, and although these might not be as initially astounding as those from previous versions, they make a huge difference in efficiency, helping creatives adapt to a ‘must have it now’ work environment.

So what’s new in Photoshop CC 2018? Let’s take a look at the most interesting new features…

Support for OpenType variable fonts

Photoshop now supports variable fonts – an OpenType font format supporting custom attributes such as weight, width, slant, optical size and so on. With this feature, you can quickly and easily customise styles by using inbuilt sliders to move between the different weights and thickness of a type family. 

This allows for a more seamless workflow and adds an extra dimension to Photoshop. It also means that students, or creatives who can’t afford a subscription plan that includes InDesign, can have more flexible type controls at their fingertips.

As a designer who works a lot with type and layout, it’s uplifting to see Adobe trying to make the workspaces of its applications more type efficient. The software isn’t best known for being synonymous with a typography workflow, and in recent years Photoshop has dropped far behind Illustrator and InDesign in its typesetting capabilities.

For me, the best thing about this latest feature is that the typefaces aren’t warped or transformed when utilising Variable Font. As principal manager of Creative Cloud Evangelism, Rufus Deuchler, stated at the latest Adobe Creative Meet up in London, Adobe has worked with type foundries and designers to make sure that all the typefaces maintain their correct structure when utilising the variable font options, so you don’t need to worry about something looking out of place.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that the feature currently isn’t the most intuitive to use. To activate the variable option, you need to select some text and type ‘variable’ into the font drop-down menu in the Options bar. You can then adjust the slider controls in your Properties panel. 

While this won’t hold the more learned Photoshop user back, a beginner might struggle. I would love to see Adobe update the feature to automatically bring up the controls whenever type is inputted – if only to cut out a couple of workflow steps.

New Brush control features

Much to the delight of illustrators and art workers alike, Adobe has also overhauled its brush-related features and developed a whole host of goodies for you to get your hands on. 

The most stand out for me is the new stroke smoothing feature. This performs ‘intelligent smoothing’ on your brush strokes as you draw and work in three modes:

01. Pulled String Mode
Paints only when the string is taut. Cursor movements within the smoothing radius leave no mark.

02. Stroke Catch Up
Allows the paint to continue catching up with your cursor while you’ve paused the stroke. Disabling this mode stops paint application as soon as the cursor movement stops.

03. Catch-Up on Stroke End
Completes the stroke from the last paint position to the point where you released the mouse/stylus control.

These all give you greater control over the marks you make. I’ve found that my use of Undo has greatly depleted since utilising the Pulled String Mode, because I can accurately see the direction my brush is moving in.

Better brush organisation

Another great enhancement with the latest Photoshop update, although not entirely new, is the further streamlined brush management system Adobe has implemented. 

You can now organise brush presets into folders and nested folders, while also managing brush tool presets directly from the Brushes panel. If you’re like me, and have a mountain of custom and purchased brush libraries, this will save you a lot of time. 

You can also save any customised Brush tool presets into an actual brush preset, while keeping all of its attributes – such as opacity, blending mode and so on. This might not be as immediately useful to beginners, but any professional creative who uses a multitude of brushes within their work will instantly notice a difference to their workflow.

Ability to edit 360-degree content

Image shows a 360 view of a pier and the sea with a drone in the foreground

You’re now able to take panoramic photographs, edit them directly within Photoshop using its bespoke 3D workspace, and export them. Not only does this mean you can manipulate, change, add to or touch up the environments you shoot, it also potentially opens up your workflow to other mediums, such as motion and interactive design. 

This feature shows that Adobe recognises the systemic shift the world is taking towards immersive technologies – and looks like a clear sign of more features to come.

Enhanced tool tips

This isn’t the most in-depth feature to discuss. But it deserves an honourable mention simply because, for a beginner to the world of Adobe, it makes navigating and learning Photoshop all the easier.

Other key features in Photoshop CC 2018

  • Curvature Pen tool
  • Access to Lightroom photos
  • Customised path options
  • Copy and paste layers 
  • Exclusive brushes from Kyle T. Webster
  • Properties panel improvements
  • Select and Mask improvements 
  • Learn panel
  • Technology Preview features
  • Support for Microsoft Surface Dial
  • Preserve Details 2.0 Upscale
  • Paint Symmetry
  • Quick selections with Colour and Luminance Range Masking
  • Read more here

System requirements

macOS

  • Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support
  • macOS version 10.13 (High Sierra), macOS version 10.12 (Sierra), or Mac OS X version
  • 10.11 (El Capitan)2 GB or more of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • 4 GB or more of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation 
  • 1024 x 768 display (1280×800 recommended) with 16-bit color and 512 MB or more of dedicated VRAM; 2 GB is recommended*
  • OpenGL 2.0-capable system

Windows

  • Intel® Core 2 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor; 2 GHz or faster processor
  • Microsoft Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10
  • 2 GB or more of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • 2.6 GB or more of available hard-disk space for 32-bit installation; 3.1 GB or more of available hard-disk space for 64-bit installation; additional free space required during installation (can’t install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system)
  • 1024 x 768 display (1280×800 recommended) with 16-bit color and 512 MB or more of dedicated VRAM; 2 GB is recommended*
  • OpenGL 2.0-capable system

* 3D features are disabled on 32-bit platforms and on computers having less than 512MB of VRAM. Oil Paint filter and video features are not supported on 32-bit Windows systems.

So how good is Photoshop CC 2018?

Multiple screens showing image editing in Photoshop

Like every update in recent Creative Cloud releases, version 19 is about gradual improvement. Photoshop CC 2018 is a powerful image-manipulation package, and the new features help create a more efficient workspace within the app. 

Additions like the Type tool updates help expand Photoshop’s user base, allowing existing, single plan customers to experiment further; while the new panoramic feature shows that Adobe isn’t letting its ubiquitous design tool be left behind. That said, the new features as a whole lack a certain wow factor. Adobe risks ignoring consumer needs, too, by removing Lightroom as a standalone application from its price plan. 

If you don’t operate in a team workflow and only require a standalone photo-editing app, rival software like Affinity Photo could make for a viable and cost-effective option. 

However, if you’re a creative who regularly works as part of a collaborative workflow – whether in the studio or at home – or if you use a multitude of other Adobe applications and enjoy the streamlined experience of jumping between them, Photoshop remains a worthwhile investment that’s limited only by your imagination and talent.

Buy Photoshop CC 2017 or sign up to Adobe Creative Cloud here

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