Photoshop CC 2015: The Good, The Bad, and the Meh

08.14.2015

Hot off the digital press! Read all about it! The Photoshop CC 2015 update is here! And not all designers are in love with it.

Adobe’s recent Photoshop update has been top gossip for much of the design world recently, and for good reason. Adobe has dropped a plethora of new features into the update, mostly focusing on web and app design, with a couple new treasures for photo-editing and visual design. Surprisingly, these updates have seen some strong opinions surface, both positive and negative.

As a daily Photoshop user myself, these are my first impressions of some of the top features for web designers, as well as some other hidden gems.

The Good

Artboards

PS2015_artboards.jpg

Probably one of the most discussed of the updates, Photoshop indeed has artboards now! This can definitely come in handy for designing multiple screens, seeing the consistency across your design, and quick style updates. But for Photoshop and Illustrator users, don’t expect this to be completely intuitive. I definitely needed to consult Adobe Help on how to properly use artboards (the Artboard tool is hidden in the Move tool?). What’s nice is that the Artboard stacks nicely into the Layers panel as it’s own group, and you can place objects within or outside of the artboards completely. The artboards will also clip your layers. With the new artboards come a plethora of new default screen sizes, which Photoshop was definitely lacking. It now includes a variety of iOS, Android, and responsive web sizes (welcome to the 20th century, Photoshop. We have Retina here.)

Design Space (tech preview)

PS2015_design-space.jpg

Another feature at the top of the gossip list is the Design Space mode. This is basically a new face for an old friend. It switches you to a slimmed down viewport, allowing you to focus on your screen designs. Design Space mode has gotten much flack from Sketch users for simply being a copycat. But in that sense, wouldn’t Sketch be an Illustrator copycat? I’m enthused that Photoshop is finally catching up and possibly implementing some much needed features for web and app designers. It’s still in beta at the moment, and I find it a bit lacking for now. However, one nice feature is the click-through grouping that Illustrator and Sketch users will be familiar with. This allows for quick and intuitive editing without searching through endless layers. Vector shapes and text are also a click-and-drag away, and Photoshop inserts these layers automatically so your file is organized when you switch back to the normal Photoshop viewport.

Glyphs Panel

While a seemingly small update, this is a nice feature for web designers. With fonts like Font Awesome, this makes it significantly easier and quicker for designers to drop icons into their wireframes and designs, eliminating time-consuming searching through icon sets and importing vector icons.

Linked Assets in Library

For those working on teams or file-abundant projects, Adobe now supports assets that automatically update. When a layer style, vector graphic, photo, or other element is updated in the Project Library, it updates across all the instances it’s used. So if a logo file is tweaked and updated, it updates that logo across all the Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign files it was placed in. The amount of time and consistency this saves gives me warm fuzzies.

Adobe Stock

Adobe now has a full stock photo library at your fingertips. You can search and place stock photos and illustration directly into your work through a Photoshop panel, and purchase the rights later. This is good and bad news. While this could be great for creating quick mockups, it also just makes it easier to create more generic final designs. And once you’ve seen the same stock photo on four websites, you’re less likely to trust the brand message the company is trying to sell. See our previous post on why you should invest in custom photography and illustration.

Other Goodies

PS2015_multiple-layer-styles.jpg

Photoshop now supports multiple Layer Styles for drop shadows, color overlay, gradient overlay, inner shadow, stroke, etc. You can keep all your styles streamlined to one layer, instead of having to create duplicates or workarounds, meaning a much cleaner and organized file. Just click the “+” buttons in the Layer Styles panel to start stacking your styles. (Just please don’t go overboard.)

Content-Aware and Healing have been updated to be quicker and more accurate. With the Content-Aware Move and Content-Aware Extend, when you move your selection, you can resize it using Transform on Drop. And it works automatically; no wait time or progress bar. The Healing Brush, the Spot Healing Brush, and the Patch tools are now instantaneous and update in real time as you work. In my personal tests, I find that I’m more satisfied with the quality of each individual spot heal, which I wasn’t in previous versions.

Stroke Overprint is a tiny but worthy mention. In previous versions, an inner stroke would simply replace the color fill of its object, even if set to an opacity less than 100%. Now it mixes the colors properly. This may not seem huge, but the workarounds to this could become ridiculous and layer-heavy.

PS2015_stroke-overprint.jpg

The Bad

As per usual, Adobe updates never come without some lovely bugs tagging along. One problem that continually frustrates me is artboard and canvas edges. What’s wrong, you ask? They don’t exist! And yes, even with artboards, canvas size is a separate entity. Your canvas size will always include all of your artboards; even if you try to move your artboard off of your canvas, the canvas will expand to fit it. This is not a huge deal until you either A) add a new layer, or B) export layers. For the former, the new layer will be sized to the canvas, not the artboard, causing some serious grief when dealing with masks, gradients, or even just realizing that your object extends way past the artboard. For the latter issue, when you export layers or save for web, it will export the entire layer (which is the size of the full canvas, not the artboard, as I just mentioned).

PS2015_artboard-edges-2.jpg

Some users have suggested a Band-Aid solution: In your Preferences, if you go to “Performance” and click “Advanced Settings” you can change the Drawing Mode from “Basic” to “Normal”. This gives you the option of changing the viewport’s background color (right click on the background and choose an option). The canvas edges are now visible, even if artboard edges are not. And this only works for some users, and apparently only works for RGB, not CMYK mode. All-in-all, I don’t understand why Adobe chose to do this, or if they just overlooked this completely. 

PS2015_artboard-edges-3.jpg

Another problem is the 1px border inside of the artboard. Haven’t noticed this yet? Zoom in a bit on your artboard and you’ll see it. The problem with this, again, is that there are no artboard edges. Adobe claims to be fixing this and will hopefully send an update soon.

The Meh

PS2015 export-as

Photoshop is breaking up with Save For Web. It is now under the Export menu, with the label “(legacy)”, which we all know, stands for “(I’m leaving you)”. A lot of Photoshop users are getting ulcers about this one. Why fix what isn’t broken? But sometimes change is good, and with the introduction of artboards, it’s understandable that Photoshop needed to handle exporting differently. Take a deep breath and learn the new features. Also, with Export As, jpegs might actually be compressed even better than Save For Web. (Justin Seeley even demonstrates that the new exporting might be better for compressing jpegs for web anyway.)

Device Preview is another “meh” for me. You download the CC Preview app on your mobile device, hook it up through USB or wifi, and open the Device Preview panel. It will display your artboards on your mobile device, demonstrating how it might look in real pixels. Handy, to say the most.

Lastly,a quick note: Adobe CC 2015 now REPLACES your Adobe CC 2014 version. Previous versions of the Adobe suites would install the new version without deleting your old version, making it possible to run both versions simultaneously. Why? This was beneficial in case the new version didn’t work with a user’s plugins or preferences. You could be sure that you could revert back to the previous version without messing up your files or workflow. This is an easy fix: when installing, click on “Advanced Options” and uncheck “Remove Old Versions”. This is more of a personal preference, and it’s up to the user to decide what they want to do.

Despite all of the reviews, articles, and opinions on the newest Photoshop CC update (including mine), my biggest piece of advice would be to dive into the features and decide for yourself. You might be surprised (or underwhelmed) by how these updates can change your workflow. What Photoshop 2015 updates do you find most helpful?