Adobe Photoshop Extended CS4 review
VERDICT More power for 3D users, but little for anyone else.
Photoshop Extended was the surprise introduction and, in many ways, star of the CS3 premium suites with its eye-popping introduction of 3D and video layers and a worthy new role in scientific image analysis. It’s a hard act to follow so how has Adobe extended Photoshop Extended?
There’s relatively little new in terms of general image analysis apart from the improved Count tool which now allows for multiple series, but the volume-based rendering and cross-sectional handling of DICOM images will be appreciated in medical scenarios.
For video handling the pickings are similarly thin. There’s tighter integration with Premiere Pro and After Effects via improved support for comments and keyboard shortcuts and the basic support for audio tracks will be welcome. Otherwise the biggest development is the ability to animate imported 3D objects and the support for such 3D layers in After Effects.
Even for image analysis and video handling the clear focus of this release is 3D. So much so that Adobe has entirely reworked Photoshop Extended CS4’s rendering engine to take advantage of OpenGL. The 3D panel has also been enhanced to offer three different lighting types. You can also now quickly turn image layers into flat 3D planes, “3D postcards” as Adobe calls them, or wrap them around various preset 3D shape primitives.
The biggest new feature in Photoshop Extended CS4, and the closest to a jaw dropper, is the new ability to directly paint and retouch imported models without having to open up the separate texture maps. You can also overlay an image layer and drop this onto the object, paint with seamless textures and hide areas of the model’s mesh to paint on surfaces below.
There’s no doubt that Photoshop CS4 Extended provides a lot of dedicated 3D texturing power. The problem is that you have all the complexity that goes along with this, and you’re still only editing within a pseudo 3D environment – for example brushes are always oriented to the screen rather than the model. For a lot less money you could buy Cinema 4D which provides true 3D painting - and a high-end 3D modeller!
Ultimately it’s strange that Adobe has gone to this much effort when 3D modelling is about the only design area that it doesn’t cater for. It means that the majority of Photoshop CS4 Extended’s users, who will get their hands on the application as part of the CS4 Design Premium and Web Premium suites, won’t derive any benefit from this release.
EASE OF USE 2/6
VALUE FOR MONEY 2/6
Requirements: Windows XP (SP2), Vista
Tom Arah is the webmaster of designer-info.com. He has been a professional designer working with computer software since 1987. He also offers training and consultancy and since 1997 has been the contributing editor covering design issues for PC Pro, the UK's biggest-selling (and best) computer monthly.