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Adobe Photoshop CS6 Review

Photoshop CS6 offers the best range of features and a flexible interface for professional photographers. Despite the lack of a few ancillary functions, the software lives up to its title as the industry standard in photo editing. Buy Now

Natalie Gialluca

Natalie Gialluca

Photo Editing Software Expert

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Updated: May 20, 2014

The Good

Unrivaled collection of photo editing features:

If there were ever a product that could be described as the "industry standard," it is Adobe Photoshop CS6. With a seemingly endless number of features, Photoshop CS6 holds a clear advantage over every other professional photo editing software. If you can't find a feature in Photoshop, there's a good chance that it simply doesn't exist.

Extensive assortment of graphic design elements and effect filters:

Photoshop CS6 definitely crosses into the area of feature overload, but that's a good thing when it comes to photo editing software because you will not be limited when using CS6. Photoshop CS6 has endless amounts of features when it comes to painting tools, drawing options, and effects filters. Dozens upon dozens of options appear in each category, so if you don't care for one of the presets, then you can customize your own option.

Completely customizable interface:

When dealing with the massive selection of features offered throughout Photoshop CS6, finding exactly what you are looking for can be a daunting task. To help combat potential information overload, Adobe has developed a surprisingly clean and clear interface. In fact, the display's appearance is so simple that it almost disguises the high level of functionality in the software. If you don't like the way the information is presented, you can change nearly everything about it. You can manipulate the positions of the menus (both dockable and floating) and the menu configurations by dragging and dropping. However, while it's possible to automate repeated tasks with Photoshop CS6, it's not as intuitive as you would expect from a product of this quality.

Unmatched help articles and video tutorials:

Although the initial learning curve can be steep for some people, Photoshop has extensive video tutorials and help articles to get you up to speed and keep you there. The amount of tutorial videos is downright staggering, and they run from anywhere between a few minutes to 30 minutes. On occasion, you may have to sit through a short advertisement when the video starts up, but that is a small price to pay for the value of the videos. Even if you are a Photoshop pro, you just might learn a tip or two by going through the tutorials.

Nice selection of content-aware tools:

Photoshop CS6 has a number of tools that automatically perform specific functions to a photo by taking into account what is actually on the image. For example, say you have a photo of three deer standing in a field. One of the three deer is partially cut off in the photo and you decide you want to remove that deer. The tool will actually replace the deer you cut out with what it perceives should take its place. So you will then automatically have a perfectly placed section of grassy field where the deer was once standing in your photo. Once you become more familiar with these tools, it can save time and effort, particularly during the manipulation stage of the process.

Can work with 3D images:

If you have the need for 3D, then the Extended version of Photoshop CS6 includes tools for creating and editing such images. Specifically, you can add, remove, or manipulate shadows, lights, materials, and paints. Also, this allows for simple compositing of 3D objects into images, the creation of 3D extrusions, and painting directly on 3D models.

Quantitative image analysis:

The Photoshop CS6 Extended version also makes it possible to perform the quantitative data extraction necessary for detailed image analysis, including full DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) file support. Unfortunately, this means little to the average professional photographer because it's primarily used in scientific and medical fields, but it's nice to know if this interests you.

The Bad

Lacks advanced image processing, organization, and file management capabilities:

File management for Photoshop CS6 is handled by Adobe Bridge, which is the digital asset management software that is packaged with Creative Suite. Adobe Bridge can be used as a customizable panel within Photoshop, although it does link back to the main program for some features, such as batch image processing and generating contact sheets. With Bridge, you have access to the tools you need to import files, sort and filter images, create slideshows, and upload to Web albums. You can also add and sort basic metadata tags, including picture rating, keywords, and categories. For more powerful features, like geotagging and facial recognition, you will need to use an external program to reach the advanced level of functionality.

Simplistic video editing functionality:

Photoshop CS6 provides only the most basic video editing features, such as trim, transitions, and a timeline. Adobe addresses this limitation with their Premiere Pro CS6 product, but it comes at a significant additional price tag. For those with heavy video needs, this will be well worth investigating as the Standard and Extended editions of Photoshop CS6 will likely leave you frustrated in this area. However, it's likely that you are buying CS6 to edit photos and not to primarily edit videos.

The price tag:

With the highest prices around, the value of Photoshop CS6 is directly tied to the degree of professional photo editing and image analysis you need. Unfortunately, the fact that most photo editing professionals believe you can't call yourself a professional photo editor without using this product means that you must be using CS6 to be taken seriously. That value alone can be priceless for many.

The Details

Free Trial 30 days
Platform Mac, Windows
Price $999
Upgrade Cost N/A


Advanced Editing

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  • 16-Bit Image Editing - You can edit 16-bit images.
  • Add Grain/Noise - You can add graphical identification metadata to your images.
  • Advanced Color Image Operations - You can perform color image operations such as color correction, color zones, color transfer, and vibrance.
  • Audio Editing - You can perform basic audio editing within the software.
  • Black-and-White Conversion - You can convert a color image into a black and white image using any number of methods.
  • Blend - You can blend areas of an image together.
  • Blur - You can soften the detail of an image.
  • Collage - You can create a collage of images.
  • Color Adjustment Tools - You can use a tool to replace missing color or match existing colors.
  • Color Management - You can maintain color quality as an image moves from device to device.
  • Color to Grayscale - You can convert a color image into a black and white image using this specific method.
  • Control Points - You can use control points, a series of small squares placed on the edges and corners of a rectangular selection, to modify a selection by dragging the small squares as needed.
  • Distortion Control/Correction - You can reduce pincushion and barrel distortion effects.
  • Effects - You can add general effects to an image.
  • Exposure Adjustment - You can adjust the exposure of an image.
  • Filters - You can use any of the standard filter types to alter images.
  • Generate Mosaic Images - You can create a single large image made from a number of other smaller images.
  • Gradients - You can create smooth transitions between adjacent colors.
  • Image Correction - You can brighten shadows, fix unwanted flash, and repair backlight effects.
  • Image Zoom - You can enlarge or shrink the view of the image, in part or in total, as needed.
  • Layers - You can make changes to images on individual sheets that can be stacked to form the combined image. Each layer can be adjusted without changing the other layers.
  • Masks - You can protect certain areas of an image from being modified.
  • Nondestructive Editing Environment - You can make changes to image without altering the original version.
  • Photo Text Entry - You can type right on the image you are working on and see the text in real time.
  • Post-Processing Effects - You can create effects after processing to include framing and vignetting.
  • Reshaping, Manipulating, and Resizing - You can enhance, enlarge or reduce images, cut images to predefined or custom formats, and measure and mark image content.
  • Retouch Brush - You can remove blemishes, dust and other unusual elements from images while maintaining its integrity.
  • Saturation/Warmth - You can control the strength and warmness of a color
  • Selection Options - Once you have made a selection, you can set aspect ratios, adjust selection sizes, move selections, turn the selection into a mask and/or add feathering to the edges.
  • Selection Tools - You can use different tools to select an area of the image to work on, including the circle, square, wand, and/or lasso.
  • Sepia Enhancement - You can add a sepia (brown-gray) tone to an image.
  • Shadow and Highlight Adjustment - You can control the levels of shadow and highlights in your image.
  • Sharpen - You can enhance the detailed edges within an image.
  • Support for Custom Palettes - This software supports custom color palettes.
  • Templates - You can create project or metadata templates.
  • Text Effects - You can add effect to text, such as drop shadows, 3D, perspective, curved text, and path text.
  • Transformations - You can trim, skew, scale, flip, mirror, rotate, and/or add perspective to an image.
  • Watermarks - You can create savable, personalized, and usually semi-transparent watermarks for your images.

Digital Painting

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Learning Materials

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Professional Editing

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Standard Editing

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Standard Photo Management

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Advanced Photo Management

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File Management

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Third-Party Integration

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Photoshop CS6 Extended costs $999 and has a 30-day, full-service free trial of the software. The Students & Teachers Edition is available for $249.

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