Adobe has updated its flagship photo-editing tool with a 2018 version, so what’s new? Find out in our Photoshop CC 2018 review.

What is Photoshop CC?

Photoshop is the world’s most famous image-editing program and so widely used that it’s entered the English language as a verb – to ‘Photoshop’ something is to apply a digital manipulation that distorts, enhances or even manufactures versions of reality.

Photoshop is used for much more than that, of course. Photographers can use it to retouch portraits, enhance landscapes, create special effects, merge frames into panoramas and build composite images from separate photos.

Artists and illustrators, meanwhile, use photoshop for designing posters, developing application interfaces and creating technical diagrams and digitally painting original artwork. Photoshop is a multi-purpose tool with many uses not connected to photography, which goes some way to explaining why it can appear so complex and technical.

Nevertheless, for photographers there’s no other tool, with the exception of Serif Affinity Photo, which offers the same detailed, technical, professional level of control over photographic image enhancement and manipulation.

Photoshop CC 2018 review

Photoshop’s mastery of digital illusion is unquestioned – if you can imagine it, you can create it.

Photoshop CC 2018 in use

For all its power, the Photoshop CC 2018 interface is actually a refreshingly straightforward place to work. Tools are displayed in a narrow vertical toolbar on the left side of the screen – tools with more than one option display them on fly-out menus – and the program’s numerous palettes are arranged on the right side of the screen and can be stacked, combined with tabs, shrunk and expanded at will.

It’s a very efficient use of space. At first you might have to hunt around a little to find the panel you need, but it’s easy to customise the layout and Photoshop also offers a variety of ‘workspaces’ for different kinds of work, which can hide the tools you don’t use and make those you do need more accessible.

Along the top of the window is a row of tool options which change according to the tool you’ve currently selected. These can include gradient and brush settings, for example.

Most digital manipulation centres on the layers panel, where you can combine images, adjustments, filters, text and shapes. Each layer can have its own layer mask, to control which parts of the layer are visible, and blend modes, to control how the different layers interact with one another.

Photoshop CC 2018 review: in use

Photoshop’s Layers panel makes managing multiple image, adjustment, type and shape layers remarkably straightforward.

To create layer masks you need an understanding of Photoshop’s selection tools, and this is another area where it excels. Extracting objects from their backgrounds is not always easy, but with Photoshop’s arsenal of selection tools and some practice skill and judgement, it’s possible to select and mask almost anything.

Photoshop is very good at retouching too, with a Clone Stamp tool for covering unwanted objects or blemishes with pixels from surrounding areas, and Healing/Spot Healing Brush and Patch tools for semi-automatic repairs.

Photoshop has also become infamous for its ability to stretch, flatten and twist the human form into allegedly more attractive shapes via its Liquify tools.

There is probably no digital image manipulation you can imagine that can’t be done in Photoshop, but it will often require a considerable amount of know-how and skill. If you’re a photographer rather than a technician, there are other programs which will give you a wide range of one-click photographic ‘looks’ with considerably less effort.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers and when to use them

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Photoshop CC 2018
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