Adobe Creative Cloud (January 2014 update) review
A subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud brings regular updates to its constituent applications, and the latest round of downloads introduces some significant changes – starting with the surprise addition of 3D printing to Photoshop CC. It’s an unexpected direction for the program; although Photoshop has had basic 3D support since CS3, it’s never provided a proper set of tools for sculpting and editing shapes, and indeed it still doesn’t. Rather, Adobe sees it as a finishing environment for models imported from dedicated modelling programs, or downloaded from online archives.
It certainly has the necessary features for that role. Objects in a variety of popular formats (OBJ, STL, 3DS, COLLADA and KMZ) can be imported and arranged as needed, and pannable previews are offered in a variety of forms, from wireframes to fully rendered, custom-lit 3D scenes. Surfaces can be distorted with bump map layers, and if you’re planning to output to a multicolour printer, you can either decorate your model with texture layers or use Photoshop’s standard tools to paint directly onto its surface.
Finally, when you’re ready to bring your model to reality, Photoshop automatically fixes any gaps in your meshes, and adds scaffolding to support the design while it’s being printed. MakerBot, Mcor Iris and Solidoodle printers are supported natively, and the profile format is open so that third parties can add support for their own machines. You can also send your completed file directly to the Shapeways printing bureau – but since Shapeways is based in the US, expect to pay around £6 for shipping, on top of the cost of producing the item itself (typically around £10).
We can believe that creatives taking their first steps into 3D modelling will appreciate the option of working in a familiar environment. Right now, though, Photoshop doesn’t do the whole job – and since finishing 3D models has little in common with a typical 2D workflow, most users will still face a steep learning curve.
Other updates to Photoshop target traditional 2D images. The new Perspective Warp tool lets you adjust the apparent viewing angle of an image element by splitting it into two meshes, joined at the front corner. It works brilliantly for assembling composite scenes: if you want to place a car onto a road, for example, you can effortlessly set its wheels squarely onto the tarmac without distorting the bonnet. It’s also now possible to link Smart Objects into your projects rather than embedding them – so when you update an Illustrator file that’s linked as a Smart Object, for example, your Photoshop document automatically updates too.
Illustrator itself gets a few new tools. Wherever two straight path segments meet, a handle now appears that can be dragged to round off the corner. Double-click the handle and the familiar Round Corners dialog opens, allowing you to specify a precise rounding radius or set chamfering options.
The Pencil tool has been enhanced, too, now generating much cleaner curves by default. You can adjust a slider to control the balance between precision and smoothness, and after your shape is created you can (as before) simply redraw on top of a segment to refine it. Alternatively, the Direct Selection tool can now be used to stretch line segments directly into the desired shape, with anchor points automatically following the way you drag. Switch to the Anchor Point tool and you can turn straight lines into Béziers by simply dragging out a curve. Taken together, these very practical changes make it much easier and more intuitive than before to work with curved paths.
A final addition to Illustrator is the integration of Adobe’s online Typekit service directly into the program; you can now jump directly from the Font menu into the browser to try out typefaces that aren’t currently installed on your system, and install them for use at the click of a button. A similar feature has been added to InDesign CC, so if you open a document that uses a missing font you can now install it from Typekit with a few clicks. For those using InDesign to create electronic documents, there’s also improved hyperlink management and support for new EPUB 3 features.
It’s impressive that Adobe continues to find ways to improve such well-established software. While not everyone will benefit from every update here, the Creative Cloud applications are overall starting to feel like a real step up from their CS6 incarnations.
Unfortunately, subscription-only pricing makes it impossible to give the package a wholehearted recommendation. If you’re amenable to the licensing model, then Creative Cloud is a phenomenal package that just keeps getting better. But for those who prefer to own their software, and who are already using a recent copy of Creative Suite, there’s not enough here – not yet – to justify switching to recurrent payments.
|Software subcategory||Graphics/design software|
Operating system support
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||no|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||no|
|Operating system Linux supported?||no|
|Operating system Mac OS X supported?||no|
|Other operating system support||Windows 8|