Rafiq Elmansy July 6th, 2010

Practicing Photoshop CS5’s New Features

Since the earliest days of Adobe Photoshop, designers and photographers have depended on it to edit images. Photoshop is perhaps Adobe's most popular application. Professionals in our industry react with excitement and concern for every new version. They want to know about new features and how Photoshop can improve their editing and marketing (again!). The interest in Photoshop doesn't come as a surprise, given its reputation among both the community of experts and general computer users.

Newly released versions of software always include minor changes that are regarded by the creator as enhancements. There are usually major changes as well, and the time required to learn about them can affect the workflow of professionals who frequently employ the program.


Creative Suite 5, the latest version of Adobe Photoshop, includes major updates and new features that will make certain tasks much easier than they were in previous versions—but they still take some learning. This article discusses the most important new and enhanced features in CS5 and how they might affect your Photoshop work. To follow along, you'll need a basic understanding of Photoshop's interface.

Extend Creative Power With the Mixer Brush

The brushes in Photoshop are essential tools for artists and designers who create digital paintings. The new Mixer Brushes expand the brushes' capabilities by giving users the option to mix two colors to simulate the effect of painting with a brush that has been dipped in two colors. There are also new options for brush style, size and effect, as well as presets for different brush tips. These can be integrated with the Mixer Brush for more painting effects (such as by making bristle brushes).

The Mixer Brush simulates an actual paint brush by mixing colors from the palette with, for example, brush styles (such as "hard" and "wet") as well as flow. When you select the Mixer Brush from the Tools bar, the brush options and presets appear in the top Properties bar. Below, you can see the difference between the normal brush effect and the Mixer Brush effect when using the new brush presets.

Unlike the regular brush, the Mixer Brush blends the colors together.

You can use the Mixer Brush to create digital painting effects from scratch or to turn an existing photo into a digital painting. Here's how:

  1. Select the Mixer Brush tool from the Tools bar. You might need to click and hold the brush tool to reveal the Mixer Brush icon.
  2. Choose any of the new brushes in the presets.
  3. Paint over the image to convert its look. Use Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) to set the foreground color to a similar color as the original. Start by painting over each color in the image separately with a similar color loaded in the brush.

A before-and-after shot of the lighthouse image. The Mixer Brush gives it an impressionist look.

The Mixer Brush shares the standard brush options, but other properties customize how the brush interacts with the overlapped colors. These are:

Mixer Brush options and new brush presets.

The brush presets picker allows you to choose the painting brush, and there are more effects and painting styles, too (including Round Point Stiff, Round Blunt Medium Stiff, Round Curve Low Bristle Percent).

The "Load Brush After Each Stroke" icon lets you either load the brush color while painting with it (by using the Load Color option) or affect only the existing color on the stage (by using the Clean Color option). You can toggle this icon to switch between two methods and select them from the drop-down menu to the left of the icon.

When two colors are mixed on the brush, the "Clear Brush After Each Stroke" icon allows you to either continue using mixed colors or clean the brush and start painting again with new colors. You can set values and percentages of the paint and the brush when it's wet, and you can set the amount of color the brush holds and the value of the mixed colors.

The Mixer Brush lends itself to digital painting and digital art. Outlining or sketching is the first step that most digital artists take before using the painting features. In my opinion, Adobe could outfit Photoshop with more drawing capabilities; this would be of great benefit to these artists. For now, the best drawing tools—especially for working with paths and modifying outlines—remain in Adobe Illustrator.

Smart Fill With Content-Aware Fill

Image editing and photo manipulation are two of the oldest functions in Photoshop. Designers and photographers depend on them. One challenging task is to remove part of an image or move elements in the background (such as in images of nature or urban scenes). Old editing methods took time and required precision, whereas the new Content-Aware feature allows you to easily remove elements in the image.

Photoshop can read an image and fill in selected portions with the fill it deems suitable—and based on colors in the image itself. Photoshop can also predict how a background might look if an object is taken out, and it can make a fill to replace an object seamlessly. Content-Aware can be chosen as one of the fill options when using any of the selection tools in Photoshop (such as the Marquee, Lasso, Quick Selection and Magic Wand). This fill option can also be applied with the Spot Healing brush for more accurate results.

In the following example, we'll use the Content-Aware fill to edit an image by removing an object from it. We'll remove a small gap in the middle of the lake in the picture below using the Polygon Lasso Tool.

  1. Select the Polygon Lasso tool.
  2. Select the water gap in the lake.
  3. From the Edit menu, choose Fill, and then select Content-Aware from the fill drop-down list.

Use Content Aware to remove unwanted parts of the image and fill the empty area with color and texture that is similar to the background.

You can also use Content Aware with any of the already mentioned tools.

For a more accurate Content Aware fill, remove small areas. Large areas are difficult to make up for.

You can use the Content Aware feature to remove a person from a background or to delete an unwanted object. You can also move parts of an image to other areas.

Complex Selections

The selection tool is one of the most frequently used, and Photoshop CS5 has a smart way of selecting multiple areas in the image or of isolating multiple areas. The Refine Edges feature makes smooth cuts, and the Quick Selection tool selects multiple areas based on color and size. It can also remove the selected areas. In the next example, we'll isolate the female model from the background easily and quickly by using the Quick Selection tool:

Using Complex Selection with the Quick Selection tool to isolate the model from the background.

  1. Select the Quick Selection tool.
  2. Also select the Quick Plus icon from the top Properties bar.
  3. Drag the image of the person around to select the background. Drag in the inside parts as well.
  4. You'll notice that some areas of the selection overlap on the image of the person. You can fix this by selecting the Quick Select Minus icon at the top of the Properties panel and then dragging the cursor over the extra selection areas.
  5. Invert the selection by choosing Select → Inverse from the top menu.
  6. Click on Refine Edges to optimize the edges of the image of the person.
  7. In the Refine Edges dialog box, select the Refine Radius brush tool and drag it over the selection edges to increase their smoothness.
  8. You can now add the selected image of the person to any other background.

You can use the new complex selection to improve your workflow in Photoshop and to select images or parts of images easily.

Modify Graphic Elements Efficiently With the Puppet Warp

While modifying vector graphics using vector-based applications such as Illustrator is easy, bitmaps do not provide this editing flexibility. The new Puppet Warp feature in Photoshop extends your ability to edit images and objects in Photoshop. It creates a mesh over an object and lets you add pins with which you can modify the shape of the object (based on the position of the pins and the setting associated with the mesh).

Try it out. Choose the Puppet Warp tool from the Edit menu. Add pins to the object on the areas you'd like to move. Drag these pins to modify the object. After modifying the object, click Enter or the Right icon at the top of the Properties bar to apply these modifications.

Here's an example of how to use the Puppet Warp tool. We'll modify the Statue of Liberty in the image below:

  1. Select the Statue of Liberty layer. From the Edit menu, choose the Puppet Warp tool. Mesh appears over the layer showing the man.
  2. Use the mouse to apply pins to the layer (see below).
  3. Drag the pins to modify the position of the status.
  4. Click Enter to apply the changes or the Right icon at the top of the Properties bar.

Using the Puppet Warp tool to edit image objects.

The new Puppet Warp tool is simple and can save time and effort when modifying images. It's a step up from older editing techniques. Likewise, the new Properties bar allows for better control of the mesh and pin points and how these affect the surrounding image areas. You can set the mode of the mesh, too, which changes its elasticity level (elasticity alters the interaction between the mesh and pin when the pin is moved). You can also set the density of the mesh, which determines whether it expands from the object outline. And you can show or hide the mesh with the Show Mesh check box.

The pin properties let you set the pin depth, and icons will reveal the hidden part of the image (which might overlap with other parts as the mesh is modified). When you move the pin to modify the object, the pin rotates, and this affects the mesh around it. You can set the Rotate Angle, which dictates how the mesh will rotate around the pin when you move it. Set it to Fixed if you don't want the mesh to move when the pin does. The Puppet Warp tool is useful for modifying the position of characters and for modifying the shape of an object for both the object outline and inner mesh.

The Puppet Warp tool can be enhanced by adding IK or bones capabilities, similar to 3-D applications and the Bone feature in Flash. This enhancement provides control of the object with linked points instead of individual points.

Create High Dynamic Range Images With the HDR Tooll

High Dynamic Range (or HDR) refers to images that have a higher than usual dynamic range of luminance between the image's lightest and darkest areas. HDR imaging is produced by merging multiple photographs of the same object or scene with different exposure values. These images are then merged using the Photoshop feature called Merge to HDR Pro, which creates the HDR effect.

The Merge to HDR Pro dialog box.

Photoshop CS5's Merge to HDR feature has been improved, now allowing you to import images in sequence and set more specific properties and options. The enhanced Merge to HDR Pro dialog box (shown above) boasts different types of HDR photo effects, each with a variety of settings, and these are fast and accurate.

  1. Select the Merge to HDR Pro dialog box from the menu (File → Automate).
  2. Browse for your sequence of images or use the built-in image sequence (Program File → Adobe → Adobe Photoshop CS5 → Samples → Merge to HDR). Select all the images to load them in the images stack.
  3. Select all the images in the stack and click "OK" to open the Merge to HDR Pro dialog box, which is divided into main three sections:
    • The preview area shows the potential results of the current HDR settings.
    • The images sequence displays the source images that are used to create the HDR image. You can select or discard any of these by clicking the arrows underneath.
    • The settings area gives you access to the HDR effect options (though you can also select preset effects from the top drop-down menu).
  4. From the presets drop-down list, choose Photorealistic High Contrast. This option creates an HDR effect that is similar to the real image effect and increases the color contrast.
  5. Check the Remove Ghosts check box. This removes ghost lines that sometimes occur because of the differences between images

The HDR image after choosing the Photorealistic High Contrast preset.

The Merge to HDR Pro dialog box supports 8, 16 and 32 bit images. The 32-bit image settings support changes only the histogram. The 8- and 16-bit options include interesting things like Edge Glowing as well as tone and detail settings.

While the Presets can give you fast HDR effects, you could try different settings and options to get different effects. You can save your custom effect as a 32-bit HDT High Definition Toning Option from the small icon next to the Preset. Also, you can use the Load command to load external or previously saved toning options.

3-D Text With Repoussé

When Adobe first released 3-D capabilities (in Photoshop CS3), designers wondered whether the new feature would allow them to create 3-D text in Photoshop. Creating 3-D text is a common task, and designers have often had to rely on other applications to do it. Adobe took these concerns into account; in Photoshop CS5 it has added a new and impressive tool that lets you convert 2-D text, paths, selections and masks into 3-D objects by using the wide range of options available in the "Repoussé" dialog box. When you create a text, selection or path or add a mask to a layer, the Repoussé commands are activated in the 3-D menu. You can choose the Repoussé command associated with any of the above objects.

Look at how easy it is to convert 2-D text to 3-D text volume and change its different options using the 3-D Repoussé dialog box. First, write text on the stage. From the 3-D menu, choose Repoussé → Text Layer. Notice that when you choose this option Photoshop rasterizes the text layer for better performance and faster rendering. To create 3-D volume based on another selected object, choose its associate Repoussé command, which is the Selected Path.

The Repoussé dialog box appears to set the 3-D extrudes options (such as extrude, materials, bevels, scene settings, inflate and internal constrains), which affect the inside paths of the 2-D shape. See below.

the 3-D Repoussé dialog box.

  • Use the presets in the Repoussé Shape Presets area to directly apply ready extrude presets. Simply click on one of the presets in the list. You can also save custom settings as new presets.
  • The Extrude section lets you control the extrude and depth—as well as shear, bend, etc.—of an object.
  • Inflate lets you bump the surface of the 3-D object on one or more sides.
  • Internal Constraints determines how inside paths and holes in the model will be handled.
  • Materials List is a new feature that lets you choose the material of the 3-D object from the materials presets list. You can choose the materials for all the 3-D objects at once or select different materials for each part.
  • The Bevel section creates a beveled face for the model that can be applied either on the front or the back.
  • Scene Settings helps you set the light, view, rendering and mesh quality of the 3-D model.

The ability to create 3-D models with Repoussé extends Photoshop's 3-D capabilities, but it's not a complete solution. In most cases, designers still have to depend on other applications to create or import 3-D models to Photoshop. Adding 3D-modeling features to Photoshop might be a good next step for this program, which already has many 3-D capabilities (light, camera, basic editing for 3-D models and 3-D animation).

You can use the 3-D Repoussé feature to create 3-D extruded objects for 3-D scenes as well as for Web and print design.

New 3-D materials

Photoshop CS5 includes a comprehensive collection of 3-D materials that you can apply to any 3-D model. The new materials list appears in the 3-D panel when you click the Filter by Material icon at the top of the panel. New materials are also found in the 3-D Repousé dialog box.

There are two main types of material to choose from in the materials list context menu. The first is the default materials, and they use default rendering methods. The second type of materials is the Ray Tracer default, which uses the Ray Tracer for high-quality rendering.

New 3-D materials in the 3-D panel.

These are not the only 3-D materials available in Photoshop. You can download other materials from the Photoshop 3-D support website (choose Browse 3-D Content Online in the 3-D menu). You can also download extra materials in ZXP Adobe Exchange Manager CS5 format. Simply click on them to start installing, and the next time you open Photoshop, you'll find the new materials listed in the material list context menu. New materials can include glass, wood, metal, stone, etc.—any of which can be appended to the current materials or replace them. Once you've made your selection, the new materials will appear in the materials list.

Materials are an important element of a 3-D object. Photoshop makes it easy to add materials to your object from the materials list without having to load external material. And again, you can save custom materials for future use.

Enhanced Camera Raw Plug-In

Camera Raw technology uses the Raw plug-in to read high-quality images from digital cameras. The Camera Raw 6 plug-in can remove noise from an image while preserving the color and detail. It can add noise, too, for a different effect.

The Camera Raw Plug-in dialog box.

When you open a raw image taken on a digital camera that supports raw data, Photoshop opens the Camera Raw 6 plug-in dialog box so that you can control the image details and options. At the top right are tabs related to each of the image details. The FX tab lets you set the noise option in the image as well as Post Crop Vignetting.

The Grain section lets you edit the noise on the image (amount, size and roughness), and with post-crop vignetting you can set the darkness of the image's edges (by using settings such as Highlight Priority, Color Priority and Paint Overlay).

Graphics Card Support

Photoshop CS5 uses more GPU than CPU resources, so your computer needs to meet certain graphics card requirements if Photoshop is going to work properly—especially for 3-D and large files. This was a problem in CS4, and now there is GPU support for OpenGL 2.0 and Shader Model 3.0.

This support speeds up image-processing for large files, but it's not noticeable when working with smaller files and Web graphics. This will likely be a concern for users who do not use Photoshop for heavy projects (such as 3-D and video animation). On the other hand, Photoshop CS5 supports specific graphics cards to ensure functionality. (Make sure yours is supported!) More information about GPU support and the issues that users of certain graphics cards might face can be found here.

Fast Performance With 64-Bit Support

64-bit support might not be a usable tool, but it's an important addition to Photoshop (and to certain other CS5 programs, such as AfterEffects). With it, Photoshop can take advantage of certain aspects of 64-bit operating systems, including Mac OS and Windows 7; it can work up to 10 times faster on these systems than on others.


Photoshop CS5 has more enhancements, but we've covered the most important features here—the ones that will likely affect the workflow of those who use Photoshop regularly. We've discussed new features related to 3-D, painting, image editing, working with HDR, working with raw files and improving the overall process.

You can visit the Photoshop page on Adobe's website for more information about Photoshop and Creative Suite 5.

About the author

Rafiq Elmansy is a graphic designer and runs his own design studio Pixel Consultations. He is also an Adobe Community Professional, Certified Expert and Adobe user group manager. He is a Friend of Icograda (the International Council of Graphic Design Associations). Read his latest book Photoshop 3D for Animators. You can read his writings on Adobe site, Adobe Edge magazine, communitymx.com and his own blog www.graphicmania.net. He can also be followed on Twitter.


Rafiq Elmansy

Rafiq Elmansy is a graphic designer and runs his own design studio Pixel Consultations. He is also an Adobe Community Professional, Certified Expert and Adobe user group manager. He is a Friend of Icograda (the International Council of Graphic Design Associations).Read his latest book Photoshop 3D for Animators. You can read his writings on Adobe site, Adobe Edge magazine, communitymx.com and his own blog www.graphicmania.net. He can also be followed on Twitter.


    1. Sir Good day…i just want to know if you have a installer of Adobe Photoshop cs5? coz… its cool and i love it…. im just a ordinary jobless guy and i want to learn more about photoshop so that i can make a sideline for my self….. im from Philippines… thank you sir and God Bless.. :)

  1. The content aware tool is fun to use. Did anyone see the YouTube video on how it gets your homework done? ^ . ^

  2. I just went through each one. Gotta say the results are as amazing as they look in the tutorial. I can see some of this making my work a little easier. Thanks!

  3. Just a note, HDR is High Dynamic Range, not High Definition Range. It refers to the increased availability of both perfectly exposed bright and dark areas in a single image.

  4. Great article! One thing worth noting is that the puppet warp tool works on text and you can achieve some amazing effects with it. :-) Thanks for writing this!


  5. I would be certainly lost without this tool. Once you really understand how to use everything it has to offer you can really push the envelope.

  6. I already knew about content-aware fill, puppet warp and complex selections, but thanks for the section on the mixer brush. How did I used to live with only CS4 just a few short months ago?

  7. Adobe has some cool stuff packed in CS5 – Content-Aware Fill is awesome, this will definitely save lot of our development time.

  8. Nice Job !! Thanks .. Hey anyone wanna download photoshop Cs5 ,, I will give u the links .. Or if anyone have photoshop cs5 I will give u patch file for photoshop cs5 .. enjoy fully functioned unrestricted photoshop Cs5 ..

  9. Things just keep getting easier and easier, though I’m not complaining, especially about complex selections. aaand, finally a 3d tool! Sweet joy.

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