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By Alex Walker

Photoshop CS3 New Features: #1 – Quick Selection Tool

By Alex Walker
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So, we’ve had the Adobe CS3 web and design suites for two weeks now and we’re starting to really get a feel for the improvements. As you might expect with such a large cross-section of applications, some have eveolved more than others — at this stage my view is Fireworks and Photoshop have some pretty nifty new tricks while Dreamweaver’s improvements seem to be less far reaching than CSS reinvention in version 8.

With any upgrade decision, it usually comes down to three factors:

  1. Will it run OK on my current system?
  2. What are the new goodies?
  3. Do I have the cash?

Question #3 only you can answer.

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The answer to question #1 seems to be ‘yes, each application seems to run at least as quickly as CS2, usually quicker’. In fact, the startup time for Photoshop CS3 is less than 10 seconds on my system compared with well over 20 for CS2, with similar results for Illustrator. I know it’s only 10 seconds, but it’s a very, very long 10 seconds when you’re waiting and reading the list of developer credits. Many a time I’ve found myself wondering ‘which one of you is responsible for this CS2 load time?’.

I digress. In short, upgrading your design software shouldn’t force a hardware upgrade on you this time.

So, what about the new goodies?

I thought we might do a series of posts looking at some of the more impressive new features and you can judge for yourself how much they’d impact your work flow and creativity.

First cab off the rank is Photoshop’s new quick selection tool.

Ok, you’re probably thinking ‘selection tools are SO 2003 — there must be something sexier than selection tools’? To be honest, yes, there are plenty of sexier new features, but this is one you’ll use immediately and most days onwards.

Refine Edge panelWhere the classic ‘Magic Wand’ works with a ‘touch and fill’ action that can get away from you sometimes, the new quick selection works more like a continuous brush stroke. Painting across adjoining areas of color gently incorporates more into your selection, and lets you gradually push your edges to where they should be.

Although this is the new default magic selection tool, don’t fret if you prefer the ol’ magic wand tool. It’s moved to the fly-out under the new tool.

But that’s not all for selection improvements. Photoshop CS3 has been given a much more powerful and usable ‘selection refinement panel’ which is available to any selection made by any tool.

The panel includes controls for:

  • Views: toggle between different view of your mask including black selection, white selection and the classic ruby quick mask.
  • Contrast: Sharpen your edge by increasing contrast
  • Smooth: Remove artefacts and unwanted detail by smoothing the selection edge
  • Feather: Soften your selection edge
  • Contract/Expand: Roll your selection boundary in or out

Launch demo None of these controls are breathtakingly new to Photoshop, but all are made instantly more interactive and useful by placing them on their own dedicated panel.

I’ve thrown together a quick selection quick demo to let you see it in action.

If you’ve already made the jump to CS3, let me know what you think.

We’ll look at some other new features over the coming weeks.

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