Photoshop CS5: A Sneak Peek

by on 26th March 2010 with 56 Comments


In the last few days there has been a lot of online buzz about the upcoming launch of Adobe’s next Creative Suite (aka CS5) in April 2010. Today I want to briefly run down some of the new features we’ll be seeing in the most beloved of the applications in the suite: Photoshop.

Enhancements Small and Large

The Photoshop team has been hard at work in two major areas of improvement. The first is what they call JDI or “Just Do It” projects. The team has entire days where they pull off of big new projects to focus on small improvements and new features. I’ve seen a few commenters around the web scoffing at these improvements as pointless or unnecessary but to those of us who actually use Photoshop for a wide variety of professional projects every single day, the small stuff can actually have a greater impact on our workflow than some of the larger new features. I personally am thrilled every time Adobe does something small that improves the way I work.

The second area of improvement is of course the big stuff. Brand new features and technologies that drastically change what is possible (or at least easily achievable) with Photoshop.

The Big Stuff

Content-Aware Tools


CS4 brought us content-aware scaling, a new way to stretch an image to fill a given area without too much visual distortion in important areas. With CS5, Adobe is taking this idea to a new level with content-aware healing and filling (aka PatchMatch). What this means is that they’ve vastly improved the healing algorithm so that it takes multiple samples from the pixels around the targeted area and attempts to blend these together to create a believable result. Thus far it looks like this content aware option can be turned on in the Spot Healing Brush Tool or implemented in a simple fill. The demos of the fill feature look quite impressive and seem to succeed in at least making a good base to refine when replacing large image areas. In the image above, replacing the road with desert was as simple as making a selection and performing a content-aware fill (sorry about the low quality images, lo-res video stills are all I had to work with at this point.

See it in action:

Painting & Brushes


CS5 will bring major enhancements to the way brushes and painting work in Photoshop. The first of these is the ability to use a photograph (or any image) as a sort of template canvas or color palette for painting. Clicking on a given area will simulate dipping your brush in paint. You can then drag the color out and it will be spread around while simulating a wet brush. Colors can be mixed and smeared to your heart’s content to achieve a number of different effects.


The next improvement allows you to simulate brush physics as you paint. The animated 3D brush preview shows changes based on pressure, rotation etc. that will affect the way the paint is applied to the canvas just as if you were holding an actual brush. You can choose between a variety of presets and will no doubt be able to create your own.

See it in action:

Refine Edge


CS3 gave us an amazing way to fine-tune live selections: Refine Edge. This allows you to adjust the several parameters including feathering and contrast, in a single step while previewing the result before it’s actually applied. It looks like the CS5 dialog has been completely redesigned and a few new features thrown in. The most notable of these is a “Smart Radius” feature which uses advanced edge detection to help you create complex selections very quickly. Another amazing feature is the ability to refine the selection outside of the controls of the dialog window by painting selection areas onto the preview just as you would a mask.

See it in action:

Smaller Enhancements and New Features

Changing Layer Style Defaults

If you work with layer styles a lot, you probably have specific tastes for how to apply them and might even apply some styles nearly the same way every time. Photoshop CS5 will allow you to setup specific layer style defaults so that every time you apply a drop shadow, stroke, etc. the starting point of the style will mirror your particular workflow instead of merely the Photoshop default.

The video below shows a demonstration of this feature along with a couple of other small preference enhancements including a toggle for activating and deactivating multi-touch gestures, a preference for the default behavior of the “Save As” command, and the ability to save multiple documents on close with single command.

See it in action:

Color Selection and Brush Enhancements

Aside from the major new brush technologies, there are a few really neat minor enhancements that you should know about regarding the integration of color switching and brush settings.


The image above shows a new color picker that can be invoked from the canvas via keyboard shortcut. This can save loads of time in complex painting as you eliminate trips back and forth to the color palette.


Another nifty feature is the new eyedropper pop up ring that compares your previous swatch to the new color you’re sampling via click and drag.

The final enhancement is the ability to hit a keyboard shortcut that activates the ability to dynamically change the brush size (click and drag left and right) and/or hardness (click and drag up and down).

See it in action:

Straightening, Saving and Layer Opacity

The most recent round of minor upgrades announced address a few scattered improvements. The first of these is the ability to use the ruler tool to draw over what should be perfectly horizontal line and have Photoshop automatically rotate the photo to match (similar to the straighten tool in LightRoom). Also on the list of improvements, you can now save 16-bit files as a JPG in a single step without first downsampling. Finally, they’ve added the ability to select multiple layers and adjust their opacity all at once. I’m very happy with this last improvement as it can be quite time consuming to adjust the opacity of individual layers when you have a complicated PSD. Usually I take the shortcut of grouping and adjusting the opacity of the group, but this can lead to a undesirable layer hierarchy.

See it in action:

The Best Places for CS5 Info

If you want to see a live countdown until the launch on April 12, check out You’ll also find some videos and news regarding new features for all of the CS5 apps and even completely new projects.


However, if you really want the lowdown on everything CS5, check out, an unofficial CS5 blog chock full of videos and info regarding all things CS5. Here you’ll find much of the information I presented today and a whole lot more.


⌘W-ing Thoughts

Well that wraps up everything I currently know about new features in Photoshop CS5. This is by no means an exhaustive list as I’m sure there are plenty more to be announced in the next month and still others that Adobe will keep up its sleeve until the launch. If you know of anything else, please share it in the comments below!

Comments & Discussion


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  • Lena Tailor

    Beautiful. I wondered what the end game was when the “content-aware” idea was first introduced with that Content Aware Scale (was that CS4?). It awesome to see where that ground work has led.

  • Aaron Moody

    Great post, and great featured. CS5 Looks amazing.

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  • yb

    Great sneak peak! Looking forward to the release!

  • Bryan Hoffman

    Thanks for the rundown of the new features/enhancements.

    I skipped over CS4 so I’m looking forward to upgrading to CS5. The feature I’d still love to see the most, however, is speed and stability.

  • Joshua Johnson

    I’m with you on stability. That could definitely use some improvement. For speed if you’ve got a good machine pushing it, Photoshop can be blazing fast.

  • Ian Aleksander Adams

    That panoramic fill blew my mind. I wonder how high res it can really do that. Gonna be interesting playing with this stuff.

    speed improvements will be nice too (though I can understand some of this taking some serious power)

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  • Lava360blog

    waiting for April 12th. The Mercury Playback Engine is also looks very cool.

  • Dmitry Iv

    you best, thanks

  • daniel

    Photoshop always gets the biggest attention, CS5 is not only photoshop, what happens with Illustrator, flash, indesign…

  • Rainer Bendig

    Looks very nice, thanks.

  • Johnny

    Great post, I’ve seen a lot of these features before but it’s nice to have them all in one place :)

  • Lime

    “Photoshop CS5 cool new features” :

  • Stephen

    can’t believe it’s already been a year since last cs release

    can’t wait to try out the enhanced refine edge feature

  • Lal Hauzel

    Hey! This is really cool as much as it is informative. I cant wait to put my hands on it. Really like the paint brush demonstration.

  • Ryan

    I just want stability. I hope this was worked on. CS4 was a messs.

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  • Chuck

    love the cs5 teaser videos, i still have cs3! im slacking! i cant wait to upgrade to cs5 when it releases!

  • Greg Babula

    Looks good so far. I really hated some of the changes they made to CS4 so I hope this will be better

  • HD Blog

    April is close

  • Nikunj

    Cool Need to have my hands on it as soon as it is out

  • Codex

    Whoever originally designed content aware features just got a huge pay rise lol

  • Nick – freelance designer

    Some of those features are going to really help me out! Now I just have to find the money to upgrade to it once it hits! Will be keeping my eye out for any other news about it.

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  • Jutix

    Nice!! Thank you :)

  • bhu1st

    thanks for info. nice post.

  • Pk

    can’t wait to get my hands on it.

  • Rick Christie

    Does Adobe move to Apple’s Cocoa technology in this CS5 release? I’ve read somewhere that they’ve planned to do it after CS4

  • Ray addison

    Looks Awesome! Can’t wait to try out the content aware feature, it should make life so much easier.

  • Swift

    The content-fill video blew my mind away. I mean, seriously? Can’t wait… awesome features.

  • ageno

    Super Cool, waiting for it

  • Apeeples

    Most wanted )

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  • Joshua Pitts

    I am personally so excited for Photoshop cs5. Looks like its going to be a major improvement from cs4.

  • Simon Stark

    I can’t wait!

  • Hitesh Mehta

    Am sure this will be a BIG release! Keen on Illustrator enhancements!

  • Simon

    I wonder if in Photoshop CS5 guide lines can be still positioned inbetween pixels or if finally 1 pixel is the smallest unit and guide lines snap to it.

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  • Beta Tester

    They also revamped the layer styles menu. Now you can add multiple instances of different layer styles (for instance, one inner stroke and one outer stroke), and also the ability to move the layer styles in the column to stack them however you want (just like the layers in the Layers Panel). You can finally add a dropshadow that goes over the stroke… just to make a point. No need to stack multiple layers with 0% fill just add some more instances of the same layer styles! There’s also a search field in the Layers Panel to quickly search through the layers. Oh, did I mention non-modal save dialog option for those of us who embarassingly forget to save? You can set a timer to remind you every x minute and also note the last time you saved. There’s many more options, like having a new “middleground” color (disabled by default), so you have another color you can quickly switch to. April Fools… too early?

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  • whiskey

    Content-Awareness has been present in GIMP for quite some time now.

    If you are using GIMP already, please look for that video on Youtube, as they will demonstrate the powers of that tool with the same images as Photoshop.

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  • bee

    Thanks for collecting all these information for us! Haven’t seen most of those videos yet. Already really like CS5 :)

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  • Jon Franz

    After viewing the demo of Content-Awareness the buzz around our in-house art department is that it’s either a hoax, or we’ll all be replaced by trained monkeys who simply push the “Auto Retouch” button. They work for bananas and don’t gripe about healthcare benefits. Thanks Adobe. Thanks a bunch!

  • cs5 tutorials

    it’s should be perfect

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  • FahruL

    heyyy all…

    please look my photo.. in my facebook

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  • Ecem Ulusoy

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  • Pastırma

    Thanks for collecting all these information for us!

  • Pastırma

    Super Cool, waiting for it.


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