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Photoshop CS4 and OpenGL

Posted on January 24, 2009 at 12:33 am

pixelgridThis is the new Photoshop CS4 sleeper feature. It doesn’t quite have the bling-bling of the 3D features added or the groundbreaking content aware scaling feature but it subtly affects the way you interact with the application. OpenGL runs off your video card (if your card has it) and allows for these new interface upgrades.

The pixel grid makes the division between pixels more obvious at higher magnifications. I think this could be very useful for creating pixel icons. I personally map out my pixel icons out in Illustrator. It is really tedious, using the move command to move and duplicate a 1 pixel square rectangle to make the shape. I like pain. I must. I guess I just like the idea of them being scalable vector icons. Even though they’ll never be larger than 100% size. This feature may make me rethink my pixel icon workflow.

A lot of what OpenGL added to Photoshop just has to do with user interaction. In previous versions of Photoshop zooming in or out snapped to certain percentages like 100%, 66.7%, 50%, 33.3%, 25%, etc. With persistent zooming there is a gradation of motion between these magnifications. The zoom animation even has a fluid ease. When persistently zooming you don’t snap to these preset magnifications, you can stop on different increments. To persistently zoom use the Zoom tool (z) and click and hold. The animation will begin shortly after.

Because of with those new zoom percentages you can land on, OpenGL also took care of a quirk about Photoshop that has been around as long as I can remember. Some would probably call it the 66.7% issue. Floating point percentages didn’t appear as crisp as the whole integer zooms like 50%. Now all magnifications look as good as the whole number magnifications.

Flick panning was the feature that I tried unknowingly, and it startled me. I peed a little bit. There’s no menu for it,  just go to use the Hand tool and then, surprise. The shit is still moving once you let go. First few flicks I was calling it gimmicky bullshit. As I started to work with it a bit I could see why it is nice to have. So, I quickly got use to it. Other nice thing is it’s not something that you have to integrate into a workflow, it’s just there for you. If your the kind that can’t handle change you can go retro by unchecking a box (Preferences > General > Enable Flick Panning).

Get ready to close your navigator panel window forever. Photoshop CS4 has a new OpenGL feature that allows you to do a navigator-like survey of the land right on the file itself. Press and hold H key (Hand tool) for a bird’s eye view. Photoshop will zoom out with a navigator box the proportion of the viewing window. Simply center this window on where you would like to look and release. It will put right where want to go. Look Mom, no Navigator!

I imagine retouchers are going to be especially happy about this one. Canvas rotation. It makes painting easy and almost like physically drawing on a sheet of paper. Now instead of contorting your wrist into all kinds of configurations to get the right angle with your brush, now just rotate the canvas. To rotate just use the keystroke (r) and turn it to the desired angle. You’ll get a compass overlay if you did it right. I’m sure you did it right. Press the R. After that just go to any tool as normal. You’ll see even your marquees are rotated. The image still prints right, it is just for the benefit of editing, not output. To reset the rotation press ESC. 

There is a Lynda free tutorial of all the new OpenGL features here.

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