Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift in Photoshop CS6

Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift

Tthere are some fabulous new blurs available in Photoshop CS6! Blur settings are integrated into the interface and they don’t open in the separate window. Now let’s use Field blur on this image. You can change the blur level by rotating the circle in the center of the image:

Field Blur

This is the easiest to use, but doesn’t allow for as much control as the other two. Simply click on the image to add “pins.” These pins will have a blur range from 0px to 100px. In the image below, note that the pins on the faces are set to 0px, while the pins in the background are anywhere between 15 and 25px. You can manually drag the Blur slider to the right or left, or drag the outer ring outside the pin to the right or left.

Iris Blur

Previously we would have to use an alpha channel to get a shallow depth of field. With Iris Blur, you can achieve this with no masks or Alpha Channels. You can place a point to choose the area that will be in focus. That point is the center of the ring, and as the ring expands, the blur increases. You have complete control over the amount of blur, the brightness and color of bokeh highlights.


The Tilt-Shift blur is a photographic technique that gives the illusion of a miniature effect, adding depth to certain areas. It also can be used for a more specialized effect for non-miniature images. You can rotate the angle to make certain areas appear blurred or in focus.

Photoshop CS6’s Content Aware Move Magic!

Content Aware Move

New to the Content Aware family is Content Aware Move. We now have the following:

  • Content Aware Scale
  • Content Aware Fill
  • Content Aware Move

Content Aware move can be used two ways:

  1. To actually move someone or something to another part of an image.
  2. To extend part of an image.

To extend part of an image, as in this image below with the wood, first enlarge your canvas size by choosing Image > Canvas Size. Now make a selection of the top area you want to extend. With the Content Aware Move tool set to “Extend” from the Control bar, drag it upwards. With Extend selected, drag the pixels to the new location, and Photoshop magically aligns the image.

If you want to actually move one of the nails, simply select the nail and a bit of room around it, and change the mode to Move. Photoshp will fill in the area where the nail once was with the appropriate background.

Cropping Changes in Adobe Photoshop CS6

Cropping Changes

Photoshop CS6 now has a completely nondestructive Crop tool. When you choose the Crop tool, you will notice the new crop marquee, with eight handles instead of four. The benefit of these new handles is that we can now resize non-proportionally. The most important thing about cropping is to de-check Delete Cropped Pixels. This enables you to choose Image > Reveal All later on to undo the crop.

You can choose Rule of Thirds overlay, CS6 lets you preview Golden Ratio (a relationship between two numbers), Diagonal, Triangle, and Golden Spiral overlays. Perspective Crop helps you straighten images.
Straighten (which was part of the Ruler tool in CS5) is now a feature of the Crop tool. Click on the Straighten icon on the Control bar while on the Crop tool, and drag along the line of the image that needs to be straightened. The Crop tool automatically rotates the image and applies the crop.
You will notice that when you drag the Crop tool, the image shifts in the opposite direction. If you would like to disable this, from the Crop Preferences on the Control bar, de-check Auto Center Preview. You can even take it back to Classic mode if you don’t like the way the Crop tool has changed.  From the Crop Preferences, you can also change the color of the area that is being cropped away.

Perspective Crop Tool

The Perspective Crop tool enables you to align objects as you crop with a flexible marquee. This was available in CS5, but not very intuituve as it being its’ own tool as it is now.
The best way to begin is to align the Perspective Crop marquee up with something that it’s very clear where the edges are. Like the Distort tool, you can drag each corner independently to make a skewed image appear straight-on or flat.

Photoshop CS6 Layer Changes

Searching and Modifying Layers

One fabulous new feature is the ability to search layers. You can search by Kind, Name, Effect, Mode, Attribute or Color within the Layers panel. You can filter out all vector layers, text layers, and so on. You can also select multiple layers and change the blend modes, duplicate, or apply Layer Styles.

No one is sure as to the rhyme or reason, but they have moved everything around in the Layer Styles window. Maybe by moving Drop Shadow to the bottom it won’t be so overused?

Real Vector Layers and Pixel Snapping

You can now add and edit dashed or dotted lines, like in Illustrator. Pixel Snapping has also been modified from strictly used by vector tools to a more global use within Photoshop. Prior to CS6, nudging was married to how far you were zoomed in. For example, if you are at a 100% magnification and nudged a point, it moved 1 pixel. If you were zoomed at 200%, nudging moved it .5 pixels, 400% Would nudge .25 pixels and so on. Photoshop CS6 nudges at 1 pixel, regardless of the zoom level.
You can still use the Shape tool to create a variety of set or custom shapes. You can also click once with any Shape tool and  get the Create Custom Shape window as in Illustrator or InDesign. When you select the Shape tool, you choose from the upper right hand corner of the Control Bar either Shape, Path, or Pixels.

We now also can have dotted lines on vector shapes! The first choice is Fill and Stroke. You are able to choose a Fill of None, and simply have an outlined shape. From there, you can coose a weight, style, width and height.

The next 3 buttons are Pathfinder, Alignment and Stacking order . Alignment allows you to align to both a selection and canvas. Align Edges works uses the Pixel Grid to ensure layer edges are aligned with the Pixel Grid.

Photoshop CS6 General Changes

General Changes

Adobe has also redesigned and streamlined the program’s menu icons, though they’re still familiar and easily recognizable. 1800 Icons and 250 cursors have been redesigned. Panels are now labeled in upper- and lowercase type instead of in all caps, enhancing legibility. You can also go to Preferences and choose to keep the new, dark interface, or go lighter. In addition, the new Mercury Graphics Engine makes Photoshop CS6 run noticeably faster.

CS6 offers “rich cursors” revealing information such as dimensions, angle of rotation or other adjustment parameters next to the cursor.
The Move tool, Crop tool, and the Free Transform command show size and rotation angle. If you’re using Free Transform, Photoshop shows the exact dimensions that used to be only available on the Info panel.

When you hold down the Controll + Option key (Mac) and drag the brush tool, you see the dimensions, hardness, and opacity.
One of the most exciting features is that Photoshop CS6 can automatically save your open files at different intervals, AND in the background. While you continue to work, a temporary recovery file is saved that is updated periodically. The benefit is that if you crash, it will open a file with “Recovered” as part of the name.

Mini-Bridge Relocated

Mini Bridge is now at the bottom of the window with Timeline. Interestingly enough, if you choose Select a Workspace from the upper right hand corner of the Control Bar and set it to “What’s new in CS6” it reverts back to it’s previous location. You can also drag it from the bottom of the workspace and put it anyhwere you like.

Photoshop CS6 Erodible Brush

We now have two new options for the Brush tool: erodible tip and airbrush tip. Erodible brush draws line that is similar to a crayon–it erodes as you draw further away for realistic looking painting. Airbrush tip is designed to be used with a tablet to create thinner or thicker lines, controlled by how you draw with the pen on the tablet.

For example, choose the brush that looks like a pencil called Erodible Round, and click on the Brush Panel icon to open the Brush panel. When you have one of the brushes with the Pencil icon, notice the Shape option that enables the following: Erodible Point, Erodible Flat, Erodible Square, Erodible Triangle

The more you draw with an Erodible brush, notice the icon in the upper left of your screen becomes more flat or rounded, as would a real crayon. You can revert this back to the original by clicking on the Sharpen Tip icon in the Brushes panel.

Instead of 2500 px, we now have a maximum 5000 px. We now can also change brush size and hardness by dragging Ctrl + Option + Drag (Mac) or Alt + Right drag (PC).

Adjustments, Properties and Masks in Photoshop CS6

In CS5, the Adjustments Panel was overloaded and clunky. The Properties panel has been introduced as a control center for edits and masking. When any layer has an Adjustment layer or a Mask, it shows up in the Properties panel. For example: If you have an image with an Adjustment layer, the Adjustment layer icon shows up on the left, and the Mask icon is on the right–even if there is no mask.

To add a mask, simply click on the Mask icon on the Properties panel or at the bottom of the Layers panel. If you have a certain area to mask, make a selection first. You can also create a mask from the Refine Edge button. The Properties panel works essentially the same as the old Masks panel. In addition, if you double-click on any mask, the Properties panel appears. Or you can choose Window > Properties.

Photoshop CS6 Auto Color Correction Tools Updated

Auto Correct has always been a hit or miss. With CS6, the algorithms of image adjustment tools have been updated in CS6. Brightness Contrast, Curves and Levels have a new default option “Enhance Brightness and Contrast.” This option gives you access to all the values Photoshop chose by default. It’s a great way to get a good start, then fine tune from there. The other 3 options work on a channel by channel basis.

Curves now has the option to Enhance Brightness and Contrast that gives you access to all the values Photoshop chose by default.

To experiment with the new Auto Color:

  1. Open an image
  2. Add a new Curves Adjustment layer.
  3. Hold down the Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) key and click on the Auto button to view the following algorithms:
  4. Enhance Monochromatic Contrast (the same as Image > Auto Contrast)
  5. Enhance Per Channel Contrast (the same as Image > Auto Tone)
  6. Find Dark and Bright Colors (the same as Image > Auto Color)
  7. Enhance Brightness and Contrast (new in CS6–and applied to the whole image, not a channel-by-channel basis)

Note that if you strictly want Photoshop to adjust the tonal range, and leave your color intact, change the blending mode of the Adjustment Layer to “Luminosity.” Also, if you if you want the color correction without affecting tonal range, change the Blending Mode of the adjustment layer to “Color.”

Photoshop CS6 Gradient Map

Gradient Map

If you enjoy black and white effects with color tinting, you’ll love the new Gradient Map presets. Gradient Map is applied as an Adjustment layer. Gradient fill is different in that it just uses a blend of colors, while Gradient Map uses the tonal range of the image as a map for the gradients to apply to different light and dark areas.

Gradient Map

Gradient Map in CS6 offers Photographic Toning under the flyout menu. 

To use Gradient Map: 

  • Choose Gradient Map from the Adjustments panel.
  • Click on the vertical button with the down arrow to choose Photographic Toning.
  • Your choice is to Add or Apend. If you want to keep the default gradient maps, choose Append.
  • You will see a wide variety of tones to apply to your image.