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Product Review: Adobe's Photoshop 7

December 15, 2002

Out of the box, the interface for Photoshop 7 looks very similar to the 6.0 update. However, upon further inspection, some really cool new features emerge that are especially useful in games production. Since Photoshop 7 comes with so many features in all, I'm going to focus solely on the new ones.

Healing Brush and Patch tools. The Healing Brush is similar to the Clone Stamp tool in previous versions, but with a twist: when you select a source area of your image to duplicate, it only clones the texture of the sample, not the luminance values or color information, which is great for creating seamless tiles for texture maps.

The Patch tool is for bigger areas and works somewhat the same way. Select the area you want patched and then drag the selection to the new texture area you want to clone from. Again, this won't clone the pixel chroma or luminance values, just the texture of the source. I played around with the tool for a while and found it easy to remove blemishes and random image noise from a picture.

Pattern Maker. The new Pattern Maker tool is excellent at creating tiling patterns from a completely unusable source; you select a section of the source image and the Pattern Maker creates an endless number of randomly patterned, tiling textures. Like most features in Photoshop, it's very straightforward and easy to use.

Photoshop 7's Pattern Maker tool holds great potential for 2D texture artists.

File browser/web gallery. There are some great features in the file browser, specifically the ability to save the

Exchangeable Image Format (EXIF) information data from your digital camera with each image. All the settings from your digital camera - the date, the time, and whether the flash was fired during the shot - is saved in the EXIF window, and it keeps that information with the image after saving it.

Another useful feature of the file browser is batch renaming. If you've got a whole load of images that you took at E3 and they're all named "P000098234.jpg," you can rename them all to something more useable and transfer them to another directory. Using the web gallery feature, you can place them in a web page with icons and navigation buttons and upload them in a matter of seconds. The only beef I have with this feature is that it makes you save your pages with the .htm extension instead of the more traditional .html and you have to trim the <meta name> tags out of each file.

New brush features. The brushes are now modifiable in so many ways that you can simulate painting with pretty much anything. You want to put oil paint on canvas with a camel hair brush? How boring. How about axle grease onto rubber with a dead fish instead? Done. Blood on stone with a hand? Done. The scatter function combined with texture allows a wide variety of realistic, smudgy, natural effects that were much more difficult to achieve in the older versions. I needed a "ground texture" for our game the other day and in 10 minutes was able to crank out some realistic-looking grass and dirt that tiled nicely.
In addition to a slew of parametric controls, you can set the brushes to work with Wacom's pen angle, airbrush wheel, and a passel of other customizable pen controls.

Liquify. The enhanced Liquify command is great for subtly moving portions of a texture map to fit a mesh. When I build characters, I always find that one spot that doesn't match up exactly with the UVs on my model. Using Liquify, I can nudge small or large areas of the texture map into the right alignment.
Tool palettes. Photoshop 7 now allows you to save tool palettes and brushes in a user-configured preset that can open automatically. In addition, you can save "Tool Presets," yet another palette in the History and Actions tab. In the new version, if you come up with a tool setting for your paintbrush that you like, you can set that as a preset and then later on access that with a button click.

Bottom Line. Photoshop 7 is an excellent upgrade and has enough new features and tools to warrant purchase. The new brush dynamics and the Healing Brush tools alone make the upgrade worth it. So go out and get a copy and then spend the rest of your life in a dark room, staring at a CRT.


San Jose, CA

Price: $609 (MSRP)

System Requirements: Mac: G3 or G4, Mac OS 9.1-10.1.3; 128MB RAM (192MB recommended): 320MB disk space; 8003600 color monitor with 16-bit color or greater video card.
Windows: Pentium III or 4, Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, or XP; 128MB RAM: 280MB disk space; 8003600 color monitor with 16-bit color or greater video card.

1. Great new brush functions.
2. File browser and batching options.
3. More specific tools make creating tiled textures easier.

1.Lack of hotkey customization.
2. Still Mac-centric at its core.
3. Emphasis on web-specific features instead of traditional ones.


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