Design insights & tutorials.

Adobe Creative Suite 5

It’s that time of the, um 18-month release cycle again. Time for a new version of Adobe’s Creative Suite. This time up: version 5.

For this initial overview, I’m just going to talk about the new stuff in Photoshop and Illustrator since those are the apps that I am most familiar with.

Mostly I am going to talk about what I think are the most compelling features from an illustrator/designer’s point of view.

We’ll start off with the granddaddy of Adobe software, Photoshop. Oh, and I have not used any of these new versions — but rest assured I’ll have a copy once they ship in late May 2010. Full review to come then.

Photoshop CS5

Photoshop CS5 levels the playing field with the Mac and PC versions with the Mac version finally being 64-bit. All the CS5 apps are also now native Cocoa apps on OS X, which means they finally run using the new PS X code, and not the legacy Carbon code previous versions of the Creative Suite used. this is a Good Thing. Well, at least if you aren’t running a PowerPC Mac. Cocoa is Intel-only.

From my experience, even running CS3 on a PowerPC Mac was pointless as the processor just couldn’t handle it.

Magic Delete

I’d have to say Photoshop CS5′s flagship feature is the Content-Aware Fill. If you’ve seen the videos, it looks amazing. Probably the closest thing to the “magic button” people think of when they think of Photoshop.

You can literally draw a loose selection around an object in a photograph, hit the proper delete button, and Photoshop will seamlessly figure out how to replace the background where the former object was.

It’s what you think of when you think of a computer. It also looks like magic.

Selection Heaven

Not to be outdone, the selection tools have also become more powerful, again working almost as if by magic. Adobe really out did themselves on these two features, at least as demonstrated by the videos.

What I like about these two features is that they extend and enhance the way users already work, making those tasks easier, In fact, they are no longer tasks at all.

Personally, I get sick of feature bloat when new “wow” features are added to make for good PR, but in reality the end user would prefer the tools they already use work more the way they want them to work.

In Photshop CS5, I think this may be the case with the above features. I’m looking forward to working with them to see how they hold up.

Brush Bonanaza

The last new feature that I think will also be a Big Deal is the new brush features, particularly the Mixer Brush and the Bristle Tips.

What these bring to Photoshop are new natural media painting tools that look to rival Corel Painter. Corel Painter seems to be the painting app, and it seems Adobe has been paying attention.

In conjunction with a Wacom and a tilt-sensitive stylus, this could be huge. I think it will also enhance every aspect of using brushes within Photoshop, so even if you don’t “paint” in Photoshop, these should still enhance your workflow quite significantly.

Illustrator CS5

Adobe may be featuring the new Perspective tools on their feature page for Illustrator, but from my perspective (also shared by Illustrator guru Mordy Golding, who’s actually been using CS5), the big new feature is Variable Width Strokes.

When Is A Stroke No Longer A Stroke?

Mordy Golding did a special edition of his weekly “Fridays With Mordy”, where he does live interactive screencasts showcasing features of Adobe Illustrator.

With the launch of CS5 on Monday, he did a “what’s new” episode to give all us vector junkies a guided tour of the highlights.

Mordy said that he thinks Variable-Width Strokes are not only worth the upgrade price for Illustrator, but perhaps for the entire Creative Suite. He thinks they might even be the best new feature in CS5 overall.

So what are they? As the name implies, there’s a new tool that will allow you to change the thickness of a stroke at arbitrary points along the stroke, each of which will flow into each other.

Imagine a stroke that started out at 10 points thick, then grew to 17 points thick, then tapered back down to 3 points thick. It’s like having manual control over a brush on a stroke.

Not only that, but each side of the stroke can have individual widths away from the center. And on top of that, it works with brushes, extending the level of control you have over these objects to an amazing degree.

As someone who works in Illustrator the majority of my day, and works with a lot of line art based illustrations, I am pretty stoked to start using this. It could change the way I work from now on.

Again with the brushes…

Illustrator users now also have a new natural media painting tool in their arsenal that mimics an oil or acrylic brush, all while remaining in resolution-free vector art.

“Little Big Things”

All of us Illustrator geeks were bugging Mordy on Twitter about “yeah, big new fancy features — but what about fixing the tools we already use?”.

As Mordy put it, there are a lot of “Little Big Things” in Illustrator CS5, some of which are more compelling to me than the flashy things.

A big one for me is Command-click Selections (Control-click on the PC). If you used InDesign, you know this feature, and wanted it in Illustrator. And now it’s (finally) here.

What is it? Simple, but powerful — have a stack of items, but need to select the fourth one down in the stack? Now you just need to hit the Command (Control) key and click on the stack — each click with select the object below, in order.

Next up is “Paste Into”, which is part of the new drawing modes (Draw in Front, Draw Behind and Draw Into). No need to create clipping paths anymore. Just like in InDesign, select an object, copy, select another object and Paste Into. And better than a clipping mask, the object you pasted into retains all it’s original properties as well.

Illustrator’s Artboards feature has also been greatly refined & enhanced as well. Rename them, order them up on their own new panel, and other tweaks.


Honestly, as an Illustrator power-user the features I described above are enough to make me want to upgrade. But I tend to be a bit bleeding edge when it comes to my tools.

I currently work on CS4 and feel that I got every penny’s worth out of my $600 upgrade, when compared to the time it saved me, the frustrations it minimized and the ease at which I could create my artwork.

Photshop CS4 was the killer app for me in CS4, but I think Illustrator will trump this time around.

One thing that will change for me is the decision not to go with the Design Premium this time, but rather Design Standard. I can literally count on one hand the number of times I launched Flash or Dreamweaver since getting CS4. I’m sure those versions will suffice if I do need to do anything in either, however I’ve moved away from Dreamweaver for my website recently, opting for a hand-coded solution that I will update manually.

As far as Flash, well I rarely used it before, and I pretty much never use it now. I think I’ll pocket that extra $100.

Speaking of upgrade pricing, those of you going for the Design Standard like me will be coughing up $499 USD, and if you want the Premium version that’s an extra $100. And that’s for CS4 upgraders. If you’re on CS1 or CS2, tack on another $200 to each of those tiers.

If you do the math, $500 over the 18-month release cycle comes out to $27.78 per month if you keep up to date regularly. Personally that seems more than reasonable if the software enhances your workflow.

Based on the upgrade price for older versions, in the long run you save $300 over 36 months (if you upgrade every-other version). A hundred bucks a year. to me, passing up on using the new tools just isn’t worth it at those rates.

Adobe isn’t paying me to coerce you into upgrading, I just like to break things down into digestible numbers. I really don’t see the benefit of denying yourself enhanced tools to save $100 a year. Raise your hourly rate $1 an hour and be done with it. I hear so many people complain about X feature — something that’s been improved in a newer version — yet they refuse to upgrade for the “outrageous” fees.

Personally, I’ve found something compelling enough in each Creative Suite release to warrant the upgrade, and have yet to be disappointed.

So, we want to hear from you dear readers: what’s your favorite new feature? Something I’ve mentioned, or another of the new features? Or does nothing interest you? And I am sure some of you will take issue with my stance on upgrade pricing. I want to hear from you as well. Sound off in the comments section below.

About the Author, George Coghill

George Coghill isa freelance humorous illustrator/cartoonist specializing in mascot cartoon character design & cartoon logos. His cartooning & illustration work can be seen at and at his cartooning and illustration blog. Be sure to follow me on Twitter here!
Discover More by George Coghill


We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Jeff Finley

    Nice preview George, I really want to upgrade. Problem is, we have about 10 people who use Adobe Creative Suite and the upgrade costs are so much more. Have any ideas on that?

  • JoMo

    The variable stroke width does sound amazing, especially when used in conjunction with pressure-sensitive tablets (did I read correctly that they'd work together?).

    The content-aware fill does look incredible and does seem like the next great plateau for quick & easy image modification, but I think I'm most excited for the new additions to the already ridiculous Camera Raw. I'm also hoping they improved a lot of the quirks with Bridge. The addition of the 3D tools to photoshop look pretty in-depth as well, which I definitely see as a huge addition that could get heavy mileage with a lot of typographical (is this a word?) designers.

    I'm curious about people's thoughts on the new perspective tool in Illustrator as well. It looks so cool, yet upon first glance I'm having a lot of difficulty determining how I could put it to good, heavy use.


  • Jeff Finley

    george, do you think the content aware fill will make it a snap to mask out our t-shirt templates from its backgrounds?

  • rseoane

    That´s nice information .

    I had seen some videos of new features of Photoshop and believe that the contents Aware Fill will be great, but had not heard anything about Illustrator and I am happy to know about these updates.

    But, anyone knows if Photoshop came with a GLYPHS Palette?


  • George Coghill

    Yeah that's one limitation, since I am only upgrading a single machine. Studios have a bigger outlay of funds for this. Are you guys on CS4 now?

  • George Coghill

    I'm not certain how the Variable Width Strokes work with pressure sensitivity.

    And agreed, the RAW features seem to be beefed up but since I know very little about photography and RAW, I felt it best not to comment on those. We'd love to hear your take on them once you have your hands on them, hit me up at george [at] gomedia [.] us to discuss.

  • George Coghill

    From what I can gather from the demo videos, the content-aware fill needs background to “read” in oder to fill in the background, so I am assuming it's more for objects in a scene rather than an image that is mostly “object” (if that makes sense?).

    I'd have to see an example to give you a better guess. And once I have CS5, I can tell you for sure!

  • designfollow.

    thanks for the info.

  • Adrian Brooks

    The upgrades to PS and AI are great, and I'm looking forward to using them, but what I'm really excited about are the upgrades to ID, which strangely was barely mentioned in the announcement video. Out of all the programs, I use ID the most for work, so I guess that's why I'm the most excited about that program.

    I'm still waiting to see how the reviews look once people actually start using CS5 before I decide to upgrade. I really want to upgrade, but seeing new features and hearing how said features ACTUALLY work are two separate things.

  • Dirk

    Nice math breakdown. Never thought of it that way. I was pretty sure I would upgrade, but it's def a no brainer now.

  • Adam

    I totally agree with your math: For single user studios its a no-brainer. Why would you put off being more productive for 18 months? They really do pay for themselves to stay current.

  • JoMo

    It seems completely logical that the pressure sensitivity would work in conjunction with stroke editing. I would assume that the information held within a drawn tablet stroke, lets say in CS4, will now just be a visible factor for editing in CS5 once you've laid out your shape.

    I wonder if they've fixed the quirk in photoshop where (option) or (alt) clicking & dragging a locked object dupes and moves it. I always assumed that locking a layer prevents any and all tampering with it like in illustrator, but for every version thus far, locked layers in photoshop have been succeptible to this hiccup.

    Also a shortcut button for turning on and off the “autoselect” layer/group command would be so welcome.

  • Dobbo

    Agree some über cool new features there (in particular some of those little big items in ai) but I sadly can't jump in and upgrade our studio when we still share files with other agencies large and small… until enough people around us upgrade, any productivity benefits are axed by having to save INX files, and manage those in relation to our own versions, deal with backward compatability issues (grey FO links ayone?), and generally tear my hair out…. i'll have to settle for looking forward to these new features one day, probably about a month before CS6 comes out.

  • Nethawk

    The upgrade cost is one thing, but the whole upgrading process is a pain (at least on windows, I don't know on Mac): you'll have to reinstall/reconfigure all your plugins, you have to export/reimport all the Dreamweaver site settings one by one(!), there's no 'legal' way to have your DW snippets copied to the new version. Then some settings from the old version remain on the system, confusing the Extension Manager (some extensions are installed in the wrong place and will not become visible in the new installed version). And this goes on and on and on. If an upgrade would be a clean and transparent process, where no add-ons or settings are lost THEN $600 would be OK every 18 months.

  • Simon H.

    Damn', looks and seems awesome but also too expensive right now. Grrr.

  • video izle

    thanks for this article

  • George Coghill

    Spoke with my Adobe gurus, and seems the Variable-Width Stroke does not work with pressure sensitivity.

    I can confirm your Photoshop bug, and agree with the auto-select feature!

  • George Coghill

    What ID features most excite you? I haven't delved into them yet.

  • George Coghill

    Yeah it hit me to look at what I was paying over time, and what I would save by holding off.

  • George Coghill

    As Jeff mentions above, it can add up if you need to upgrade a whole studio. But the “savings” also play right into this. In short, it's not really a huge deal to hold off unless you skip 2 versions, and even then it's not that much.

    After 2 versions it seems you no longer qualify for upgrade pricing. All in all it makes more financial & productivity sense to just stay current and always have the newest tools.

  • George Coghill

    I usually keep my previous CS apps on the hard drive until the next version comes out. I don't have the situation of needing to do back & forth with other legacy users, but I feel your pain.

    An old job of mine was using Photoshop 5 on OS9 when CS2 was out! That sucked, let me tell you.

  • George Coghill

    You know that is a great point. I forgot about that nightmare (it's the same on Mac). I suppose the idea is that the older plugins may not be compatible, but why not build in a compatibility checker for them?

    The biggest pain for me was rebuilding all my custom keyboard shortcuts. Not looking forward to that at all!

  • Jesus Elorza

    Well, those updates looks good and it seems that it can save you a bit of time but my question is, why do they have to release CS5 so soon? it strikes me as odd that they are releasing a new version when CS4 is still “new” on the market..

    I know that it's a competition between companies (for example: Corel and Adobe) to see which one is better, but when it comes to the point, the program is still buggy at certain points and there could be another issues as well.

    I'm a CS3 user, I haven't had anytype of problems with it and I would like to get CS4, but, now seeing that CS5 is coming out, im asking to myself “should I get CS4 or wait for a stable version of CS5?”

  • rory

    I don't think I'll bother upgrading at the moment, although the new features sound pretty good, Ive just scratched the surface of my Web Premium CS4, and like you say re-setting up custom workspaces etc is a nightmare. Although I haven't heard of the new features in Flash, which I'm a big fan of…sorry Apple I love you too! But sadly I haven't got the funds to blast out on new software

  • oyun indir

    thanks good software..

  • CMillen

    I am on CS4 an dwill not be buying CS5; I am holding out for the next upgrade (shouldn't be long before we see CS6).

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
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  • Dan

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  • shabnam

    thanks george

  • oyun indir

    thx 4 the informations, good to know.

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    Photoshop is always a Good software but in this time it’s so expensive