Adobe Creative Suite 2
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 9 (September 2005)

Adobe Creative Suite 2

Adobe’s Creative Suite 2 is a collection of applications geared toward creative professionals, such as those involved in creating images for graphic design, digital imaging, print publishing, and Web/mobile projects. The suite should be all you’ll ever need to create still images for any medium.

Creative Suite 2 Standard includes Photoshop CS2 for image editing, Illustrator CS2 for drawing and vector graphics, and InDesign CS2 for page layout. The Premium version adds GoLive CS2 for Web authoring and Acrobat 7.0 Professional for exchanging files. Without a doubt, Photoshop is Adobe’s most popular application; it’s used virtually everywhere in the computer graphics community. The CS2 version of Adobe’s flagship application includes a number of improvements.

Adobe’s Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in enables photographers to manage raw files from digital cameras. Photoshop CS2 adds to that capability with the ability to remember RAW settings and apply them to multiple files, making batch-processing digital photos much easier. You can now do common tasks (straighten, crop, apply gamma correction curves, etc.) on import, for greater control. Photoshop’s new Noise Reduction filter is good at smoothing out rough spots in images shot in low-light conditions. While not as robust as some third-party noise filters, Adobe’s works well for most situations. New automatic lens correction helps adjust for barrel distortion in less-than-perfect lenses. Another nifty addition is Vanishing Point, which automates the task of perspective correction, saving time and headaches.

Photoshop CS2 offers artists the ability to crop and edit curves while importing RAW camera files.

3D graphics professionals will be happy with Photoshop’s support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) 32-bit floating-point images, lending to more realistic light sources and textures in 3D animations. In the past, creating HDR files was difficult and required a jumble of custom applications. Photoshop CS2’s Exposure Merge utility simplifies the process and allows you to take a batch of photos with bracketed exposures and combine them into a single HDR image.

One of the best new features in Photoshop CS2, Smart Objects enable you to import images and graphics while retaining a live connection to the original document. An Illustrator graphic brought into a Photoshop design, for example, is updated in Photoshop as the original file is changed in Illustrator. Further, the Illustrator file will not rasterize until you decide to flatten the image, and Smart Objects work with RAW images.

Photoshop’s File Browser has been removed in favor of the broader-purpose Bridge. It is more robust, plus it handles files for all programs in the Creative Suite. It is useful in intelligently sorting and managing, as well as previewing, searching, and retrieving, various file formats. The one caveat: it’s a separate application that takes up system resources.

Illustrator CS2, Adobe’s vector graphics program, is used widely by graphics designers and increasingly by video professionals. The application is more compatible with Photoshop, offering support for Photoshop filters. The interface now resembles the Photoshop workspace, having adopted the Control Palette, a context-sensitive toolbar with options for current editing operations. One of the nicer improvements is Live Trace, which turns a scanned drawing into a vector graphic with excellent results. Complementing it is Live Paint, which enables you to paint an Illustrator file much like you would in Photoshop-by flood-filling regions.

One of the other upgrades is more of a collaborative feature. Many creative types are now using Acrobat’s PDF file format as a way to communicate their ideas to clients. Acrobat 7 Pro helps this segment by giving the reader the ability to add comments right in the PDF file.

Upgrades to the rest of the suite round out the package to bring it up just one more notch in terms of features and performance. Anyone who needs to create, manipulate, and manage still images will find the new tools quite useful.

George Maestri is president of Rubberbug, a Los Angeles-based animation studio specializing in character animation.

Adobe Systems Inc.
Price: $899 Standard, $1199 Premium
Minimum System Requirements: PC with Intel Xeon, Xeon Dual, Intel Centrino, or Pentium III or 4 processor running Microsoft Windows 2000 or Windows XP or a Macintosh with a PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor running Mac OS X (10.2.8 through 10.4); 320 mb of RAM; 650 mb (750 mb on Mac) of hard-disk space; a 1024x768 display; and a 16-bit video card.