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Photoshop 2020 review

Do the new features and tools added to Photoshop 2020 warrant the monthly price tag?

Photoshop 2020
(Image: © Adobe/Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Our Verdict

The most exciting part of this Photoshop update is the new Object Selection Tool. Adobe is putting Sensei to good use here and this can drastically cut edit times for photographers and artists alike. Some features, however, feel a little superfluous.

For

  • Object Selection Tool saves time
  • Cloud ensures fluid workflows
  • Default consistent transform useful

Against

  • Small menu adjustments are weak
  • Warp tool not un-doable after committing
  • Subs model not for everyone

Adobe recently released a bunch of powerfully upgraded tools and features to Photoshop 2020 in an effort to blend the gap between desktop/laptop-based Photoshopping and using the new Photoshop for iPad. 

Although there are plenty of new additions and refreshes that bulk Photoshop’s already stacked library of features and tools, is it enough to make that subscription cost worth it? And can Adobe’s powerful Sensei artificial intelligence learning machine work reliably save you time when working in the software? Or is your money better spent on a one-off software purchase? Read on to find out.

Object Selection tool

Photoshop 2020

The Object selection tool is like if the Magic Wand and Quick Selection tools had a (really strong) baby (Image credit: Adobe/Jason Parnell-Brookes)

The Object Selection tool is by far the best addition to the newest update. Adobe now uses Sensei’s artificial intelligence to identify objects in a scene and automatically create selections. Thank goodness, we can put down the Magic Wand tool! It’s pretty darn good, too. Obvious examples of it not working 100 per cent are busy environments that have lots of crossing over such as foliage or complex architectural backdrops. But even then, wow it’s good! 

Just pair it with the Select and Mask tool (right-click on the selection to get there) to refine your edge and you’re set. And for simpler selections on clear backdrops, it’s an absolute doddle. 

Seamless saving via the Cloud

Photoshop 2020

You’ll have the choice of saving directly to the Cloud or locally on your computer (Image credit: Adobe/Jason Parnell-Brookes)

As Adobe gradually expands its Photoshop software across devices, it's targeting seamless integration by allowing work to be saved to Adobe's Cloud. That means you can start your work on the desktop computer in the office, then finish it off in the café with your iPad (see our Photoshop for iPad review). You can even use this new feature to work on files in Adobe Fresco too. 

In the unlikely event you’ve wandered back into the dark ages and don't have WiFi, you can work offline and have it automatically sync when you next connect. Just be aware of your membership level and how much Creative Cloud storage you have, you may need to jig a few files around from time to time if you’re a power-user. 

Overall, it’s a great addition that’ll give you a few sighs of relief when your device battery dies or the software crashes mid-work. However, use of the Cloud storage is a bit clunky – if you’re saving files to the Cloud don’t expect to be able to download them back onto your device, because you’ll have to reopen them in Photoshop to re-save locally.

Transform consistently

Photoshop 2020

Finally, the transform controls are the right way round – though there’s a legacy mode for users who just can’t make the switch (Image credit: Adobe/Jason Parnell-Brookes)

You can give your fingers a rest because consistent transform behaviour via the Shift key is a thing of the past. Hallelujah! Photoshop 2020 now performs a consistent transform from the off, that is, you can make selections bigger and smaller without squashing its width or height, all without holding down Shift. Why this wasn’t the standard since the dawn of Photoshop? We're not sure.

You’ll notice the Link icon in the top of the toolbar is now automatically on. Hold down the Shift key now and you’ll see you can adjust width and height as normal. If you’re a traditionalist and prefer to leave it as it was head to: Edit > Preferences > General and tick Legacy Free Transform.

Properties revamp

Photoshop 2020

Helpful shortcuts and some snazzy quick actions for the most commonly used functions in the properties panel are welcome improvements (Image credit: Adobe/Jason Parnell-Brookes)

The Properties panel has had a well-deserved revamp to give quicker access to things like displaying the Rulers, the Grid, adjusting Guides and also includes a powerful extra tab called Quick Actions. These speedy features change depending on what you have selected in the Layers palette. Highlight no layer at all and it’ll default to the Document properties, click a raster layer and you’ll be greeted with the Pixel properties actions and highlighting a Type layer will give you some more. They’re designed to be used with a single click, instead of fiddling behind sub-menu after sub-menu and are there for all your most common requirements, although we're hoping Adobe open this up to some customising soon.

Flexible Smart Object conversion

Photoshop 2020

A flexible way for the multi-faceted creative user, not so much for the humble photographer (Image credit: Adobe/Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Merged Smart Object layers are now even more flexible with the ability to reverse the process of converting several layers to a smart object, and back again. Once you’ve created your Smart Object with layers you can right-click on it in the Layers palette and go to Convert to Layers to reverse the process. However, now you’ll have them in a useful Smart Object Group folder so they don’t get inter-mingled in your 200 layer monster document. 

This is certainly an update for the more artistic and design-oriented Photoshop users rather than photographers, but Photoshop definitely isn’t just for photographers anymore.

New and improved presets

There have been some great new changes to the presets end of Photoshop recently. The old presets we know and love are still there, hidden under the Legacy Presets option in the contextual panel menu, but there's now access to new gradients, shapes and patterns, which each have their own dedicated panels, making it easier to sift through thumbnails. 

You can even reorder and categorise your presets using simple drag and drop and place them directly onto the canvas if needed, but this feels like a universal change to take into account functionality on the iPad. That said, you now get a live preview as you cycle through presets by clicking on them to get a feel for each one on the canvas which is better than squinting at the thumbnails.

More powerful Transform Warp

Photoshop 2020

It’s good that Adobe is updating this feature to make it more user-friendly, but is this really the tool that needed updating? (Image credit: Adobe/Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Transform Warp is more powerful with the inclusion of control points and split points, which divide your image into sections (find this in the top toolbar). From here, you can make custom-sized grids, delete gridlines, put them anywhere and set your own anchor points. 

Adobe says you can even undo individual steps of editing a warp, but in practice you can’t do this once you’ve committed the transform by clicking the tick in the top bar or hitting Enter. This is a good update for regular warpers, but a bit of a stocking filler for those that only use this feature occasionally.

System requirements

macOS

  • Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support
  • macOS version 10.13 or higher
  • 2GB RAM (8GB recommended)
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 1050 or equivalent and higher

Windows

  • Intel or AMD processor with 64-bit support; 2GHz or faster
  • Windows 7 (64-bit) or Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • 2GB RAM (8GB recommended)
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 1050 or equivalent and higher

How good is Photoshop 2020?

The new features and tools in Photoshop 2020 are definitely decent. There's a couple of powerful time-saving additions, a game-changing new tool, a few features aimed at multi-media artists and some spring cleaning for layouts.

Photoshop 2020 is the industry standard for image editing and can of course do so much more, including 3D modelling and animation. It’s hard to recommend another software over Photoshop in terms of comprehensiveness, but Affinity Photo is probably a good alternative for those that only wish for photography-related functionality at a fixed price.

If you’re a photographer, digital artist or experimental designer, this is definitely the software to go for – especially if you’re interdisciplinary in your workflow. Even though Photoshop 2020 has a strong animation function, if you're after a standalone motion graphics app for 3D content making, you might be better off with Cinema 4D. However, if you regularly collaborate with other designers, or use other Adobe software and need a streamlined workflow, then Photoshop 2020 is an invaluable tool.

Should you buy Photoshop 2020?

Yes. If the above bullet points and the rest of this review appeal, then go for it. If not, or if your work is quite specific, it may be worth investing in another piece of dedicated software.

The Verdict

8

out of 10

Photoshop CC 2019

The most exciting part of this Photoshop update is the new Object Selection Tool. Adobe is putting Sensei to good use here and this can drastically cut edit times for photographers and artists alike. Some features, however, feel a little superfluous.