Light touch in the virtual darkroom

Joseph Gallivan discovers that even a novice can improve his image with Adobe Photoshop 4.0

Nothing gets design freaks and font fetishists more excited than a new version of Adobe Photoshop, the "virtual darkroom", and when 4.0 came out in November, it proved to be no disappointment.

For desktop publishers (now including thousands of Web page owners), Photoshop is the killer application for retouching anything flat enough to scan. And with 200Mhz chips and a few score RAM cheap enough for Joe Public, the program has spread beyond the art rooms to the home. Whether you want to create Jesus's-face-in-the-smoke images for supermarket tabloids, or just replace your ex with a laurel bush in family snaps, this program is for you.

Photoshop 4.0 comes with many new features. Being a design tool, the interface has been tweaked again, making it look more 3-D on a Mac. Screen real estate is a burning issue that Adobe has not dodged. (Many professionals use two linked monitors, one for tool palette, one purely for artwork.) The tool palette that runs in a narrow strip down the side has been rationalised: the little-used "crop" tool is hidden, and a polygon lasso for free-hand selections, and a type mask (for making those zebra-patterned words), have arrived.

Many of the changes are ergonomic. To avoid tedium and tennis elbow, there are now "Actions", macros that record frequently performed tasks. You can even apply an Action to a batch (a folder of files you do not have to open). Come back from lunch, and all your chrome ducks are in a row.

Photoshop's great strength is the way it enables digital images to be broken down into a infinite number of layers. You can select part of an object and copy it to a new layer, then play with the colours or texture. You can copy an image to a new layer, skew it, colour it grey and place it under the original. Hey presto, a shadow. When your work is done, you can flatten all the layers together to make the file smaller.

If layers are like sheets of animators' acetate, they've just got more functional. In 4.0, you now have Adjustment Layers, which store just the change you wish to make. After much shuffling, if you don't like it you can still delete it. That helps to get around the old problem that, unless you constantly save to the hard drive, you can still only undo one previous command because the work takes place in that virtual space called RAM.

Of which you need plenty, for three reasons. Copying an image takes two to three times the file's size in RAM. Then you have to add another five to 10 megs to run the program itself. On a clunky old 60Mhz Pentium with Win95 and 24MB RAM, I find that 4.0 performs tolerably well, although most pros have at least 64 MB RAM and a Jazz or Zip drive for transporting files.

It may look more like an early Terry Gilliam than a Dali, but the above image shows how easy it is to create a simple montage. The figure of the woman was copied and inverted; the fossil was faded and smudged where it met the cloud swirl; other objects were clipped from stock photographyn

Adobe Photoshop 4.0 (pounds 399), Adobe Systems (http://www.adobe.com)

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Life and Style
The spring/summer 2015 Louis Vuitton show for Paris Fashion Week
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Associate Recrutiment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

    Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

    £120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

    PMLD Teacher

    Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?