Review of Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended

If you want to compare some of the features of Photoshop CS4 Extended with Photoshop CS3 Extended, click on review. This review will focus on the new and enhanced features in Photoshop CS4 Extended. I am reviewing this on a PC using Vista Ultimate 32-bit with 4 gig of memory.

These following features only apply to Photoshop CS4 Extended.

Photoshop CS4 Extended continues and expands the 3D capabilities found in Photoshop CS3 Extended. It includes rich motion-graphic capabilities, 3D editing and compositing features, and enhanced image analysis functions as well as its famous 2D editing capabilities. The 3D area, started in Photoshop CS3 Extended, has a large number of new and enhanced features added to it in Photoshop CS4 Extended. This will be discussed later in the review.

Photoshop CS4 makes use of dual monitors as it has done for a number of versions. The panels can be moved to the second monitor, and they are now Flash enabled leading to more configurable work environments which can be named and saved so you have control of how your workspace displays. The interface has some new additions which I will discuss. The menu is still context sensitive. The placement of tools has changed a little and some new additions have been added to the top toolbar. The "Paula-Basic" refers to the Workspace that I have configured for my general use. There are many workspace configurations available, all can be customized and saved with a new name.

Below is an example of the Rotate View Tool which is a wonderful addition for those using digitizing tablets.

Photoshop CS4 Extended now has graphic card acceleration. For more information go to

A new feature that has been added to many programs is tabbed docs. While they have been in Dreamweaver for a few versions and can be now found in InDesign and are very useful, they have also been added as a default in the Preferences>Interface as Open Documents as Tabs. This tabs together as many documents as you want, but only one can be opened at a time. To change this, you can click on "Float in All Windows" each time you open Photoshop CS4. However, you can uncheck the tab in preferences, and you can, once again, always open as many documents as you want. Since I use many documents simultaneously, until I found the "Tab" default in preferences, I found the new feature awkward to use. Another default I changed was the drop shadow. This added a drop shadow to the image I was editing or creating which I found distracting. While some users might like these new features, Adobe has allowed the interface to reflect that of CS3 if the user desires.

The Bridge on the far top left of the interface screen capture above has been enhanced very nicely. The new review-mode makes looking at a series of images in a file very easy.

In this mode, you can use the new Loupe button at the lower right to see a very detailed part of the image. Of course, you can still see the images as very large icons by moving the slider at the bottom of the Bridge.

Image Editing is the core of Photoshop. There have been quite a number of new and enhanced changes in this area. A new feature is the on-the-fly resize brush. On the PC, you hold down the Alt keys and move the brush to the right or left. You can still use the bracket keys for on-the-fly resizing if you wish. We now have 5 ways to change the brush size unless I missed any.

There is a new panel called an Adjustments Panel where you have all the tools at your finger tips for non-destructive adjustments to your image. Also, there are many presets which can be accessed by clicking on the arrow heads.

Tabbed with the Adjustments is the new Masks Panel. It can work in conjunction with the Adjustments Panel or alone to easily create masks. I used an image from Adobe to change the color of the tie and make the rest of the image black and white. It was very easy to do and the selection of the tie was very accurate. I used both panels together to change the image.

An area that was always somewhat problematic in prior versions was the Dodge-Burn-Sponge tool. The images tended to get a grayish cast to them where the tool was used. The enhancement of these tools has changed that. This change is great! It just works with the colors without adding that grayish cast. To show the difference, I used the same image in Photoshop CS3 and CS4.The parameters were kept the same. The only variable that I tried to control was the number of sweeps across the image with the Dodge tool. Notice in the one done in CS4 how the color of the grass has a better tonality. The enhancement of these tools is a tremendous and, I believe, important improvement.

The Clone Stamp as well as the Healing Brush have the ability to preview the area to be cloned. The circle shows the brush hovering over the image in the area where the cloning will take place.

A new feature that is often not considered is how color-blind people discriminate between colors in a standard magazine. Of course, one cannot arrange all articles with that in mind, but where the discrimination of color is important: signs, color coded directions, etc., soft proofing for those suffering from different forms of color- blindness is a marvelous new feature. To see how your colors will look under varying conditions go to View (on the main toolbar)>Proof Setup, and you can look at the image for different conditions.

A new addition to Photoshop CS4 is Content-Aware Scaling whereby you can scale various aspects of the image while protecting some content. Notice on the images below how the butterfly is distorted when traditional techniques to change the shape of the image are employed. The image that has been scaled by Content-Aware Scaling (Edit>Content-Aware Scaling) has not been cropped, but elongated vertically and decreased horizontally.

There are a number of advanced automated compositing features in Photoshop CS4 such as auto-align and auto-blend. Each gives the user choices of how to composite the image.

Using multiply shots for various effects has been around for a few versions of Photoshop. CS4 has added the ability to increase the illusion of depth of field. For this you need to take a few pictures of a subject with different areas in focus. In other words, this is what I call an "ahead of time" concept. I'm demonstrating with 10 Adobe images which I will Auto-Align, create this new image with a greater depth of field. If I were indoors with this roll of film, I would have had my camera on a tripod, which you have to do anyway, closed the lens down, focused on the middle of the image, and if necessary, increased my exposure time. And shot one image. But I learnt photography when all we had were manual SLRs, usually a Nikon or a Pentax. In a controlled situation with closeup or macro photography where the depth of field is very shallow I can see how this feature can be useful.

Some very nice improvements have been added to Camera Raw in Photoshop CS4 such as an Adjustment Brush and a Graduated Filter. We are now up to Camera Raw 5. These are the same tools that appear in Adobe Lightroom 2. With them you can adjust various sections of an image. You can erase adjustments and add new one.

The Graduated Filter works in a similar fashion. I used it to darken areas progressively.

These tools worked beautifully and they are a wonderful addition to Camera Raw.

There are a lot of new exciting additions to the 3D aspect of Photoshop CS4 Extended. I will highlight some of them. Make sure the settings for performance have OpenGL checked. Below is a screen capture to show the options available. This preference is under the Preference menu and Performance. The 3D engine has been rebuilt from the ground up. All the models worked very smoothly.

Below is an example of the 3D Panel

One of the new features in Photoshop CS4 Extended is the ability to paint directly on the model. In the example below, I selected the car layer only and used the brush. The blue paint went on smoothly although it did not cover the whole top. There are ways to refine the painting on complex models as well as to choose such controls as paint falloff angle, for example. There are tutorials to help. One way to find tutorials is to access the Help Menu and type in the information desired, such as 3D painting. Here is an excellent explanation of 3D painting and how to find the paintable areas in an image.

As you can see, in each model there will be areas that you can't paint. That is why sometimes it is better to change the whole texture when you are wanting to change all the color of the object. The new 3D painting feature offers a lot of choices and is an excellent addition especially if you want to paint in details on an image. You can select Paintable Area before you start to see where you can paint and can't. This feature I found very useful for it explained why some areas would not accept the paint. It will vary with different models.

Next, I took the same red car and changed the red texture itself to blue. This is another way to change the color of the car, as I mentioned previously. I, also, added a 2D image to the roof of the car and merged the car and 2D (flower) image.

As you can see, the flower moves with the car.

The new Photoshop CS4 Extended can also deal with motion graphics. There is integration with Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and After Effects CS4. When you start to work in video, you want to change to the Video Workspace.

In the timeline, you can add comments to be used when the video is opened in either Premiere Pro CS4 or After Effects CS4.

Below are the options available when working with keyframes and the animation in general.

In this section on 3D and Video, I will insert a short description of Volume Rendering. The following is taken from an Adobe document:

"Volume Rendering is a new way to easily convert text, shape, or pixel layers into a volume. Artists can combine painted layers into entirely new and eye-catching volumes that can be viewed from any perspective. Motion graphics professionals can explore generating volumes from multiple text layers. Medical professionals can volume render a DICOM image stack into an anatomical image that can be viewed and explored from all angles and depths."

Below is an screen capture of a DICOM image stack from Adobe.

The following screen capture on the left shows how the layers are converted using the above screen into a 3D image. The screen capture on the right shows how this image can be rotated to show various details.

Photoshop CS4 has added a number of Online Services such as ConnectNow which gives the user the capability to share screens with someone else. It worked smoothly and the e-mail that had to be sent was received immediately. Some of the other services include Creative Pro Online Services, Adobe Community Help, Adobe Kuler™ which is a great color resource, and Adobe Bridge Home to let you stay current with what is new from Adobe.

System requirements for Photoshop CS4 Extended


  • 1.8GHz or faster processor
  • Microsoft® Windows® XP with Service Pack 2 (Service Pack 3 recommended) or Windows Vista® Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise with Service Pack 1 (certified for 32-bit Windows XP and 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista)
  • 512MB of RAM (1GB recommended)
  • 1GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on flash-based storage devices)
  • 1,024x768 display (1,280x800 recommended) with 16-bit video card
  • Some GPU-accelerated features require graphics support for Shader Model 3.0 and OpenGL 2.0
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • QuickTime 7.2 software required for multimedia features
  • Broadband Internet connection required for online services*

Mac OS

  • PowerPC® G5 or multicore Intel® processor
  • Mac OS X v10.4.11–10.5.4
  • 512MB of RAM (1GB recommended)
  • 2GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on flash-based storage devices)
  • 1,024x768 display (1,280x800 recommended) with 16-bit video card
  • Some GPU-accelerated features require graphics support for Shader Model 3.0 and OpenGL 2.0
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • QuickTime 7.2 software required for multimedia features
  • Broadband Internet connection required for online services*

Photoshop CS4 Extended is US $999.00 with various upgrades as low as US $349.00 For a list of the various upgrade prices, click on price. A trial is now available.

Photoshop CS4 is US $699.00 with various upgrade prices starting at US $199.00. For a list of various upgrade prices, click on price. For a trial, click on demo.

For information on the Adobe Creative Suite 4 Master Collection, click on the link. The cost is US $2,499.00 with upgrades from US $899.00 You can get a trial DVD set for US $15.99. This link, also, lists all the programs contained in the Master Collection as well as give information on the individual programs.

  • InDesign® CS4
  • Photoshop® CS4 Extended
  • Illustrator® CS4
  • Acrobat® 9 Pro
  • Flash® CS4 Professional
  • Dreamweaver® CS4
  • Fireworks® CS4
  • Contribute® CS4
  • After Effects® CS4
  • Adobe Premiere® Pro CS4
  • Soundbooth® CS4
  • Adobe OnLocation™ CS4
  • Encore® CS4
  • Adobe Bridge CS4
  • Adobe Device Central CS4
  • Dynamic Link
  • Version Cue® CS4

There are more features in Photoshop CS4 Extended that I haven't discussed. In this review, I have tried to give an idea of the wide variety of enhanced and new features in Photoshop CS4 Extended. If you don't have Photoshop, you need to decide whether you want the Extended version which encompasses the 3D and video features or not. For a feature by feature comparisons, click on the link. If you have earlier versions of Photoshop or Photoshop Extended, you need to decide whether your work requires an upgrade or you just can't live without one. There are some wonderful new features. For the way I work, the Dodge and Burn tools with their increased true tonal quality, are very important to me. Also, when I do work in 3D, the added features of the Extended portion and the smooth way they work are going to be very useful. In addition, the new selection features in Camera Raw give me the ability, if I so choose, to utilize Camera Raw more before I save the image as a PSD and work on it in the Photoshop portion. This is just to name a few features that I know I will be using a lot.

Even with a 3 year old machine that was considered very fast when I purchased it and a Nvidia video card that is now at the bottom of the list presented by Adobe, the program ran very smoothly and quickly. I was able to accomplish everything successfully that I tried. As I worked with Photoshop CS4 Extended and tested most of the new and enhanced features, I liked it more and more and highly recommend it.

Below are links to my reviews of other products contained in the Adobe CS4 Master Collection.

Review of Acrobat 9 Pro

Review of Dreamweaver CS4

Review of Illustrator CS4

Review of Fireworks CS4

Review of Flash CS4 Professional

Review of InDesign CS4