What's New in Photoshop Version 21.1?

May 28, 2020     Digital Tools

A Macbook using Photoshop

Expanded Functionality on iPad, Better UX on Desktop

The latest version of Photoshop for desktop and iPad is here, bringing new features to the world’s marquee photo editing software.

Photoshop is similar to Kleenex, Band-Aid, and Xerox. They’re all brands that have become so ubiquitous in modern life that they function as common nouns and verbs. Any act of editing or doctoring a photo, regardless of how it’s done, is often just called “Photoshop."

Fixed itwithPhotoshop

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This year, Photoshop celebrates the 30th anniversary of its initial release. The current desktop software is version 21. That’s a long history with a lot of versions and patches. As a result of this long process of fine-tuning, the latest Photoshop release for the desktop doesn’t contain huge new developments. It doesn’t need to.

The last major release of Photoshop for the desktop (version 21.0 in November 2019) included a handful of UI improvements, as well as enhancements to object selection, the ability to convert smart objects to layers, and more consistent transform behavior across multiple layers. Useful improvements for users, without a doubt. But nothing necessarily game-changing.

Photoshop for iPad, though, that’s a different story. Version 1.0 dropped in November 2019, only six months ago (which may feel like six years right now). While the desktop software has settled into a stable pattern, the Photoshop mobile app is making large strides in functionality in an effort to put it on par with the established desktop version.

Like we’ve done with Illustrator and InDesign, we want to explore the latest version of this mainstay software. Come with us as we explore some of what’s new in Photoshop on your laptop and mobile devices.

Enhanced Content-Aware Fill (Desktop)

The change to the content-aware tool is a great example of the small changes to Photoshop for the desktop that still make a difference in the day-to-day lives of users.

Now, users can fill multiple areas of the same image without leaving the Content-Aware Fill workspace window. There is now an “Apply” button in the lower right-hand corner. You can then use the lasso or polygonal lasso tool to select another area to fill.

Additionally, users can now sample source pixels from all layers of the document by selecting the “Sample All Layers” option in the Content-Aware Fill panel.

Bokeh Effect Example

Improved Lens Blur Quality (Desktop)

The lens blur effect now uses your graphics processor to generate blurrier edges on objects nearer the front of the focal plane and a more realistic bokeh effect. This combines with better handling for color modes and better color highlights.

Users need to opt in if they want Photoshop to use their graphics processor. Go to Preferences > Performance, then select “Use Graphics Processor” in the Preferences dialog.

Apple Pencil Example

Adjust Apple Pencil Sensitivity (iPad)

Users can now fine-tune the pressure sensitivity of their Apple Pencil to achieve greater control when using brush tools. Tap the App Settings icon on the home screen, choose Input, and Apple Pencil. From there, you can use a slider to adjust your pressure preferences.

At the “Light” end of the pressure spectrum, you can achieve dense, heavy brush strokes with minimal pressure applied via the Apple Pencil, but it’s more difficult to get fine delicate strokes. At the “Heavy” side of the slider, you need heavy pressure to achieve dense strokes, but it’s easier to achieve finer detail.

We have a feeling a lot of users will spend time going back and forth on the slider as they work on all aspects of their document.

Curves Adjustments (iPad)

This is a case of the iPad version of Photoshop catching up to the desktop version. You can now make non-destructive changes to the tonality of your document by creating a new adjustment layer and choosing curves from the adjustments panel. You can then manipulate the various curves in the layer properties panel.

This level of increased control for iPad-based Photoshop users is part of an effort to bring the mobile version of the software as close to on-par as possible with the desktop version. It represents the next avenue of expansion for Photoshop given all the software has achieved in the desktop world.

Adobe Fresca Logo

Access to Adobe Fresco (iPad)

When you subscribe to Photoshop via the App Store, you now get access to Fresco, Adobe’s free-painting software. Whether you’re painting as part of your design work or for a little after-work stress relief, you can now use Fresco to do that at no additional cost.

You can play with watercolor and oil-style paints, and you can transfer documents between Photoshop and Fresco so you can use both apps to achieve the work you want.

A new version of Photoshop is always welcome. Even though the era of major changes is mostly over on the desktop, even small tweaks improve user experience greatly.

Additionally, we’re excited to see the increased functionality of the mobile app. Whether the app develops into an analog of the desktop version or its own unique software with a different set of advantages, we’re looking forward to its future.

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