Photoshop CS6 wish list

Forget about big-ticket features. What Photoshop needs is some finely tuned, pixel accurate love.

This is my Photoshop CS6 wish list. If you have something you think might be worthy, please @me (if I add it, I’ll credit you). This list exists because I use Photoshop 10+ hours a day, every day and I care about the future of the application.

I’ll send the list to John Nack in the next few days. Hopefully Adobe find the information useful. Who knows, they may even implement some of the suggestions.

Update: John has responded and the Photoshop team have seen the list. He’s been great to deal with and it seems that they’re taking the suggestions seriously. I’ll keep everyone posted on any progress.

Update on March 24, 2012: Photoshop CS6 beta has been released, and a lot of the suggestions below made it into the release. For a full rundown, please read our Photoshop CS6 improvements article.

Searchable layers

It’s quite common for web, desktop and mobile app user interface Photoshop documents to contain a lot of layers. I have some documents here with well over 1000 layers, and I don’t think I’m alone (I have groups for each state of the app). It’d be great to be able to filter the layers palette.

Editable roundrect radius during and after drawing

Illustrator allows realtime tweaking of the corner radius while drawing, using the arrow keys. Drawing a roundrect in Photoshop is a trial and error affair. Please fix this. It’d be even better if the roundrect’s corner radius remained editable after drawing. Allowing a different corner radius for each corner would be the icing on the cake. How important are roundrects to UI design? Very.

Rotating 90° glitch

Rotating a bitmap layer by 90 degrees produces great results when the source layer is an even by even amount of pixels, or odd by odd amount. Rotating a layer that’s odd by even or even by odd gets hit with the funky stick, probably due to the origin of rotation not falling on the pixel boundary intersection or exactly in the centre of a pixel.

The workaround is to place a stray pixel somewhere on the layer to make the overall size even by even or odd by odd, then rotate and delete the pixel after. It’d be nice if Photoshop handled this better.

Reorderable and multiple Layer Styles

Most designers I know try to use a combination of vector shapes and Layer Styles as often as possible. Doing so makes elements more reusable, editable and scalable. A well constructed iOS design should be able to scale to 2× for the iPhone 4’s Retina display, with minimal tweaks. A little more control over Layer Style order (especially Color, Gradient, Pattern) and being able to double up on certain effects would be most welcome. I find myself wanting double drop shadows and double strokes all the time.

Gradient Layer Style dithering

Gradient Layer Styles are incredibly handy, but can’t be dithered, meaning they’re often lower quality than their Gradient tool counterpart. While not a big deal in most cases, subtle gradients can benefit from dithering. A lot of web and app UI elements contain subtle gradients.

Noise slider in Color Layer Style

It’s common to add a small amount of noise to add texture to a surface. There are other ways to solve this problem, but an additional noise slider in the Color Layer Style would be handy. Please note that this feature wouldn’t be as crucial if Layer Style reordering was possible, because the Pattern Layer Style could be used for adding noise and texture.

Command-J to dupe layers and layer groups

Command-J duplicates the entire current layer, or a portion of the current layer, if there’s a selection. It’s a great feature, and one I use daily.

For some strange reason, Command-J doesn’t do anything when there’s two layers or a layer group selected. Why? I realise there’s probably a decent technical reason for this, but a context sensitive “just dupe it” command would be really handy, even if it’s actually several different methods behind the scenes. Is now a good time to mention that the Layer menu already contains an item that does most of these things, but it doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut by default? Pre-emptive strike: Assigning a keyboard shortcut wouldn’t help, as the menu item doesn’t duplicate selections within a layer (Command-J does).

Default global angle of 90°

Stop the nonsense. 120° is no good to anyone. Being able to save Layer Style defaults helped, but the global angle is still 120° for new documents. I don’t know anyone who regularly uses anything other than 90° as their global angle, except Photoshop’s UI team (madness!). Pre-emptive strike: No, it won’t break old documents, as we’re only talking about new document defaults.

I don’t think this should be added as an option, the default should just be 90°. Snide remarks aside, any way of changing the default to 90° would be welcomed.

Update: Rich Dellinger and a few others have pointed out that it’s possible to set a default angle by choosing Layer > Layer Style > Global Light with no documents open. It’s times like these I love being wrong.

Vector shape editing nudge snap to pixel

Nudge a layer and it moves in single pixel increments. Nudge a group and it moves in single pixel increments. Nudge a point on a vector path and it moves in sub-pixel increments. Very frustrating, as a lot of a designer’s time is spent nudging elements around until a final layout is achieved. I understand why sub-pixel increments would be desirable sometimes, but pixel-aligned nudges are what I’m after most of the time. Please note that I’m asking for an option, not for the default behaviour to be changed.

Alex T Gordon suggested a workaround using snap to grid. That certainly helps. You can also zoom to 100% and nudge.

Circle vector shape snap to pixel

Drawing a pixel-accurate vector circle in Photoshop is actually quite difficult. The best method I know is: Work out the correct size, zoom to 100%, draw the circle while keeping a close eye on the info palette so it’s the size you need, then zoom back in to position (zooming to 100% ensures the circle’s path is pixel aligned). If circles could snap to pixel, then I wouldn’t have zoom out to create a well formed object. It’s only a minor inconvenience, but if you draw enough circles, the frustration builds.

Adam Betts suggests using a roundrect with a large corner radius as a vector circle replacement—a good suggestion as a workaround and the results seem identical.

Smarter layer names when merging

When merging layers, the top layer’s name is used for the result. It would be really nice if the topmost layer with a non-“Layer n” (where n is a number) name was used, keeping the topmost user-entered layer name. As it stands today, merging layers usually requires retyping in the layer name straight afterwards.

Movable Pen tool anchor points while drawing

In Illustrator, it’s possible to move a bezier point as it’s being created. To do this, click and drag to create the bezier point, then hold space to move the anchor while the mouse button is still down. Photoshop’s Pen tool can’t do this. Suggested by Ney Ricardo.

Modal windows stop documents from opening

If a document is dragged from the Finder to Photoshop’s Dock icon, the document won’t open if a modal window—like the color picker—is open. The best solution seems to be not having any modal windows, or less of them. Suggested by Dane Thomas.

Change blending mode for multiple layers at once

Currently, it’s possible to change the opacity of multiple layers at once. It’d be great if we could change the blending mode of all selected layers as well. Suggested by Alex Solonsky.

PVR image format support

PowerVR images are commonplace in OpenGL projects and games. It’d be great to have PVR support in Save For Web & Devices. Saving as PNG then converting using another tool isn’t as quick or nice as directly exporting images from Photoshop. If PVR is added, it would be important to support all the various compression modes.