What’s new for photographers in Photoshop CC 2020?

Adobe has just released Photoshop 2020 at Adobe MAX. As usual, there is a long list of updates to cover a variety of audiences. First, a quick note for those of you using my Lumenzia luminosity masking panel for Photoshop, it is fully compatible with Photoshop 2020.


Here’s a quick summary of changes that should be of greater interest to photographers (starting with what I consider the most impactful changes):

  • Auto-sampling with the New Content-Aware Fill. When you set the sampling area to “auto”, the green areas will be set more intelligently for you (instead of a generic green rectangle).
    • In my experience, this new auto option tends to do a very good job when you start with a reasonably isolation selection to target the area for fill. It’s a very nice enhancement that makes this powerful tool even faster to use.
    • See my previous Content-Aware Fill tutorial for how to make the most of this amazing functionality.
  • Transform Warp. When you warp (Edit > Transform > Warp or Cmd-T and click Warp Button), you can create custom grids to control transform much more precisely.
    • This offers some very nice functionality similar to what I demonstrated in my Perspective Warp tutorial.
    • Use the split or grid options in the toolbar to define your grid, and then drag intersection points (or their handles to rotate content).
    • You can select and move several points at once by <shift>-clicking and dragging a box around them with your mouse (or just <shift>-clicking multiple points.)
  • Erase while using Brush Tool by holding the “grave accent” key (this is the <`> key on the top-left of your keyboard).
    • While this may sound trivial at first (especially if you are using to using the <E> key to activate the eraser), this is actually very powerful because it gives you an eraser with the exact same settings as your brush (size, hardness, flow, opacity, etc). This makes it much easier to erase without constantly toggling settings to match what you just painted, especially brush size.
    • Note that when working on a layer mask, the eraser works in a very strange way. You would assume that it makes the layer mask black so that the layer becomes more transparent. However, the eraser actually works different on the layer mask than it does on the layer pixels. On the mask, it simply paints with the background color. If that happens to be black, you’ll get the expected results. But if it is some other color, that’s what will be used. So this may make your pixels less visible or more visible. If you see strange results, just click <D> while the layer mask is selected and paint colors will revert to black background (and white foreground).
  • Smart Object Selection Tool. This tool intelligently refines marquee or lasso selections around objects (ie, this is like having a “magic lasso” or “magic marquee” tool).
    • Do not expect a perfect selection, this is a tool to help you get to a good result more quickly. If you draw a reasonably well defined selection around a clearly defined object, it does a pretty good job of enhancing the selection for you to save time. You can then refine the selection as need (such as via additional selections or refine edge) to perfect the selection.
    • Turn on “Object Subtract” in the toolbar to use the same smart enhancement when using <alt/option> to remove part of the selection, such as removing portions of the interior of your initial selection.
  • Enhanced Properties panel now includes more capability to edit your layers (including alignment, rotation, flipping, remove background, and select subject) or text (numerous new properties).
  • Cloud documents. This allows you to edit the same document more easily across multiple devices (such as saving your work from your desktop computer and then opening it on your iPad), and is even designed to support offline workflows (so your changes are synchronized once you reconnect to the internet).
    • If you are going to use the new Photoshop iPad app, you should get familiar with this functionality to help more easily work across devices.
    • To save: Use the “Save as Adobe Cloud Document” option via File / Save As. Once you save a given document in the cloud, it will default to saving in the cloud going forward (unless you do another “save as” and choose different options).
    • To open: Use the “Open Adobe Cloud Document” option via File / Open. When you open a cloud document, any changes will go back to the cloud by default (unless you use “save as” and choose different options).
    • Cloud documents include support for offline workflows, meaning that you can open, edit, and save a document when you are offline. You may open a “cloud document” offline if it was recently used and your computer still has a local copy.
    • You may view your documents online in Adobe Assets.
    • Learn more on adobe.com.
  • Other changes:
    • Free transform lock is now sticky. The <shift> key is now used to toggle between constrained and unconstrained based on the lock status.This makes it easy to set a default, but you can always quickly click <shift> to change the behavior
      • Various adjustments (paths, masks, etc) are now treated in the same manner for consistency.
      • However, the crop tool does not use the same logic (it will follow any constraints you type into the toolbar, otherwise it is unconstrained by default and constrained if you continuously hold <shift>).
      • If you prefer the legacy behavior (ie unconstrained by default and constrained if you continuously hold <shift>), there is now a checkbox to enable “Legacy Transform” behavior under Photoshop’s General Preferences.
    • Improved Lens Blur.  Go to Filter / Blur / Lens Blur.
      • This filter now uses the GPU for much faster performance.
      • New click to focus (crosshairs icon) for images with a “depth map”. This gives you creative control over depth of field, such as found on many new smart phones. Depth maps are primarily saved with images from a Smart Phone with 2 or more cameras and appropriate settings to save an HEIC file (not something you’re going to get from your DSLR, though there are ways you can manually create one).
    • 32-bit Curves and Levels. If you are using 32-bit files (such as HDRs created inside Photoshop, not Lightroom), this is a welcome enhancement to use some critical tools without converting to 16-bit.
    • Faster new document interface.
    • Extract layers from a Smart Object. Just right-click the Smart Object and choose “Convert to Layers”.
      • Lumenzia has actually had this capability for a while (see this tutorial), but it is nice to see it in natively supported in Photoshop as well. Note, however, that the new Photoshop utility will not extract any saved paths or channels. So if you have been putting this content into the Smart Object (which Lumenzia can do to reduce the size of the parent document), you should continue using Lumenzia to extract preserve channels and paths from the Smart Object.
    • Select Subject” has been updated for faster results.
    • Open images directly from your iPhone (Mac only, sorry Windows users). Just go to File / Import from iPhone or iPad.
    • “CompCore” (which was introduced in PS 2019) has been further updated. This should be a seamless change, but there were some bugs when first launched in 2019. In the unlikely event that you see any issues with blend modes or other layer-related issues, try disabling CompCore via Preferences / Performance / Legacy Compositing.


Greg Benz Photography