Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended Review

Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended Review

Photoshop CS4 Extended box shot.jpg

Photoshop CS4 Extended

There appears to be no dramatic changes to this widely used app. However a number of aids will make any image work much easier: a tabbed interface should make the work area much simpler to get around. And noticeable is the attention given to purely photographic tasks.


In using the Adjustments panel you don’t have to fight your way through a dialog box and its options: the new Vibrance adjustment allows increased control over colour saturation but still preserves such sensitive tones such as skin colours. There’s now a wide variety of modifiable presets for each type of change, plus more than 20 new preconfigured, customisable starting points.


With the Masks panel and working with pixel and vector masks it is now much easier to apply effects to precisely defined image areas. Using simple sliders the density and feathering of a mask can be adjusted, so you can control both the sharpness of the mask edge and how degree of adjustment you’d like to expose.

Dodge, Burn and Sponge

There have been many times I have needed to vary the exposure of an image, with a need to fix specific areas, such as unevenly lit flash shots. It has often been a pain to fix. Now you can enjoy natural results with the Dodge, Burn and Sponge tools. Tonal quality can be preserved while exposure and colour saturation can be spot-corrected.

After Effects’ new Cartoon effect stylises video sequences to impart a CGI look.

After Effects’ new Cartoon effect stylises video sequences to impart a CGI look.


There are plenty of panorama stitching programs, some even bundled with compact digicams. Until now, Photoshop’s Photomerge (is it called that?) feature did work better than most of these, but in my opinion, not quite get there.

The upgraded Photomerge feature now blends with new vignetting and geometric distortion corrections.

The upgraded Photomerge feature now blends with new vignetting and geometric distortion corrections.

Adobe has now built in enhanced blending actions along with new vignetting and geometric distortion corrections; a new option can create 360 degree panoramas. Plus there is a way to find and fix fisheye lens distortion … that is, if you wanted to correct fisheye shots!

Swings, Shifts

Ostensibly in an attempt to remove the need for the need to make shifts and swings, only available in high end cameras or perspective control lenses, Photoshop CS4 can now enhancement a scene where lighting and depth of field are limited. This appears to be a feature which leans heavily on the technology used in the Photomerge function in that it stitches separate shots and bends together their exposure variations. So, if you’ve shot a series of images that have correct focus and exposure — in parts — Auto-Blend Layers can merge these together into one acceptable single image.

Want to fix depth of field and exposure outages? Head for Auto-Blend.

Want to fix depth of field and exposure outages? Head for Auto-Blend.

Up, Down

Not all of us like to work on an image with the picture straight up and down, especially when using a graphics tablet. The new fluid canvas rotation action lets you work almost as though you were working at an easel. You can drag the image to turn the canvas to any orientation; a compass guide graphic can even be used to help you orient the image to a specific angle.

Following a similar track you can now zoom in or out smoothly and not by fixed enlargement degrees … 125 per cent, 300 per cent etc.

It’s obvious that the separate application Lightroom has bolted from the stable and won many friends for its ability to polish and improve photographic images. There is now improved and tighter integration with Photoshop. You can even open images from Lightroom directly into Photoshop CS4 as a layered Photoshop document, high dynamic range (HDR) image, panorama, or Smart Object. This means the nondestructive changes you make in one application will be recognised when you open the image in the other.

Vector Photography

Recently I discovered that much of the high end photography of cars is being displaced by vector art, which allows dramatic angle changes as well as major lighting tweaks, working with original data files.

Edit 3D Layers

Edit 3D Layers

Now, with Photoshop CS4 Extended, you can work with 3D models in similar fashion to dealing with 2D images, without no need to navigate through dialog boxes and special layer contents.

Merging pixel and vector art is a new trick for Illustrator — the Blob Brush extends and embellishes a Bezier-drawn object much as you would use a paint program.

Merging pixel and vector art is a new trick for Illustrator — the Blob Brush extends and embellishes a Bezier-drawn object much as you would use a paint program.

Intelligent Scaling

A wow of a feature is Intelligent Image Scaling or Content-Aware Scaling. It may be of more interest to designers or photographers who have to prepare material for press in multiple formats but nevertheless it is an impressive feature.

Let’s say you have a nice picture, horizontal in format and you need to re-purpose it for a vertical page layout. Content-Aware Scaling lets you resize and recompose images simultaneously. What happens is that this feature automatically analyses the image as you adjust it and intelligently recomposes it to preserve the most visually interesting areas. It doesn’t just squeeze the image laterally; it uses an understanding of the image contents, then lets you convert a horizontal layout to a vertical.

Intelligent Image Scaling Illustrated

Intelligent Image Scaling Illustrated

Using no cropping as such, the feature automatically identifies and protects important image elements, such as people, from unwanted distortion, even though the overall aspect ratio is changed.

If you need even more precise control, you can use a simple alpha channel to preserve selected image areas during scaling.

As indicated earlier, there appears to be no dramatic changes as many of the new features are layout oriented and don’t delve into an image at pixel level, which is the way that Photoshop has worked before. Is this the sign of a trend? Will it be the practice that any new tricks Adobe’s team conceives will appear in Lightroom instead?


Photoshop CS4 Extended Screen Shot

Photoshop CS4 Extended Screen Shot

System Requirements

Mac OS: PowerPC G5 or multicore Intel processor. Mac OS X v10.4.11–10.5.4.
Windows: XP with Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise with Service Pack 1 (certified for 32-bit Windows XP and Windows Vista).


Photoshop Extended CS4: $999.00 USD (price currently at Amazon) (or $349 for an upgrade pack).

Read more from our Post Production category

Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • Jeri Picking February 27, 2013 12:05 am

    In many ways Illustrator's release was a gamble: the Macintosh did not have high market share, the only printer that could output Illustrator documents was Apple's own LaserWriter (also very new and expensive), and the drawing paradigm of B?zier curves was novel to the mainstream user. Not only did the Macintosh show only monochrome graphics, but display options were basically limited to its built-in 9" monitor. Illustrator helped drive the development of larger monitors for the Macintosh.*

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  • life coach lori January 27, 2011 01:58 am

    someone said it eats up memory... where can i find out how much space i need? i'm running low...

  • Hunter Reed August 11, 2010 09:49 pm

    there is no other photo editing tool that is as good as Adobe Photoshop, It is simpy the best ~

  • Hannah Garcia May 3, 2010 03:08 am

    We have a photo studio in our town and Adobe Photoshop is our primary software for photo editing. .~

  • arthritisguy January 12, 2010 02:20 am

    I run a small photo studio and i also work as a web designer and Adobe Photoshop has been the bread and butter of my job. Photoshop is really the best photo editing tool that i have ever used.

  • | Pretty Girls Gallery January 4, 2010 05:57 pm

    Adobe Photoshop has long been considered the professional image-editing standard among graphic digital artists worldwide,adobe CS2 is certain to cement that reputation even further with its array of new features. Artists, creative professionals, photographers, and industry professionals will find that the workflow and image customization enhancements will be worth far more than the price of the upgrade.

  • Lacnette November 11, 2009 02:59 am

    I use Adobe Photoshop on my Webpage making business at home. Photoshop got all the features i need to make some really great graphics and banners. b

  • detoxjulie October 30, 2009 09:05 pm

    Adobe Photoshop is the best photo editing tool in my opinion.Photoshop has been my bread and butter software on my current job which involves a lot of photo editing.

  • Bret Perry March 6, 2009 08:42 am

    The 3D painting (shown with the car "Edit 3D Layers") is unique to Extended version, which mainly adds 3D tools.

    The "Merging pixel and vector art... " is about Adobe Illustrator, and while interesting, has little to do with Photoshop itself ..."

    Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended is Adobe Photoshop CS4 plus "breakthrough tools for editing 3D models and motion-based content and performing advanced image analysis."

    to compare Extended and "regular" Phoshop:

  • carolyn March 3, 2009 08:48 am

    @daniel: Out of curiosity, which of the features is unique to Extended? I'm hoping to pick up CS4 in the next month or so but I likely won't get the Extended version.

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  • Daniel February 28, 2009 08:19 pm

    For an article about Photoshop EXTENDED, I think you should have spent more time on the features unique to Extended. A lot of people are curious about this but unfortunately only one of the items you mention is unique to the Extended version - the rest are available in the the regular version.

  • Cally R February 28, 2009 06:14 am

    Great Review! Photoshop always produces great products but their price limits are so ridiculous. Aspiring photographers just can't use recent versions of the product without spending more than a lot of cameras cost! It's really unfortunate

  • rhermans February 28, 2009 12:03 am

    Not everything is great ...

    I simply don't like the new top of the application. The buttons I normally use to move the app from one screen to another don't display there.

    Then a lot of users (me included) don't get to see the content of the dropdown* buttons on top the application.
    (*hand tool - zoom tool - rotate view tool - arrange documents - screen mode.)
    The reason is that you've got a plugin installed that isn't especially written for cs4.
    I'm a rather big fan of Nik software and ...
    (so everytime I start cs4 up I have to start Nik selective tool - start it up under file - automate and shut it down and the buttons work perfectly)

    But that is about all that I don't like about it - so - if you can get it with a student licence, or push your boss to get it , get it.

  • Dainis Graveris February 28, 2009 12:01 am

    only problem for me is - CS4 eats a lot more memory than before..I need ever stronger computer now =/

    Thanks for review!!!

  • Nick February 27, 2009 08:38 pm

    Intelligent Resize, also called Liquid Rescale is in the Gimp sinc 2007 and it's also available for free on line...

    It's Open Source, AFAIK.

  • Tom February 27, 2009 01:46 pm

    I was gonna get CS2, but I realized that adobe doesn't allow student pricing for CS2 anymore, so I got CS4 extended for $200. Not bad!

  • LisaNewton February 27, 2009 12:07 pm

    Well, I'd love to have this edition; right now, I'm using the first Photoshop, but the price isn't in my budget right now............................:(

    Thanks for the great review.