First of all, I would to thank Porter Novelli, the PR firm representing Adobe in Canada, for offering a copy of Adobe CS4 to do this review. CS4 has been out for quite a while and I hope you have already upgraded because the new CS4 is all about maximizing your productivity and making your work easier. In this post, I’m going to write about my experience with using the new features of Photoshop and Illustrator.

Photoshop CS4

What is New?

If you want to see what is new in CS4, go to Window > Workspace > What’s New in CS4. Now you will see the new features in the menus highlighted.

what is new


Photoshop CS4 has made a lot of changes to the interface. Photoshop CS4 now encloses everything in a window called Application Frame and organizes multiple documents in tabs.

application frame

I’m not a big fans of the tabs and Window Frame. But what I like is the quick access of the Arrange Documents menu. It allows you to organize the open documents in various arrangements.

arrange documents

Layer Adjustments and Masks Panel

Another obvious change is the new Adjustments and Masks panel. The Layer Adjustments and Masks now have separate panels, providing you quick editing. Now, you don’t need to configure the adjustment setting in a modal dailog box. You can quickly change the setting in the panels.


What I like about the new Masks panel are the Density and Feather option.

masks panel

Rotate View Tool

If you are using the new Macbook Pro with multi-touch trackpad, Photoshop CS4 could be your best pal. With the multi-touch trackpad support, you can zoom and rotate the canvas smoothly with two fingers. Shortcut tip: when your canvas is in angle, double click on the Rotate View Tool (on the toolbar) to return the Rotation Angle to 0.

rotate view tool

Rotate View tool is extremely useful when you have to do a lot of brushing (ie. editing large images or digital painting). It allows you to rotate the canvas as if you were rotating paper on a desk.

At the beginning, I always accidentally rotated the canvas while trying to zoom with the trackpad. It took me a while to get used to it. Now, I enjoy using the multi-touch trackpad to zoom especially when working on a large illustration. If you don’t like the Rotate View tool or want to disable it, go to Preferences > Performance, uncheck "Enable OpenGL Drawing". There is also a plugin that helps you to disable the canvas rotation via trackpad, yet the feature remains available through the Rotate View tool.

enable opengl

Smooth & Animated Zooming

I love the new zoom handling. Now you will see smooth looking images at any zoom level. This means you’ll no longer see jagged edges when viewed at odd percentages.

animated zooming

Another enhancement is the animated zooming. With the Zoom tool selected, click and hold the mouse button, watch as the image zoom in continuously.

Navigation Shortcut

If you use the Navigator panel a lot, I have a shortcut tip for you. Open an image and zoom in to the max. Select the Zoom tool, hold the H key, click on the image, it will quickly zoom the image to fit in the window, you will see a rectangle box, drag it around and release it where you want to go.


Pixel Grid

When you zoom in over 500%, you will see the Pixel Grid. It is handy if you need to distinguish between adjacent pixels in the zoom mode. Personally, I don’t find it useful, so I turn it off most of the time (View > Show > Pixel Grid).

pixel grid

Flick Panning

Flick panning is another time-saver feature that lets you move the image in the direction based on your mouse gesture. You may find it useful if you work with high-res images or in zoom mode.

Content Aware Scaling

Have you ever received off-size images from your clients and you have to spend hours on cropping and retouching them. For example, you have a landscape image placeholder, but your client send you a portrait format image. With the CS4 new tool called Content Aware Scaling, it automatically preserves the important areas of the images as you resize it.

content aware scaling

Clone Tool Live Preview

The improved Clone tool now provides a live preview in the cursor as you are brushing the image. Minor, but a nice enhancement.

clone preview

Brush Size Adjustment Shortcut

I just discovered another new Photoshop shortcut for adjusting brush size. Select the Brush tool, hold down the Control + Option key (PC: hold down Alt + right mouse button), click on the image and it will show you a preview of your current bursh size. Now, drag left to decrease the brush size, drag right to increase. This shortcut works on all brush tools such as Clone, Smudge, Dodge, Burn, Pencil, etc.

clone preview

Illustrator CS4

Tabbed Document

Same as Photoshop CS4, Illustrator CS4 organize multiple documents in a tab view.

illustrator tabs

Multiple Artboards

For those who use Illustrator to design multi-page brochure or print work, here is good news. Now you can create multi-page documents of varying size with the Artboard tool. They can be overlapped, side by side, or stacked on top of each other. You can also export or print the artboards separately or together. For example, you can export them as a multi-page PDF file.

multi artboards

How this tool benefit me is now I can create my icons in multiple artboards and then export them to PNG files with one simple step.

multi artboards

Gradient Transpancy

I’ve been waiting for the gradient transpancy for years! Finally, it is released in CS4. Before, I had to use the Opacity Mask to create transpancy in gradients. It was not efficient at all because I had to release and then re-apply the mask to edit the transparency.

gradient transparency

New Gradient Tool

Two years ago, I suggested this idea to the Illustrator product manager, Philip Guindi. I’m so happy to see this happened in CS4.

gradient suggestion

With the new Gradient tool, you can edit the gradient on the object itself. It provides a slider in the object where you can: add or change color stops, apply transparency to color stops, and change the direction or angle of the gradient.

gradient sliders

Shortcut tip: double click on the color stop to activate the color palette where you can change its color. It works on both the object slider or the Gradient panel.

gradient sliders

The image below shows how I can easily create a glossy orb with the new Gradient tool (before I had to use the Blend tool or Mesh to create such effect). In case you don’t know, I use Illustrator to design the stock icons and this new enhancement makes my process so much easier.

glossy orb

Key Object Alignment

Illustrator CS4 provides a new alignment option called Align to Key Object. A key object is the one object that you want other objects to align to. To do that: select all the objects that you want to align, click again to select a key object (you will see a thicker stroke outline), now choose an aligment in the panel.

key object

View Outline in Isolation Mode

Another great enhancement is being able to view outline (Cmd + Y) in the isolation mode. It makes editing the group or mask objects in isolation mode easier.


Photoshop CS4

I would recommend Photoshop CS4 to those who are often dealing with high-res images such as the digital artists and photographers. You can improve productivity with the new features such as the Rotate View tool, animated zooming & panning, Ajustments, and Masks panel. The Content Aware Scaling is totally awesome. I think it will be useful for web or banner designers (because clients often send off size images!).

Illustrator CS4

Should you upgrade Illustrator CS4? Absolutely! It is a must upgrade, the best version ever. Just the the new Gradient tool and multiple artboards along is worth the upgrade.


Daniel J.
Jun 1, 2009 at 4:06 am

What a great review, it helped alot! Thank you.

Jun 1, 2009 at 4:37 am

I jumped from CS2 to CS4 after I found out CS2 wouldn’t work on Leopard. Totally worth it though, even though at the time I was gutted because I didn’t really have the spare cash. I love it!

a man
Jun 1, 2009 at 5:16 am

Hey, thx for new shortcut

Radoslav Holan
Jun 1, 2009 at 5:28 am

Whow, it’s time to leave old technologies and go straight into CS4 :) Nice review.

Jun 1, 2009 at 5:50 am

“What’s new” a different way;)
Thx for the work

Mark Tyrrell
Jun 1, 2009 at 6:22 am

Content Aware Scaling… WOW. I’m still using Paint Shop Pro for most of my graphic work, but after seeing some of these features I might just have to give Photoshop another chance! I’d probably already be using it if I had a MacBook.

Jun 1, 2009 at 6:37 am

In PS CS4 increase and decrease brush size you can also with [ and ] keys on keyboard (PC Tip) ;)

Jun 1, 2009 at 7:13 am

Why pay so much for a heavyweight program when there are plenty of open source alternatives that often do the job quicker and more efficiently?

Jun 1, 2009 at 7:55 am

csx mac is terrible and adobe should be ashamed for asking for so much money

Jun 1, 2009 at 8:24 am

nice review man. Enjoyed reading it and knowing what’s available …

Jun 1, 2009 at 9:22 am

I’m personaly pretty not happy with the cs4, so not stable, photoshop keeps on crashing way too much. And i have this really annoying problem that today again, i cant open a psd file that i made two days ago with the same photoshop and that tells me today that the file is not compatible with this version of photoshop !

Elizabeth K. Barone
Jun 1, 2009 at 9:30 am

I got CS4 a couple of months ago and I love it! The only beef I have with it, so far, is that in Dreamweaver, hexadecimals are abbreviated to three characters. I’ve tried to change this option but couldn’t find it, and Googling or searching Adobe help has been most unhelpful. (The only documentation I could find on the Adobe site had been answered by several “experts” who ridiculed the developer asking the question.)

If anyone knows how I can change this, please let me know! My email is ebarone[at]ekbdesigns[dot]com, or you can tweet it to me @elizabethbarone. I would so appreciate any help! (:

Jun 1, 2009 at 9:42 am


I assume you’ve been saving your psd files over a network. If this is case, Adobe says this operation is not supported by their software (anymore). I began to notice this problem from the CS2 version since I’ve always saved files over the network in the last 8 years or more. I have lost a few psds from CS2 on. Their answer is: save your files locally and manually copy them to your server after finishing. This is what I do now and since then I have lost no more files. Hope this helps you.

Jun 1, 2009 at 10:06 am

yeah we do save our files from our computers to the server on our lan. Damn this really sucks, will be so annoying to save our files manually to the server everydays. Thanks for the tip man. (ps: i dont know if my prev message passed, if yes, sorry for the double answer-post).

Jun 1, 2009 at 10:56 am

Awesome review. I just got CS4 and its the first version of Photoshop I’ve ever had, so I can’t do much for a review myself. The Content aware resizing is pretty neat…I’d love to see a more in-depth tutorial on that. I’ve had problems with improperly sized pictures way too many times.

I’m fairly new to Photoshop, so I’ll have to check back and read this review more closely– maybe try to pick up on a few of the benefits of owning CS4. These are some great features.

Olivia Krowicka
Jun 1, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I’ve had CS4 for a while now and it’s great. I haven’t experienced any of the issues some people seem to be having. Overall, I like the whole suite. InDesign has also undergone some changes like interactivity allowing for easier publishing to the web. I think it’ll be useful when combined with Flash. I often wish Flash had more type layout options but now I can layout my type in InDesign and go from there.

Jun 1, 2009 at 1:02 pm

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Jun 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm

yay! :)

Mads Hensel
Jun 1, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Just found a extra shortcut to match with the on you showed on the brushsize. To increase or decrease the the hardness of the brush use (On a Mac) Control + Option + Cmd and drag right or left (I don’t have a PC, so anyboy on a PC have to try for them self).

Thanks for the tip I know I’m going to use it alot.

Jun 1, 2009 at 8:45 pm

I got Photoshop CS4 some time after got released. While it’s kinda shameful to use cracked version, i have no money to buy a license YET. But one thing i noticed, the PS load damn faster than CS2/3 versions. And when you make it ‘Portable’ version, loads more faster than that! Unbelievable!

And i got inDesign and Illustrator CS4 last week. And i’m loving all of them, they got so much add ons, i loved the tab’s, the quickness and everything else. I’ll sure get a official copy when i get enough money ^^

Totally recommended

Jun 1, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Ah yes, it seems to be well worth the money. Too bad I dropped all my extra cash on the CS3 suite before school started last September. Ugh.

And Raphael, perhaps the stupidest thing you could have done is publicly admit to stealing three programs and not only stop there but have a link directly to your website. Do you think your claims of ‘wanting’ to buy the software is gonna mean shit when they come for you? Seriously man, some things are better kept to yourself. If you’re strapped for cash, try and work out a student deal or see if you can purchase from a local college. It’s 70% cheaper!

Jun 2, 2009 at 12:59 am

Thanks for the review.

I totally agree with you. The new Illustrator multi artboards and gradient tool are amazing!

Jun 2, 2009 at 8:51 am

yeah trevor is right, i got my cs3 master some much cheaper when i still was a student. Definitely something to look at.

Mary-Anne Watson
Jun 2, 2009 at 11:28 am

Haha awe Raphael, information like using a cracked version is not something you should be telling the world. Keep that in mind for future reference sweetheart.

The Frosty @WPCult
Jun 2, 2009 at 8:30 pm

I’ve been meaning to upgrade my CS3 to 4..

Jun 3, 2009 at 5:35 am

Nice explanations! thanks for this!

Jun 3, 2009 at 9:14 am

Hey =] great review! Just wanna add in that with CS4 Photoshop now has built in 3D support which makes life a hell of alot easier for 3D art. Just export a .obj file from maya or max and pop it into PS, once you’ve set up your UVs of course, then paint right onto the model. I know there is software that already does this, but some people are already genuis with photoshop so why lose skill in a new piece of software?

Jun 3, 2009 at 11:23 am

Well, Illustrator cs4 is really nice with this gradient tool and the new alpha options, but photoshop CS4 it is not so great, it is to heavy!! You can´t work so fast like in CS3. Even if you have a great machine.
For all those guys who want to buy de CS4 if you work with Flash, I recommend that see it first, a lot of people get confused, the interfase has changed a lot. The rest of software are just better than older versions.

Jun 3, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Great. Very good.

Jun 4, 2009 at 5:57 am

Yes, CS4 is cool. But I spotted some other problems espeically when using Axislis Iconworkshop plugin. Therefore I use CS3/CS4 together at the moment.

Jun 4, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Cool ! Nice explanations! thanks for this!

Jun 8, 2009 at 2:36 pm

The new photoshop zoom functionality looks good in theory, but on my system this crashes my photoshop instance. I have to disable OpenGL support or ps just crashes every time again… many nvidia users seem to have this problem…

Printing Brochures
Jun 9, 2009 at 7:37 pm

The CS4 Illustrator certainly makes preparing designs for print much easier. Exacting CMYK colors is much quicker and the multiple artboards layout makes designing layouts for multiple page documents, such as brochures, a breeze – each panel can be balanced at the same time as they are being designed. Incredible!

om ipit
Jun 11, 2009 at 2:43 am

with this post, now i can review a software. thanks for share

Michael Shevlin
Jun 16, 2009 at 4:02 am

More reviews, please: you’re very good at them. You reviewed illustrator in a couple of paragraphs!

Hari K T
Jun 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Thanks for writing a wonderful post about CS4 to know more about it .

Thanks once again and Keep going ..

Hari K T

Jun 17, 2009 at 1:13 pm

In one word great

Jun 19, 2009 at 11:17 pm

i will be proccess to learn CS4. ..

Jun 21, 2009 at 10:55 am

Nice review! Direct to the new features/functions..

Jun 21, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Love it

Jun 21, 2009 at 9:51 pm

best of luck

Jun 21, 2009 at 10:01 pm

While the features are fantastic, I have great problem with a very slow response. 2GB of ram should handle this app but with complex vectors, i am falling asleep in my chair.

Jun 23, 2009 at 7:52 am

Excellent review – no woffle striaght to the point, good stuff! Could you review Flash CS4? I like Flash CS4, but there are some strange problems concerning video that need addressing…

Jun 27, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Hey, thank you for this review. I actually learned a lot from reading this post.

Thank you!

Jul 1, 2009 at 11:27 am

mmm. Intresting review ,, Chau

Jul 2, 2009 at 11:27 pm

good job frend!!!
go for it!!

Albert Decruz
Jul 8, 2009 at 6:22 pm

The blog is very nice the information is very much standard and it gives more knowledge

Jul 20, 2009 at 10:01 am

Nice article. However, you didn’t mention that us mac users won’t have a 64 bit CS4, which is very unfortunate. Also, what about the graphic card acceleration promised to Photoshop?
Lastly, Illustrator already has that Key Object Alignment, at least in CS3. Although it doesn’t highlight the key object as in CS4, it does the same thing.
Best regards!

Jul 23, 2009 at 9:56 am

Thanks for sharing.Great topic

acı cehre
Jul 29, 2009 at 12:05 pm

You are great. I followed carefully the work. I wish you continued success

Aug 8, 2009 at 6:22 am

Thank =)=)=) you webdesignerwall Thanks

Derek Hildenbrand
Aug 8, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Sounds like it’s time for an upgrade… lots of great features in there

kit pes
Aug 8, 2009 at 11:58 pm

nice frend, i like it

Aug 10, 2009 at 9:59 am

very nice I would like to know more how can I do

Aug 26, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Thanks for showing how to turn off the pixel grid, it was driving me crazy!

Sep 4, 2009 at 4:14 am

Really cool site.

Sep 10, 2009 at 8:11 pm

The blog is very nice the information is very much standard and it gives more knowledge

Sep 23, 2009 at 10:38 am


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Oct 17, 2009 at 4:25 pm

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kilo aldırıcı
Oct 23, 2009 at 11:20 am

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Oct 31, 2009 at 5:18 am

Thanks for showing how to turn off the pixel grid

panel radyatör
Nov 5, 2009 at 8:28 am

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Nov 17, 2009 at 5:59 am

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red pepper
Nov 17, 2009 at 5:59 am

Thanks for showing how to turn off the pixel grid

biber hapı
Dec 2, 2009 at 8:43 am

very perfect design…

panel radyatör
Dec 15, 2009 at 8:35 am

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Jan 6, 2010 at 1:55 am


Jan 11, 2010 at 3:38 pm

this article would be really wonderful if Photoshop and Illustrator were compared with Gimp and Inkscape…

bursa psikolog
Mar 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm

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Mar 24, 2010 at 10:25 am

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Web Design
Apr 28, 2010 at 9:11 pm

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May 25, 2010 at 3:53 am

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Jun 24, 2010 at 7:56 am

:) shame on me! i’m still using cs2 lol!

Sep 8, 2010 at 5:15 am

Photoshop CS4 is very useful tool for graphic designer. It takes advantage of the graphics card’s GPU for improved performance and supports unlimited RAM and 64-bit processing under windows.

Web Design LA

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Fahnen und Flaggen
Jul 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm

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Jun 1, 2013 at 5:59 am

i really like this blog
this is very useful for me and my friend
i like to work on CS4
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