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2017 Adobe MAX: The biggest updates from this year’s conference in Las Vegas

Every year, the Adobe MAX conference is held to show off the software giant’s latest updates and releases in the world of computer design and development. We cut through the noise to bring you all the biggest news from MAX 2017 in Las Vegas.

With over 12,000 attendees, this year’s MAX was the largest yet. The company brought a renewed focus on seamless integration of all devices and being able to create anywhere and on anything.

In their words, “your canvas is now everywhere”. As such, key product updates are focused on the cloud, AI, AR/VR, flawless syncing and speed.

There was plenty to sift through this year, so here’s a brief rundown on the key updates coming to your favourite Adobe apps.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe has focused on speed and snappiness with Illustrator, improving load time by an impressive 30%. They have also added a new workspace called Essential, which brings contextual menus to the canvas. This is a great change that solves the menu-overload problem so many of us fall into. Now, depending on what you have selected on your canvas, you’ll only see options and settings relating to that single object.

The application now supports up to 1000 artboards in a single document, up from the previous 100, and also brings support for colour SVG fonts, opening up a huge range of creative possibilities for typographic creators. Following on from this is the new features relating to variable fonts, with added settings and sliders to control almost every aspect of type right down to serif-height.

Finally, something that’s bound to excite illustrators and character designers is a new feature called puppet warp, which lets you place ‘joints’ in a vector design and use them as hinges for movement. If you were wanting to move a character’s arm and hand into a new position, you can now set points at the elbow and shoulder and then drag the shape of the hand, rather than having to undergo the tedious task of moving hundreds of anchor points individually.

Adobe Capture

Adobe’s real-life asset capture and management mobile app has had an Adobe Sensei-powered boost. Sensei is Adobe’s AI platform, and it’s powering a font-recognition engine in the updated version of Capture.

All you need to do is point your mobile device’s camera at a line of text and Sensei/Capture will return a list of matching fonts. The selected font can then be adjusted and tweaked (e.g. kerning, leading, etc.) before the entire typeface is synced to your CC Library, ready to use immediately in Photoshop, Illustrator or any other CC application.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock has had a few key updates, including the harnessing of Sensei’s object recognition capabilities to add searching by image subject, as well as filtering by background blur, vivid colours and more.

Adobe Photoshop

The most well-known Adobe product has also had some notable improvements, including the ability to sync layer styles within CC Libraries – super useful for larger teams needing to keep styles common across different machines.

There’s increased visibility for Microsoft devices as well, with Surface Dial support now working with Photoshop.

The change that is likely to have the biggest impact on day-to-day use is the brush management system Adobe is implementing. A long-standing problem with Photoshop brushes is the endless and often overwhelming list of downloaded and created brushes; being able to sort by folders, sub-folders, names and so on will be a hugely welcome improvement.

Drawing improvements are also on the way, with brush smoothing and auto-extrapolating lines in vector points helping to make the creation of shapes and lines a nice and easy experience.

Adobe XD

MAX marks XD’s official release from beta! Adobe’s answer to Sketch and a solution for interface, web and app designers everywhere is now available for download. Adobe has been pushing speed above all else with this new app, which is a relief given Adobe apps are notorious for being highly resource-intensive. XD is very refreshing to use, and you can quickly feel the snappiness and responsiveness of the application.

One of the biggest strengths with XD is its tight integration with other CC apps and the linking of assets using Libraries. This means you can set an image within XD, directly edit that image in Photoshop and instantly push all changes back to XD via the link created with Libraries.

Adobe XD presentation at Adobe Max conference 2017

Adobe Lightroom

One of the biggest upgrades announced throughout the conference is the changes coming to Lightroom. There was too much to sum up here, so have a read of our dedicated Lightroom post!

Adobe Dimension

Previously known as Project Felix, Adobe Dimension is an awesome new application that’s out of beta and available now. It makes it easy for designers and those accustomed to 2D and screen design to make photo-realistic 3D images and compositions.

This opens up a huge new world for product designers, packaging designers and anyone wanting to see their flat designs on physical objects placed into a photo-realistic world.

Fully integrated with Adobe Stock, Dimension includes a huge library of 3D assets, textures, surfaces and lighting to build into your projects, all of which can be used directly in your Dimension documents.

Patterns made in Illustrator can be applied to objects directly from Libraries, taking on all lighting effects and wrapping seamlessly around the geometry of the object. This means you can go from a flat pattern to an incredibly realistic 3D composition – including shadows, lighting, and surrounding scene – faster than ever before.

Once you have a scene set up, you can easily swap out different lighting configurations and even use a photograph as the background. Adobe Sensei intelligently matches the perspective of the surface your objects will be sitting on with the photo to further enhance the realism.

The final exported render file includes individual layers, so you can further adjust and edit each component of the image in Photoshop.

Adobe Premiere Pro

Adobe is focusing on VR and 360 video editing capabilities with their latest update to Premiere Pro, giving users the ability to edit using an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset. No more constant scrolling and panning: you can now turn and move your head to interact with the editing panels within the same virtual world your viewers will be experiencing the media.

Adobe is also adding features to the Essential Graphics panel, including options to responsively place titles and elements to the side or corner of a video and have that element re-position itself accurately no matter the dimensions of the video in question, independent of any screen size.

Adobe Sensei

Machine learning and AI is a huge focus for Adobe, and this is where Sensei comes in. Sensei leverages the vast array of creatives using Adobe platforms to learn how creative professionals work and improve their workflow.

It’s present in almost every app across the Adobe suite, continually learning from the hundreds of millions of assets within the Adobe ecosystem as well as the creatives using the tools as they go about their jobs.

This is all culminating in a future feature coming to the Adobe Suite – the Creative Assistant. This will function in a similar way to existing AI assistants: a pulsing blue dot will live in the top right-hand corner of your Adobe application and will proactively suggest assets, ideas, help and workflows as you work.

You can see what Sensei is thinking as you work. During the demo, for example, we saw a photo loaded into Photoshop – as soon as it was placed, Sensei immediately started running object recognition, suggesting tags based on the contents of the photo, searching Adobe Stock for similar and complementary photos, and suggesting a colour palette. This even worked with a sketch that was scanned in, so not just photos! You can also speak to it, asking things like “find me some images based on my sketch.”

The Sensei panel is also context-aware, changing the information displayed as you click and move around different elements to ensure relevant information is always shown.

As you use the program, Sensei starts to learn your editing style and the process you go through when working, suggesting tasks you do often and bringing to the front similar fonts, layouts, swatches and other things you use quite often.

All of this thinking and machine learning is visually represented in the Creative Graph, an insane but very cool looking linear tree of all the decisions you’ve made while working on the current document. Every branch is a top-level decision, and nodes branching off this main branch are all follow-on decisions. Using this, you can go back to any stage of your process and substitute different assets or decisions, and use Sensei to see how your end result would have been affected.

Screenshot of Adobe Sensei from Adobe MAX conference 2017

This worked very well in the demo we saw when a model was substituted for another within a finished composition, but we’ll have to check it out in a real-world context when it’s eventually released.

This only scrapes the surface

There was so much that went down at MAX 2017, so this is really just top-level look at each major product release. I’d recommend checking out Adobe’s video coverage of the keynote to check out everything new that’s coming or already released.

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