What is the future of Photoshop

Photoshop and the whole Adobe Creative Suite are invaluable tools for creative people in various fields. Especially the virtually seamless handoff between the different software packages makes it a pleasure to work with. Personally, I am a big fan of said tight integration. It's easy to quickly send an audio file from Adobe Premiere to Audition to clean it up, or open up a Photoshop document inside of Adobe After Effects to animate the individual layers. And that brings me to the biggest problem Photoshop is facing today and all other layer based image manipulation applications: the layer system. The layer system used in Photoshop is like a stack of paper, one on top of the other, seems to be outdated to me.

This is a node tree in Nuke.

The strict hierarchical structure doesn't allow for enough flexibility, versatility, manageability and speed for bigger projects. The layer system is fine for smaller projects with only a handful of layers but what if you have to balance twenty, thirty or even hundreds of layers? That's when you really need a node base approach to the problem. Nodes are like adjustment layers in Photoshop but with the benefit that you can connect them freely to other nodes, reuse them and even branch off into new logical constructs to achieve your final result. Nuke for instance, an application made by the company called The Foundry, is such a node based image manipulation application. Developed for the demanding visual effects environment, mainly used in post production for film and TV shows, is perfectly suited to also do "photoshopping". It's a bit overkill to use such an elaborate application for "just" photo use but it's possible. The learning curve might be a bit steeper than with Photoshop but once you get the hang of it, you will realize the real power of a node based system (see picture).

In order for Photoshop to stay relevant, it needs to change it's paradigm form a layer based to a node based approach. I am not saying it has to abandon the layer based structure all together but it should offer the possiblity to also work with a node based setup.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic, so please leave a comment down below .