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The Best Things We Saw At Adobe MAX 2020

by Bill McCool on 10/26/2020 | 5 Minute Read

It was around this time last year that I wandered aimlessly around the Staples Center for the Adobe MAX Bash, stuffing my face full of nachos and sliders while watching Paul Simon cover band Vampire Weekend, all the while searching high and low tracking down a pair of inflatable flamingo beer cozies for my kids.

Who knew what 2020 would bring?

The seemingly never-ending year that is 2020 loomed large over Adobe MAX, not just because we weren’t sitting inside the sprawling Los Angeles Convention center while oohing and ahhing over Photoshop updates, but in how creatives have dealt with the pandemic and the overdue reckoning that was the death of George Floyd.

“Crisis and stress reveal truths,” said Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky during the MAX keynote. And one of those truths is that creativity can be the outlet to help you navigate a chaotic world.

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Adobe might even provide a model for what brands should be doing right now. As lockdown swept the country, Adobe offered 30 million students free access to the creative cloud to accelerate home learning while also teaming up with National Geographic for their impact storytelling series with free online courses. Plus, they developed the Adobe coloring book, 11 chapters featuring 70 artists for folks to take a breath and calm down.

Staring down this new temporary normal, Adobe recognizes that content is most certainly fueling the digital economy. But they’re tuned into what creatives need right now and working to help designers and students better collaborate from afar with products that strip away a lot of the busywork (thanks, Adobe Sensei). This year’s MAX was free for everyone, even the breakout sessions, which meant no waiting in lines outside of a conference hall in hopes of snagging a spot.

But, as per usual, we still got to witness a little Adobe magic, from the countless updates to your favorite apps and programs to Adobe Sneaks. Here are some of the best things we saw at this year’s MAX.

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Adobe Illustrator for iPad

If there’s one thing we learned working from home this past year, it’s that digital art doesn’t need to be confined to the desktop-because we really like our couches. Now, designers can use Adobe Illustrator on the iPad, giving users the chance to create in a more mobile, collaborative fashion. Adobe even worked with the Illustrator community to co-create this new app, with thousands getting early access. 

They also added some new features to Illustrator, even for the desktop. “Grid Repeat” lets designers create and edit a grid pattern in a seamless fashion, while “Radial Repeat” lets you do the same for radial patterns. Best of all—for the Pinterest freak in us all—they now have inspiration swatches, where the user can upload any piece of artwork they desire and recolor their work with that color palette.    

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Neural Filters

Now on Photoshop, users have an entirely new toy to play with. Powered by AI and machine learning, Adobe’s Neural Filters give folks the ability to smooth skin, do style transfers, and, best of all, create smart portraits. You can edit images quickly and intuitively, allowing you to almost naturally age the subject of the photo or even make them smile and give them a full, thick head of hair. Next year, Adobe promises an open platform where you can develop your own filters.

Here’s a video showing some of that magic:

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Charcoal Brushes on Adobe Fresco

Not only is Fresco now on the iPhone, but in the latest update, they added seven new brushes after fans of the app universally demanded them.

Well, maybe you can’t necessarily call them brushes, but this is the world of Adobe—that said, they added seven new charcoal brushes that perform damn-near like the real thing. Using them, you can see the texture of the charcoal as it runs across the screen, and you can shade with ease while also making big, darkened marks. Want to smudge those lines like you would in high school art class? Not a problem. You can run your finger down the screen for realistic smudging. Better yet, you can even apply color to the charcoal brushes, perfect for the designer looking for a super chill drawing sesh.’

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Project #Scantastic (Adobe Sneaks)

Creating 3D assets and images is still uncharted territory for plenty of designers, taking some familiarity with Dimension and other similar programs to produce the kind of immersive AR experiences that can wow consumers.

Now, that technology could become a little more accessible, at least if Nikhil Gupta’s Scantastic—featured at Adobe Sneaks—becomes a reality. Just scan the object you need for a 3D model with your mobile phone, and you can then import it into Dimension or Aero to create whatever AR content you need. Watching the Sneak, it appears to take no time at all, perfect for the novice that needs 3D assets on the quick.

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Project #MaterialWorld (Adobe Sneaks)

If there was one Adobe Sneak tailored to packaging designers, it has to be Material World from Rosalie Martin.

Creating photorealistic materials from scratch on Adobe Substance requires a little skill and can take some time. But what if you could use your phone to take a picture of a material or substrate and turn it into a high-resolution image for a 3D asset without having to use a special scanner? Once you have the material scanned, you can apply it to a digital image. The scanned material even has its shadows removed so light can interact with it, giving it 3D properties. You can even batch process photos to add materials in a much quicker fashion.

Anyway, if you need to make a can of beer look like it’s wearing a mohair sweater for a 3D model, your dreams might come true.