Photoshop CS5 vs. CS6 vs. CC

photoshopprojetsWith the release of Photoshop Creative Cloud (CC), Adobe ushered the much loved photo-editing tool into a new cloud-first era. Response to CC has been mixed – some love the new subscription model while others rue the lack of perpetual licenses. In this article, we will compare the three most popular versions of Photoshop today – CS5, CS6, and CC – and tell you which is worth your money.

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Photoshop CS5 Overview

Photoshop CS5 was launched in April 2010, which makes it nearly four years old today. Adobe released a follow-up to CS5 – CS5.5 – which included some major bug fixes and a bunch of new features. More importantly, Adobe launched a subscription pricing model with CS5.5 that would later be used in its Creative Cloud (CC) suite of services.

Using CS5? Master Photoshop CS5 with this guide.

Photoshop CS6 Overview

Adobe released Photoshop CS6 in May 2012. This makes it less than two years old today. By sheer numbers, CS6 includes 61% more features than CS5. It also adds a brand new user-interface, offers improved performance, and a bunch of new tools that will help you work faster, smarter.

Photoshop CC Overview

Photoshop CC brings Adobe’s suite of creativity software to the cloud. It’s a radical departure for a software that has dominated the industry for nearly two decades. Instead of paying a flat upfront fee, users can get access to Photoshop and other creativity tools by paying a monthly subscription fee. This is a major advantage for users who were wary of spending several hundred dollars on a new version of Photoshop every few years.

Below, we’ll compare the three versions of Photoshop – CS5, CS6 and CC – and tell you which one is suitable for your needs.

Photoshop CS5, CS6 and CC Compared

Photoshop is a very ‘mature’ software, which means that there are few noticeable improvements between different versions. Unless you are a professional user, you won’t find major changes between CS5 and CS6. Even CC differs from CS6 mostly through its cloud based collaboration capabilities and subscription model. In other words, if you just use Photoshop as a glorified cropping tool, you won’t find a lot of reasons to upgrade to the latest and greatest version.

Having said that, there are a few key differences between Photoshop versions that need to be highlighted:


There really is no debate here – newer versions of Photoshop invariably boast more features than preceding versions. The real point of contention here is how useful new features are and whether they warrant a pricey upgrade.

Photoshop CS6 vs. CS5

CS6 adds a bunch of new features to Photoshop that most experienced users now find indispensable. Some of these are:

  • Auto-Save: CS6 brings a much needed auto-save feature to Photoshop, which means that the software will automatically save changes periodically. Photoshop can also save documents in the background while you apply a setting or effect.

  • Better Layer Management: CS6 includes a layer search feature, which can be very handy when working with large documents.

  • Better Cropping: Cropping is one of the most basic features in any image editing tool. CS6 makes the already great Photoshop cropping tool even better with more intuitive controls and improved grid-view.

  • Straighten Tool: Every new Photoshop release invariably sees the inclusion of a bunch of new image manipulation tools. The best new tool in CS6 is the ‘straighten’ tool. This enables the user to draw a line and automatically orient the image to that line – invaluable for creating and changing perspective.

  • Content-Aware Move: CS6 adds a content-aware move feature in addition to the content-aware fill in CS5.

Photoshop CC vs. CS6

The main attraction of CC over CS6 is its cloud capabilities and subscription model, but CC also bundles together some nifty new features:

  • Smart Sharpen: CC improves Photoshop’s ‘sharpen’ tool and makes it even better with improved clarity and reduced noise.

  • Better Upsampling: Upsampling, for those who don’t speak Photoshop, is the process of creating or ‘sampling’ a larger image from a smaller source. With bitmap images, there’s a natural degradation of quality during upsampling. CC includes an ‘intelligent upsampling’ feature that preserves the quality of the image to a large extent when increasing image size – a great feature for designers working with multiple screen sizes.

  • Multi Path and Shape Selection: Improve productivity by selecting multiple paths and shapes at the same time.

Working with CS6? Learn how to use Photoshop CS6 in this excellent guide.

User Interface

The CS6 user-interface was a major improvement from CS5. The darker theme of CS6 was designed after extensive consultations and feedback from actual designers and it shows – not only does CS6 look great, but also gives easier access to oft-used features.

The CC interface is pretty much the same as CS6 with very few, almost unnoticeable changes. In terms of usability, you won’t find any need to upgrade from CS6 to CC.

Cloud Capabilities

There is really no competition here – Photoshop CC beats CS6 and CS5 hands down when it comes to cloud collaboration. Photoshop CC includes Adobe’s slick new Creative Cloud Desktop App that makes saving and sharing your files painlessly easy. You can also save customized tool settings, brushes, workspaces, fonts, styles, color swatches, and presets through the Creative Cloud app. You also get up to 20GB of free cloud storage space to save and share your files.

Both CS5 and CS6 also include some cloud capabilities, but they are nowhere near as nuanced and powerful as CC’s. If collaboration is a key requirement, Photoshop CC won’t let you down.

Pricing and Upgrades

The key difference between CS5, CS6 and CC is the pricing model. Photoshop is available on a subscription-only model. Prices for different versions vary, though you can find deals for Photoshop CC starting at $9.99/month (the complete Creative Cloud suite of applications will run you up to $49.99/month). This subscription also includes free lifetime upgrades to the latest version of Photoshop CC.

Both CS5 and CS6 were launched at $699 for a perpetual license, though there are plenty of deals for students and teachers. Right now, Amazon is retailing CS5 and CS5 Extended at $600-$800. CS6 is available at similar price points as well. Upgrading from CS5 to CS6, on the other hand, will set you back by up to $200.


Photoshop CC is the latest version of Adobe’s premier photo-editing tool, but it is not for everyone. It adds a bunch of new features, but most of these aren’t necessary. Cloud collaboration is nice, but not required by all users. The pricing model, however, makes it much easier to afford Photoshop, especially if you purchase individual apps and not the complete Creative Cloud. More importantly, you get lifetime upgrades, so you’ll get access to more features as and when they roll out.

Advanced users who want a robust, proven photo-editing tool can go with either CS6 or CC. CS6 has most of the features of CC but requires a substantial upfront investment. CC is easier to buy, but may cost more in the long run.

Bottomline: you can’t go wrong with either CS6 or CC. CS5 isn’t recommended as it is neither cheap, nor does it boast the features of CS6 or CC.

Using Photoshop CC? Check out this comprehensive guide to Photoshop CC!