A Guide to the Warp Transform Tool in Photoshop 2020

A Guide to the Warp Transform Tool in Photoshop 2020

​The warp transform tool has been a fixture in Photoshop for a long time and has remained mostly unchanged since it's introduction, until this year when Adobe updated their Creative Cloud software suite for 2020. So what has changed, what has been improved and what does this mean for backwards compatibility?

As designer and artists, the tools that we use are fundamental to our profession and become a part of our daily routine. It's quite rare that these tools change drastically, but with software based tools it does happen on occasion; and we are sometimes left with questions about what said changes will mean for our workflow.

I personally use the warp transform in Photoshop on an almost daily basis, it is absolutely essential for creating realistic looking mockups and also useful for creating custom brushes, patterns and the rest of the good stuff we do at WeGraphics.

I've now spent a couple of weeks with the 2020 edition of Photoshop and can hopefully answer some of those questions you may be having specifically about the new warp transform tool.

What's Changed?

The warp transform tool remains at it's heart retains the same function and it's goals are unchanged. However almost everything else about it different. When you first click the icon to enter warp transform mode, you are no longer greeted with the familiar 3x3 grid from previous iterations of Photoshop.What you see instead is a simple rectangular frame around your object with handles on each of the 4 corners. 

This seemingly simple set of controls, allows you to freely warp your object with a surprising amount of flexibility. The handles now behave much more like the handles you would find on a vector shape or path, dragging them allows you to twist and rotate your object in a Liquify-esque manner.

Already, the amount of adjustments that are possible with just the basic frame match if not improve on the previous default 3x3 grid. But we have only scratched the surface, because yes the 3x3 grid is still an option, as are 4x4 and 5x5 grids.

If a grid preset is selected, the transform controls will suddenly start to look a whole lot more familiar for long time Photoshop users, this should help you feel at home whilst adjusting to the new tool.

Don't be fooled though, the behaviour of the grid is now very different. Each of the intersection points, and the points on the external corners can be individually manipulated and unlike previous versions in which the points all felt connected, they are now completely independent of each other.

Now for the best part, you can freely split the grid horizontally or vertically anywhere you want

How many subdivisions can you add?

As many as you want! Please correct me if I'm wrong, but there doesn't appear to be any limit of the amount of times you can split the warp transform grid in Photoshop 2020. The possibilities are literally endless.

The amount of control and freedom this gives you when manipulating graphics is unbelievable. Imagine editing a photograph of a model and being able to warp facial features independently and adjust body shape seamlessly with the background. The Liquify tool may be a thing of the past (r/Instagramreality watch out).

Is it backwards compatible?

Unfortunately no. Although psd files using the new warp tool and saved with Photoshop 2020 can be opened in Photoshop CC2019 and earlier and will look the same, the warp transform will be removed if you try to edit the warp or even enter the Transform mode at all*. Also as soon as a smart object with a warp transform applied is updated or re-saved the warp transform will be removed.

*This refers to to smart objects with the warp transforms, bitmap layers do not retain editable warps in any version of Photoshop.

Note: even if you choose the 3x3 grid preset to emulate older versions of the warp tool it will not be supported in older versions of Photoshop.

What does this mean for WeGraphics and Medialoot?

As you may be aware, lots our mockups both here on WeGraphics and on our sister site Medialoot rely on smart objects using the warp tool. We are looking forward to being able to harness the power of the new warp transform tool to create more realistic and better quality mockups in the future.

However we understand that not all of our members will be on the latest version of Photoshop and so will be continuing to produce mockups that are compatible with CC 2019 and earlier versions for a short grace period of around 3-6 months at which point some of our mockups will start to require at least Photoshop 2020. 

Photoshop 2020 is a free update for anybody with a valid Creative Cloud subscription. We recommend that any Photoshop CS6 users check the minimum software requirements on the product page carefully before downloading mockups.

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