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(Credit: Adobe)

Designers pull ideas from everywhere, often sketching in a notebook or snapping photos with a smartphone, for use when working on projects later. Adobe's Capture CC app for iOS and Android bridges that gap from inspiration to creation.

Adobe has dabbled with this idea in the past, such as creating the singularly focused Adobe Brush CC and Adobe Shape CC apps. The features of both are now incorporated into the Capture CC tool.

The app includes six asset types that can be captured using the camera in your phone or tablet device: Materials, Type, Shapes, Colors, Patterns and Brushes.

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I'll cover each separately below, but first I need to point out that the "CC" naming of the app is noteworthy. Capture CC is designed so it feeds into Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription service as a pipeline to CC desktop applications including Photoshop, Illustrator, Dimension and the rest of the Creative Cloud suite. As such, Capture requires an Adobe ID to use, and an active subscription to take advantage of the Creative Cloud integration. However, you can use it with a free account and export some assets as images.

Adobe's Creative Cloud plans start at $9.99 per month for the Photography Plan, which includes Lightroom and Photoshop, and top out at $52.99 per month for access to all of the applications. (Adobe also sells a package that includes all apps and 10 free Adobe Stock images for $82.98 per month.) There's also pricing for business teams ($79.99 per month per license), as well as education pricing (starting at $19.99 per month).

Download.com and Adobe invite you to become a Creative Cloud Member today and save up to 15 percent on your first year. Offer valid from June 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019, for customers of Download.com only.

How Capture CC Works

When you launch Capture CC and you're signed in using your Adobe ID, the app starts with the camera active. Point it at the item you want to use as a source for an asset and snap a picture. You can turn on the device's flashlight to add illumination; there are also presets for enhancing characteristics such as exposure and saturation, so you don't have to do that later. The type of asset depends on how the captured image is handled. You can also choose a photo that already exists in your device's photo library.

To browse the assets in your library, close the camera (tap the X button). All assets are stored in your Creative Cloud library and accessible via the Libraries panel in Adobe apps.

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(Credit: Jeff Carlson)

Materials

Materials are images of surfaces and textures that you can apply to 3D shapes in Adobe Dimension CC. A 3D shape preview appears in the middle of the screen to preview what the camera is seeing onto a surface; you can choose between five shapes to get an idea of what it might look like.

Once the shot is taken, Capture CC includes options to refine aspects of the material such as roughness, detail and metallic properties. Since the app is taking a relatively small area and turning it into a repeating texture, you can also adjust how blended the edges appear for a more uniform look.

The materials you save are synced via Creative Cloud and appear in the Libraries panel, where you can drag them onto objects to apply them.

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(Credit: Jeff Carlson)

Type

How many times have you found the perfect typeface in the wild, but haven't known what it is? The Type feature of Capture CC is for identifying fonts that appear on everyday objects. When you switch to that mode and snap a photo of some text, the app highlights the text and presents fonts from Adobe's library that closely match the selection.

The accuracy can be hit or miss, although Capture CC does a good job of choosing fonts that are close. When you select one and save it, that font is automatically activated in your Creative Cloud account, available to any of the Adobe applications, such as InDesign.

Shapes

The Shapes feature turns images into vector shapes. For example, if you sketched a design on paper and want to refine it as editable paths in Illustrator, you'd switch to the Shapes module of Capture CC, which puts the camera in a high-contrast black and white mode, and snap a picture.

Once you've captured the image, you can refine it by erasing unwanted areas or painting in spots that need filling or by cropping the shot. A smoothing feature takes out the jaggedness that can sometimes appear in hand-drawn or sketched pieces.

When you save the shape, it's synced to the CC library as a vector image with editable control points.

Colors

Interior designers build their careers around making colors work together, which is where the Color feature shines. When you find yourself in an environment where the colors catch your eye, switch to the Colors module of the Capture CC app. The app detects the colors within the shot in real time, building a color theme palette you can work with later.

When the image is captured, the app includes the ability to adjust the tones using RGB, CMYK, LAB or HSB sliders. You can also reposition the color detectors in the captured image to change them, or edit the tones in a Harmonies view that offers a color wheel interface.

A saved color palette is available in the Libraries folder of Adobe applications.

Patterns

The Patterns feature is fun to watch on its own, in addition to being useful. It uses a slice of the visible image area to build a repeating pattern as you move the camera. Choose from five different geometric pattern generators, as well as color mode: color, grayscale or bitmap black and white.

Capturing an image by default saves a bitmap pattern that can be opened in Illustrator or Photoshop. There's also an option to save vector patterns, which can be edited using control points.

Brushes

It seems almost quaint to call this feature a "brush," which we typically associate with bristles of various lengths and densities at the end of a wooden or plastic stylus. With Capture CC, just about anything can become a brush.

When you snap a photo in the Brush module, you can adjust that image to define which areas are active in the brush. The preview area gives you an idea of how it will turn out, but it's also active: Swipe with your finger to see how to brush behaves. You'll find plenty of settings for not only how the brush image appears but how it acts, such as the default size and flow, how it behaves with velocity, whether the ends taper or fade and more.

When saved, the brushes are available in Photoshop, Illustrator, Animate and Photoshop Sketch.

Pros

  • Vector. Turn bitmap images into editable vectors with the Capture app.
  • Pipeline. Capture CC connects the real world to the Adobe creative world through the lens of a smartphone or tablet computer.
  • Just my type. The Type feature is good at identifying fonts (or typefaces that are close), and automatically activates them in your Creative Cloud account.
  • All together. Rolling six features into one app means you have multiple ways of capturing creative content without having to open multiple apps.
  • Just the right difficulty. The modules are easy to use, but offer more depth and control using more options (for example, the Brush module).

Cons

  • Ecosystem. A paid Creative Cloud subscription is required to get the most out of the app, for use with Adobe desktop applications. To be fair, this isn't entirely a negative, because Capture CC is an app designed to facilitate Adobe's network of products. However, if you're not in the fold, its uses are more limited.

Bottom line

Capture CC bridges the real world with the digital world in a way that's creative, easy to use and streamlined. Sure, you could scan sketches and images, bring them into Photoshop and manipulate them there, but Capture does all of that work for you, leaving you with more time to apply those creative ideas.

Apps

  • Android and iOS. Download for Android and iOS. Through a partnership between Adobe and Download.com, you can save 15 percent on a Creative Cloud subscription for the first year.

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Disclaimer: Jeff Carlson has previously done contract work with Adobe to write about its software.

Author and photographer Jeff Carlson (jeffcarlson.com) is the author of the books Take Control of Your Digital Photos, and Take Control of Your Digital Storage, among many other books and articles, and co-hosts the weekly podcast PhotoActive. He believes there's never enough coffee, and does his best to test that theory.