The Creative Suite 6 versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, and all their companion apps are now for sale. Adobe’s subscription for them arrives Friday.

Adobe Systems today began selling Creative Suite 6, its mammoth but expensive collection of software for designers, artists, photographers, videographers, publishers, and others in the “content creation” business.

The software is available in the $2,599 Master Collection, the smaller $1,899 Design and Web Premium or Production Premium collections, or the yet-smaller $1,299 Design Standard collection. About three quarters of Adobe’s unit shipments today are in these collections, but individual packages are available, too, such as Photoshop CS6 for $699 in its standard version or Illustrator CS6 for $599.

With CS6, Adobe tried to mix in performance improvements such as a cache-related speedup to After Effects for video effects, interface improvements such as Premiere Pro’s simplified layout for video editing, splashy new features such as Photoshop’s content-aware move tool and accelerated video, and hundreds of niggling “just do it” fixes.

Two new CS6 packages are Prelude and SpeedGrade. The first is designed to get an early start on video editing by letting editors ingest video right after it’s shot, tag it with metadata such as comments linked to particular moments in the footage, and assemble rough cuts out of collections of clips. Rough cuts can be handed off to Premiere Pro for more refined work.

SpeedGrade is for color-grading video, which means applying a particular color and tonal look. It works in conjunction with Premiere Pro and After Effects, and entered the suite via Adobe’s acquisition of Iridas. The software can give digital footage a film-like look through presets or custom settings.

For a tour of many of the new features, check CNET’s earlier coverage. For a full breakdown of what’s in each package and in the Creative Cloud, check the chart below.

Creative Cloud ahoy
CS6 product upgrades cost significantly less than the full versions, but starting Friday, there will be a very different purchasing option, Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription. This service costs $50 per month for customers who sign up for a full year or $75 per month for those who pay month by month.

The Creative Cloud service includes all the CS6 apps — running locally on a customer’s machine, not on some server on the far side of the Internet as some have supposed given the typical meaning of cloud computing. It also includes a variety of online services, most notably a 20GB file-sharing service similar to Dropbox, Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Google Drive, and presumably any number of other services.

The Creative Cloud also includes use of the Touch line of tablet apps, Lightroom 4, and some new packages that aren’t in Master Collection: Edge for interactive Web page design and Muse for simpler Web site design without knowledge of programming.

The subscription service also will grant access to new features as soon as they’re done rather than when CS7 ships. And Adobe promises other goodies will be thrown in, too.

Adobe is confident customers will gradually shift to the Creative Cloud. But it’s going to be a hard sell for many: a CNET survey in March showed a frosty reception, with 41 percent of respondents viewing Creative Cloud negatively, compared with 32 percent who viewed it positively. Also in the survey, 62 percent reacted negatively to its price.

A Team edition for businesses will arrive later this year at a cost of $70 per month per user for an annual commitment.
To lure existing CS3, CS4, and CS5.x customers who might be tempted to pay for perpetual-license upgrades, Adobe has an introductory offer of $30 per month.