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Adobe MAX 2020 Highlights and Updates You Need to Know

August 12, 2021 8 min read

Top Highlights and Updates at Adobe MAX 2020

For the first time ever, Adobe is offering 350 free online sessions from its annual  conference, Adobe MAX, to anyone who wishes to learn. That’s a lot of content. So we are taking the Adobe MAX 2020 highlights and breaking it down into this digestible guide. 

As our agency’s lead graphic designer, Adobe MAX has been a conference on my radar for years. This was finally the year I was planning to head to Los Angeles for the three-day event. Of course, the pandemic threw a bit of a wrench in that plan, but then Adobe announced it was holding its conference virtually. That meant 350 virtual sessions of learning, free and available on-demand to watch anytime and anywhere. 

The best part? You can watch and learn too! But with so many sessions, I wanted to give you a starting place. Here’s my list of the biggest Adobe MAX 2020 highlights, starting first with the must-know product updates.

Adobe MAX 2020 Highlights: Must-Know Product Updates


For Adobe product users, if you only watch one session from Adobe MAX, we highly recommend setting aside an hour and 40 minutes of undisturbed time to watch the keynote. This is where you’ll get a full rundown of all the new features in the Adobe Creative Suite, and a look at how each new tool works. 

We know you're busy, so here’s a condensed version of the biggest updates. 

Photoshop AI Enhancements

Prepare to be blown away by the latest updates to Photoshop. With the new AI-powered Neural Filters, users can edit things like a person’s age and expression, the direction of their head, or even their facial makeup. Neural Filters are non-destructive and will transform images in one click. The photo retouch tools are among the most advanced, as well as tools for editing and replacing the background of an image. For example, you can now swap out things like a sky, for a better sky or a different background photo entirely, and adjust the tone of the foreground to match.


Other updates include a new Object Aware Refine Edge and Refine Hair tools that uses AI to improve selections of subjects. This is great for editing pictures with very detailed lines and features. It’s all designed to help creatives work faster and more effectively, with higher quality results.

Illustrator Comes to the iPad

If you're a big iPad user, you’ll be excited to hear that Adobe has released an iPad version of Illustrator. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to take advantage of the functionality of the Apple Pencil, with tools like radial, grid, and mirror repeat, all designed specifically for touch screens. 

What’s great about Illustrator for iPad is the ability it gives users to work on the go. Seamlessly send files back and forth from your desktop version to your iPad, for an easy way to work on projects while away from the office. All your work automatically saves and syncs directly to the Creative Cloud, so you never have to worry about losing work no matter the device you're on.

Lightroom Updates

If you are a big photographer, you’ll be excited to hear that Lightroom is enhancing its color control tools within its platforms. Users now are able to use Color Grading, a robust color grading tool that adds color control for mid-tones in addition to highlights and shadows. It’s replacing what was known as the Split Toning tool. This new functionality will give users more room to experiment with colors within their images, to tell a brighter story.

how to use Lightroom update color grading

Another exciting feature which is helpful if you’re editing a photo for a business is the new watermark feature. You can now easily add a logo stamp or graphical watermark to your photo right within the program.

Premiere Pro 14.5 Updates

If you use Premiere Pro to edit videos, you’ll be excited to hear about speed enhancements to the platform. New technology and a decoding update to their software are said to give the program faster upload times and more responsive playback for larger projects.

Arriving in 2021 is an exciting tool for those that may use transcription services, the new Sensei-powered Speech to Text feature which generates captions, subtitles, and speech transcription from uploaded video content. The update also allows you to edit captions right from inside the timeline. Determine where captions appear or change the font size, colors, or appearance right with an easy click of the button. 

Not yet released, but expected soon is a “quick export” feature that will allow users to - you guessed it - quickly access your most frequently used export settings right from the header bar. This is especially useful for editing videos for multiple formats such as email, social media use, and website display.

5 Additional Must-Watch Adobe MAX Sessions

If you do have some extra time for professional development, these next five sessions are our go-to picks for the creative marketer. I’ll give you a breakdown of each of the key takeaways from each session, so you can decide what makes your watch list.

1. Advanced Tricks for Every Photoshop User

Advanced Tricks for Every Photoshop User

Learn practical features, essential tricks, advanced special effects, and automatic features that deliver faster results in this Adobe Photoshop session.

Are you the type of Photoshop user that loves to learn about all the new tricks, but then goes to actually use them, and they never seem to come out just right? Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there, and this lesson is for all of us. 

Photoshop instructor, Unmesh Dinda, takes us through the new tools and features but adds another layer to help us take the next steps when the tools don’t work as perfectly as they should. In his words, he teaches us how to “use organic intelligence to aid artificial intelligence, when it just doesn’t get it quite right.” 

He digs into the following four lessons:  

  • Sky Replacement Tool - Learn how to take additional intervention when trying to replace the sky in a complex situation like an image with lots of halos, different depths of fields, and translucent objects. 
  • Pattern Preview - Learn how to create a perfect pattern quickly and easily with the perfect pattern tool. This is great if you want to create your own unique texture for backdrops in photos. 
  • Backing Up Photo Versions - If you’ve ever spent hours editing a photo, and then realize you like a previous version better, then you’ll want to learn this trick. Photoshop now has a way to save all the version history of an edited photo, in case you want to go back and change an old edit. This also allows you to easily switch between photo versions.
  • Speed Trick - The most useful trick is perhaps the simplest. Learn how to make Photoshop faster when it begins to lag. This is especially helpful when you're dealing with multiple layers on a huge file.

2. Social Motion - Using After Effects for Social Media

Social Motion: Using After Effects for Social Media

Attend this After Effects session and learn how to construct captivating social media videos using motion, templates, and asset organization.

This session “lab” is a great place to start if you are looking for ways to take your social media strategy to the next level. The instructor walks you through three different kinds of animation trends you see on social media today and quickly shows you step by step how to do each in Adobe After Effects. 

  • Bold Text Frame Animations - Learn how to incorporate bold text frame animations into your graphics. This trick allows you to customize and create something from the ground up, without having to add any additional media to it. It’s a great tip to learn if you don’t have a lot of assets to work with. 
  • Cinemagraphs - Ever scroll through your timeline and see what you think is an image, but then see it has animated properties? This is called a cinemagraph. Quickly learn how to easily create these engaging photo/video combos.
  • Environmental Text - You’ve probably seen this trick in big-budget ads. But it’s actually very simple to do. Animate text, so it follows an object or subject around. For instance, if someone is walking by something, track text to that person, so it follows them as they walk.

3. Creating Thumb-Stopping Content for Social Media

Creating Thumb-Stopping Content for Social Media

Join this session to learn ideas for shooting and editing content for social media and how to create a stop-motion video with a smartphone or camera.

Another great lesson for social media users, this session walks you through how to use stop-motion graphics to make your posts stand out. A stop-motion graphic uses images shot one frame at a time of physical objects being moved in-between frames. The final product is a short-form video that creates the illusion of movement. You’ve probably seen these in product ads on your timelines on social media. And they probably make you stop and pause, right? 

Stop-motion works because it goes beyond reality and takes a viewer into their imagination. It gives simple and boring products a story, which in return gives brands personality. 

This lesson shows you have to use Adobe Premiere Pro and Lightroom to create stop-motion graphics to: 

  • Make products move
  • Showcase people in unconventional ways
  • Bring travel photos to life
  • Tell the story of big events

Once you’ve created your stop-motion graphic, the lesson also shows you how to properly share this on social media, without any glitches.


Here's our list of the top 15 social media marketing tools, several of which will help create beautiful and attention grabbing graphics.


4. Adobe Animate: Creating Interactive Infographics

Adobe Animate: Creating an Interactive Infographic

Learn how to use Adobe Illustrator to import your static infographics into Animate and bring them to life with animations and interactive elements.

Why should you animate infographics? We know infographics help illustrate complex topics. But they can only go so far. By animating these graphics, we’re adding a component of kinesthetic learning, which is proven to help people retain information better.  

This session lab is straight to the point. It teaches you how to make interactive infographics that can be used as a marketing tool on social media, your website, email - you name it. It’s a basic walkthrough designed for new/beginner users in Adobe Animate. The instructor first walks you through how to set up a file in Illustrator, and then transfer it over to Animate to create your interactive infographic. You're also provided with all the files the instructor used, so you can follow along with him during the tutorial.

5. Intro to Logo & Text Animation in After Effects

We saved this one for last, as it’s the most complex session we attended and will require a bit more of your time to attend. This three-part tutorial is an intermediate level lab, that walks you through how to animate a logo with 3D effects. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn in each video: 

  • Part 1 - Begin the process of taking a design from Illustrator to After Effects. You’ll learn how to design a 3D multilayered logo, and precompose layers and define transformations.

Introduction to Logo and Text Animation in After Effects - Part 1

Learn how to animate your company's logo to make it stand out. In this follow-along lab, motion designer Eran Stern will guide you through the process of animating a multilayered Illustrator file in After Effects. You'll use 3D layers, cameras, and lights to make the logo animation pop.

  • Part 2 - Take the next step with your logo by adding lighting effects and animation. You’ll learn how to animate layers using keyframes and parenting, and add lights, shadows, and reflections to your logo.

Introduction to Logo and Text Animation in After Effects - Part 2

Learn how to animate your company's logo to make it stand out. In this follow along lab, motion designer Eran Stern will guide you through the process of animating a multilayered Illustrator file in After Effects. You'll use 3D layers, camera and light tools to make the logo animation pop.

  • Part 3 - Go even deeper to complete and render your animated logo. You’ll learn how to reveal strokes in your animation, apply per-character text animation, add color effects and transitions, and render the final file.

Introduction to Logo and Text Animation in After Effects - Part 3

Technical Level: Beginner, Intermediate Type: Lab Category: How To Track: Graphic Design, Video Audience: Art/Creative Director, Graphic Designer, Motion Graphics/Visual Effects Artist, Post-Production Professional, Print Designer, Web Designer

Browse Adobe MAX 2020 Library 

Overall, there was a common theme in almost all the Adobe MAX 2020 sessions I attended. Creativity is more important than ever before, and as designers, we must learn to adapt in the new world that we live in. 

Mala Sharma, VP & GM of Creative Cloud Product, Marketing, and Community summed it up nicely. “At Adobe, we believe that creativity is essential to human existence, especially in times of crisis.” The present pandemic will have a lasting impact on creative businesses and forever change how we create, she said. 

It’s now more important than ever to get creative - no pun intended - with how we create. Adobe is making it easy for us designers, by providing a free library of over 350 sessions to help us all learn, grow, and succeed. Take advantage of these resources, and start investing in your career development. You’ll see it all pay off, starting with your marketing efforts, and expanding to your business as a whole.

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This post was originally published November 10, 2020