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Review: Adobe Photoshop Touch on iOS

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Adobe Photoshop is still the premier image editing application on PCs and Macs. It has been used for everything from improving digital images, altering models for magazine spreads and even designing elaborate movie backdrops.

Photoshop's key feature has always been the unparalleled ease of pushing pixels as well as layer-based editing and composition. Now on the iPad, Adobe Photoshop Touch ($9.99) lets your fingers work magic.

As we stride into the Post PC world where tablets and smartphones are slowly but most surely replacing desktops and notebooks as communication, productivity and creative tools; there is a need for better software on these devices.

Tablets, more than smartphones, are expected to do so much. They need to be thin, light and portable but also powerful, capable and dynamic.

Tablet software has to quickly evolve from simple and easy to use to powerful and easy to use. We will buy tablets not just to consume content but to create it (which makes asking one from your boss a lot easier now).


Anyone who has used Photoshop on a Mac or a PC will easily find their way around Adobe's Photoshop Touch for iOS (and apparently Android but my LG Optimus Pad doesn't have the required software version to run it). Icons and functions are very similar.

The complete rundown of features is as follows.

• Use popular Photoshop features designed for the tablet such as layers, selection tools, adjustments, and filters.
• Use your iPad camera to fill an area on a layer with the unique camera fill feature.
• Select part of an image to extract by scribbling with the Scribble Selection tool. With Refine Edge, use your fingertip to capture even hard-to-select image elements, like hair, with ease. 
• Search and acquire images with the integrated Google Image Search. 
• Share images on Facebook and view comments right within the app.
• Browse an inspirational gallery for the styles and results you'd like to achieve. Then follow step-by-step tutorials to easily learn techniques the pros use for great-looking results.
• Use AirPrint for wireless printing of Photoshop Touch projects.
• Upload projects to Adobe Creative Cloud* and open layered files from Adobe Photoshop Touch in Photoshop CS5.
• Maximum image resolution: 1600 x 1600 pixels

Since Photoshop starts with images, users can either take a photo with their iPad's camera, download a previously stored file on the Creative Cloud or simply scour Google for images to use. Importing these into the application. Most file formats should work except for RAW files, which sadly poses a huge problem for professional photographers who work off RAW images.

For most users who don't need to work with RAW images and who can work with the 1600x1600 resolution ceiling, Photoshop Touch approximates the functionality and power of a very basic desktop version.

Using it on the new iPad, I found selecting and scribbling to be uncannily precise. I credit this to the iPad's improved graphics performance as well as Photoshop Touch's user interface.

You can quickly edit photos, crop and resize them. It is easy to compose multi-layered projects, paint in backgrounds, remove objects from pictures and add type using various fonts. There are many ways to output your work as well either through the cloud, through photo sharing websites as well as your favourite social networks.

Not only is the user experience quite intuitive, it can also be fun. Using your fingers to select, erase, paint and retouch feels natural and far more instantaneous than working with a mouse. Since editing in Photoshop Touch is non-destructive, you can easily recover from unexpected mistakes or simply re-import your image and start from scratch.

Photoshop has always been known for its voluminous menus and even the recent desktop versions sometimes require you to hunt within menus of menus to find the right setting, effect or tool you need. It is fascinating to see how this would translate to the tablet interface.

For the iPad, menus are carefully positioned around the screen and can be hidden to maximize the valuable screen space. Most of the main menu settings are on top and clicking on any one of them will reveal new options on either side. While simple enough to master in a few hours, Adobe does offer various video and step by step tutorials based on specific tasks.

Apple's iPhoto for the iPad does a comparable job for pure photo editing and may even be more intuitive and touch-savvy. It is certainly a better bargain at $4.99.

Photoshop Touch does have a greater range of application when layers are concerned. It tackles the photo editing aspect well and might take a few more steps than iPhoto in getting the same results.

Users who need to work with layers, design flyers, poster studies or layouts using various elements from numerous sources might find Photoshop Touch a better tool.

The million dollar question is will Photoshop Touch work with PSD files. The answer is yes and no. Users can import a Photoshop PSD file via Creative Cloud and open it on their iPad. The only difference is that all they layers will automatically be flattened, so you will only be able to see that one layer. 

Certainly, for any hardcore desktop Photoshop user, the iPad version will feel like a more familiar environment to work in. Combined with the iPad 2 or better yet the new iPad, it can very well serve as a traveling photographers studio where they can capture, compose, edit and even share their work through various social networks.

Is Photoshop Touch on iOS for you? Sadly there's no way to "try before you buy" but Adobe's put out a pretty comprehensive FAQ which gives a better idea of what the app can and can't do.

Rating 4.5 out of 5


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