Photoshop Touch: Proof That Adobe’s Still Got It

There was a time, when I considered myself an aspiring graphic designer, that I would fire up Photoshop, create a new canvas, and immediately find myself hating every single aspect of the software. From the laggy controls to the half-assed interface, everything about Photoshop has, from my experience, felt like a letdown.

Still, I found myself downloading Photoshop Touch shortly after it was released. Why did I feel the need to do this to myself? Well, because I had heard good things about the software, and at $10 the touch-optimized version is less than one-thousandth the price of the original desktop version. Is it worth a download, or will you be better off with another tool? Let’s find out.


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A Note on Design

Photoshop has long been ridiculed as a fairly ugly app, introducing a bit of irony into every launch of the application. Whether this is because Photoshop is meant to work on both Windows and Mac and feel at home on both (a poor approach, but that’s neither here nor there) or because Adobe doesn’t really care about what Photoshop looks like it’s hard to say, but it’s a plain fact that it just feels off on the desktop.

Pretty, but also slightly out of place with iOS'  look.

Pretty, but also slightly out of place with iOS' look.

Fortunately, Photoshop Touch doesn’t suffer from the same issues – or, at least, not to the same extent as its desktop father. Photoshop Touch is well-designed and looks good on the iPad, but it also feels a bit off because it reminds one of a modern Android app. Surely this has to do with Photoshop Touch being released on Android earlier than it was released on the iPad, but it’s worth noting. Is this a deal-breaker? Of course not; like I said, the app looks good. It just feels weird at the same time.

What Is It Good For?

Where Photoshop on the desktop is used for everything from graphic design to digital effects for animated movies or games, Photoshop Touch is a much more focused tool that has a narrow featureset defined by the iPad’s current limitations.

Some of the ways you can edit an existing photo.

Some of the ways you can edit an existing photo.

The app has a focus on editing current photos (an obvious statement if ever there was one) and creating new ones, but I wouldn’t expect to create your next masterpiece with Photoshop Touch. For drawing I actually prefer Sketchbook Pro, simply due to the more granular control over what’s going on on-screen. Photoshop Touch has a fair amount of tools but doesn’t even come close to its predecessor in terms of functionality.

If you want to edit a quick photo with a nice filter or some other effects Photoshop Touch is the way to go. Not only can you access photos from your Camera Roll, you can also import them from Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Facebook, and Google. You can also snap a new photo, but I don’t think most people are going to use the iPad as their main camera.

Choosing a source to grab pictures from.

Choosing a source to grab pictures from.

In a way Photoshop Touch behaves similar to, say, iPhoto on the Mac, with a bit more functionality. It’s not a professional tool, but it also isn’t professionally priced.

Performance

Nearly every person I’ve ever spoken to that has used Photoshop has complained about performance at one point or another. Whether it’s a specific tool taking forever to load or a large file taking minutes to open, Photoshop on the desktop has a bad rap. Thankfully, Adobe has decided to step up their game with Photoshop Touch and make the app sing.

Sure, there was a bit of a slowdown when I was smudging some stuff together, but that’s to be expected. I didn’t experience any crashes while I was using the app, and overall everything feels very stable. This is impressive not only given the scope of the app but also the limitations of the iPad; where Photoshop on the desktop can feel sluggish with multiple gigabytes of RAM, Photoshop Touch performs well with only half a gig.

Limitations

Photoshop Touch shipped with a limited number of tools. Most of the normal suspects are there, from paintbrush to blur to smudge, but there are a few key items missing. There is no Burn tool, for example, and no other tool to change specific aspects of a certain area (think the Sponge or Lighten tool). I’m not sure why these were left out of the application, whether it was a conscious decision on Adobe’s part or simply something that they couldn’t get to or make work on the iPad, but they’re noticeable omissions.

Most of the available drawing/editing tools.

Most of the available drawing/editing tools.

The biggest limitation imposed by Photoshop Touch is the user. Where most people associate Photoshop with power tools, it’s clear that those tools and capabilities are made possible by the extra interaction layer between the user and the canvas: the mouse. Our fat fingers are useful when we’re living our daily lives, but they’re a pain when you’re trying to make a piece of fine art or achieve pixel perfection.

Thankfully Adobe was aware of this fact and embraced it instead of trying to ignore it. I was pleasantly surprised with how well everything worked, and once my expectations were brought to the same level as the application’s I had an enjoyable experience.

Conclusion

Photoshop Touch is worth a download if you want to do some light-to-medium photo editing, or if you’d like to experience what Adobe can come up with for the tablet interface. You aren’t going to be able to design the next amazing infographic or webpage, but you can make your photos look just a bit better and apply some nice filters.

Would I recommend Photoshop Touch over, say, Snapseed? I’m not sure. While Photoshop Touch technically has more functionality and doesn’t focus quite so much on filters as Snapseed, I feel that the latter app is more fitting for the iPad and does its primary job – photo editing – a bit better, especially for people that aren’t used to working with Photoshop.

Still, Photoshop Touch is definitely worth a download. Some people will appreciate the more granular control that you have over your editing, and being able to create something from scratch is certainly a nice feature. Combined with a stylus and a bit of patience I’m sure that someone could create a great illustration with Photoshop Touch.


Summary

Photoshop Touch is a tablet-optimized version of Adobe's near-ubiquitous photo and graphic editing software. It has a decent featureset and is a stable, well-designed application that performs well, especially for the price.

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  • Joram Oudenaarde

    1. I wish they would be this good with developing the desktop versions of their apps. Photoshop (desktop) is slowly becoming a jack of all trades, both in regards of UI as well as functionality. Pixelmator, although not a professional program in my opinion, seems to be having it’s act together a lot more compared to Photoshop. I absolutely love Photoshop for what I have to do with it, but it could be so much better… and Photoshop Touch’s interface and userfriendly-ness proves that I think.

    2. Don’t forget the amount of resources that PS Touch hogs though. It’s developed on/via Adobe Air, so it requires more resources compared to if it would be developed “properly”. As much as I like PS Touch, it’s a shame that they unnecessarily developed this app on ‘Air’ just to prove a point (or so it seems)… shouldn’t you also always try to develop your software in a way where it uses as little resources as possible? That usually results in a lean, mean piece of speedy software.

    • Joel Bankhead

      I totally agree with you, particularly your second point – why wouldn’t you make the best possible software for each platform?

      Adobe should have been much much quicker in getting one of their flagship applications on the iPad, providing exceptional software should be the very core of the company.

    • http://somethinglikero.me Nathaniel Mott

      I agree with both points. I was actually surprised at how good Ps Touch was designed, as I pointed out in the review. Hopefully CS6 will show some of this same love to the desktop apps, as they’re getting (unnecessarily) long in the tooth.

  • http://www.richgetz.com Richard Getz

    I really like what PS is doing with their un-blur technology! I hope they bring this to the iPad!

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  • Ken Walsh

    It should be developed in HTML5

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