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Adobe Photoshop Touch iPad app is a mixed bag

Adobe Photoshop Touch iPad app is a mixed bag

When Apple unveiled the first iPad with a Retina display, Adobe also updated its Photoshop Touch iPad app (Version 1.3 on iOS, $10; also available for Android) to make the most of the tablet’s new capabilities and display. I’ve spent some time using this app on a third-generation iPad, and I found it to be a mixed bag.

In some ways, Photoshop Touch iPad is very intuitive, in part because it exploits touch functionality. For example, you can use a scribble tool to quickly make a selection. In other areas, though, the app lacks the polish and clarity that you’ll find in the computer-software versions.

Those familiar with Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements will have an advantage: you’ll understand layers and effects, for example. But in some cases, it might be a hindrance: for instance, tools you might expect, such as quick red-eye removal, are not included in the tablet app.

Getting started. To begin, you import images into the app. Unlike with Photoshop software, there’s no dedicated Bridge or catalog section, but you can see thumbnails of imported photos and drag them into new folders. You can also access photos from locations such as local folders and the iPad’s camera roll, and even search Google for images.

Several image file formats work in the app, including JPEG, PNG, and Photoshop’s native PSD format, but the latter have to be flattened. (You can’t import RAW files.) When you’ve finished your project, you can export it as a JPEG, PNG, PSD (which can be layered), or PS Touch (PSDX) file.

iPadPhotoshopApp1_electronics_lg.jpg
In this image, I used the smudge tool to distort the second “M” in the image.

Editing, selecting, using filters and adjustments. Once you have your image loaded, you glide your finger along the left side or top menu bars to select tools. The tool selection isn’t as extensive that of the full version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, but there’s a nice selection: You can edit, select, erase, and copy, among lots of other manipulations.

The omission of a red-eye removal control surprised me, since red-eye is a common problem in many candid shots. You can manually remove red-eye by zooming in, selecting the red-eye area, and then using Replace Color in the Adjustments menu. But I didn’t find a lot of information on this topic within the app, and it wasn’t mentioned in the Tutorials section.

Photoshop Touch lets you quickly change saturation, color balance, brightness, and contrast. You can also easily apply a number of different effects, including Gaussian or directional blur, drop shadows, pencil or pen, and grain.

After I used several tools, the app seemed to slow down, as if it were taxing the iPad’s processor. When I turned the iPad off and on, it worked better for a little while. But turning off your iPad slows down your workflow, of course. (Note that other graphics apps also suggest turning off your iPad when the app gets sluggish, which means this isn’t a unique problem for Photoshop Touch.)

iPadPhotoshopApp3_electronics_lg.jpg
This is one of 15 step-by-step tutorials included in the Photoshop Touch app.

Interface and help. The interface took some getting used to. For me, it was too sparse and lacked help features, information, and direction.

I was also disappointed that Adobe doesn’t offer an online manual. The app includes built-in tutorials, though, most of which were helpful and effective. And you can find instructional videos, FAQs, and tutorial presentations online—many on Adobe’s website.

Sharing, posting online and printing. Once you’ve finished working on your photo, Photoshop Touch provides several ways of sending or sharing it. For example, you can e-mail your project, though you may be limited in file size. You can also send it to your iTunes account, so when you connect your iPad to your computer, you can transfer the file to your desktop.

Adobe offers an additional service called Creative Cloud, an integrated cloud-storage service that lets you upload your work from your iPad to a free 2GB of space. (More space is available via paid subscription.) You can then download projects to your computer. I found the free service very easy to use.

And if your printer has Wi-Fi connectivity, you’ll be able to print photos directly from your iPad.

Bottom line. There’s a lot to like about Photoshop Touch, particularly its touch features. Cutting, pasting, selecting, and manipulating images was easy and intuitive. But the app not quite as simple to use as it should be, especially for novices. Including a more comprehensive manual would be helpful.

I also think the app is geared more for those who want to create collages and photo montages rather than edit photos. And those who know and love Photoshop will find some features of the software missing or hidden.

Check back here for more photo- and video-editing apps made for tablets soon.

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