There are plenty of decent image-editing tools for the iPad that enable you to carry out basic adjustments and enhancements or apply special effects.
However, Photoshop Touch is altogether more ambitious. In Adobe’s own words, it provides the core features of Photoshop in an app designed for tablets. It’s already available in an Android version, but now you can get a version for the iPad, too.
At £6.99, it’s a fraction of the price of the ‘real’ Photoshop. But then it also has to make do with a fraction of the computing power of a desktop computer, a fraction of the storage space and a much smaller screen. Can it really match the desktop version in features and performance?
Hardly, but it does come a lot closer than you might expect. You can create multi-layered images using familiar selection tools and processes, apply Levels, Curves and other standard Photoshop adjustments, and apply a range of special effects.
There is one profound limitation though. Photoshop Touch has a resolution limit of 1,600×1,600 pixels, which means that your images will be fine for on-screen or web use, but not much more.
Photoshop Touch tools
Layers are easy to create and manage, and you can combine them using Photoshop-style Blend Modes and Opacity. You don’t get Layer Masks as such, but you can blend layers with ‘Fades’, which are like customisable gradient masks. The Scribble Selection tool works pretty well, too.
You select the areas to keep, the areas to remove, and finally you use the Refine Edge tool to paint around the outline, and then the software separates the background from the foreground.
With the ‘camera fill’ feature, you can use the iPad’s built-in camera to take a photograph and use it as a layer within your current project.
Levels, Curves, Saturation, Shadows/Highlights and other adjustments can be applied from one menu, while effects such as Gaussian Blur, Sharpening, Sepia and Posterise are applied via another. Some can also be applied locally using a Brush tool.
The interface looks strange and unfamiliar at first, but once you start to see how the Photoshop tools, menus and palettes have been translated into touchscreen alternatives, it all becomes much simpler.
There are some excellent hands-on tutorials to guide you through the basics, and once you’ve tried a few you’ll have no trouble striking out on your own. And that’s when you start to notice that the touchscreen control has advantages.
It feels more natural for painting, for example, and following object outlines, because it doesn’t have the ‘jittery’ action of a mouse. It works well with sliders, too, and Photoshop Touch gets round the lack of a keyboard by displaying a pop-up numeric keypad for entering values.
But there are drawbacks. Smaller brush cursors are hard to see, simply because the tip of your finger covers them up as you drag. And some of the more processor-intensive art effects are too slow for real-time adjustments with the sliders.
The overall experience is very positive, though. Photoshop Touch doesn’t cost much, yet it replicates regular Photoshop tools and adjustments remarkably effectively.
Even the sharing options are good. You can edit photos from your Facebook albums, and share your images via Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which also offers a roundabout route for getting layered Photoshop Touch files into Photoshop. There’s also a neat Google Image Search tool for finding photos released under the Creative Commons licence, which should make them free to use.
But there’s no escaping that 1,600×1,600 resolution limit. Just what are you going to do with the images you create? They’re fine for sharing online, but what else?
The resolution’s too low for printing anything larger than a postcard. If you live your life on your tablet and interact with the world via Facebook, Photoshop Touch is rather good. But serious artists will want to work with full-resolution images, and Photoshop Touch doesn’t do that.
This is a really good app, and Adobe has done a great job of adapting Photoshop for the touchscreen interface. But until the resolution limit is addressed, it’s hard to see where you can go with it.
Adobe has effectively transformed its big, lumbering Photoshop into a super-slick iPad app, but the resolution limit is a major handicap.
Its power and simplicity, and how natural the touchscreen control feels
Support for full-resolution images. Without that, it’s limited