Adobe has a Photoshop Touch app for mobile now, bringing full circle the devices that one can filter, crop, layer and manipulate images.
This is version one of the Photoshop Touch app for phones, and it’s by no means perfect. However, for those looking for something more than a simple overlay filter, PT has it all. Literally.
It’s like playing a game in a lot of ways. How many more distortions, saturations and warps can one do to an image before calling it complete? With 36 different effects to choose from – each with their own set of options like thresholds, intensities, tones, angles and brightness levels to adjust – just how much can an image change before posting it to Facebook and Twitter?
In adjustments, which offers everything from basic black and white to more advanced curves, most options come with a percentage scale that’s easy to move and adjust to find the right level of temperature, saturation, noise reduction, etc.
It’s also relatively easy to revert an edited photo back to its original form – unless you save an image. The reverse arrow icon in the top left corner of the screen lets users retrace their tracks if they find themselves in a no man’s land of shadows, highlights and inversions.
Basic editing tools, adjustments, effects and image manipulation (warp, crops, fade, lens flare, etc.) are located across the top, while another set of tools stretches along the bottom and floats along the side when a user drags their finger up from the bottom right icon.
While not lacking in tool options, making for a pretty legitimate photo editing experience, the app can be as frustrating as it is transformative. It’s still buggy, shutting down unexpectedly or taking longer than it should to save an image.
Beyond the expected early-version technical glitches, Adobe has seemingly seen it unnecessary to include a thorough explanation of how to use the many tools that a beginner with only a cursory knowledge of Photoshop can easily get stuck on, or simply to maneuver around the app at all.
Most perplexing of all is a lack of thorough instructions. Whereas the tablet version of Photoshop Touch included tutorials and demos, Adobe cut down on these to seemingly save space on the phone. We can appreciate that, but we’d also appreciate having the 15 minutes back we spent trying to figure out what to do after using the Scribble Select tool (thankfully, there’s always Google).
There’s a help section that gives users a basic understanding of how to start a project, work with layers and selections, and share and save, plus a basic rundown of tools. However, the tool tutorial doesn’t actually tell you which tools do what, but rather how to select an option – zoom in and out, and hit undo and redo.
For someone completely Photoshop ignorant, there’s a steep learning curve to understand what’s up with the Clone Stamp function, for example.
That said, the app doesn’t lack for tools at all, making its US$4.99 price tag worth every penny. Everyone from the occasional user to everyday Photoshop addict should be pleased to see a wide assortment of tools literally at there finger tips. They’ll no doubt have a much better time adjusting to the app than the first time Photoshopper, though after awhile selections become more intuitive.
We experienced some fat finger mishaps to start, leading us to initially believe this app was an ill fated attempt to bring to a smartphone.
However, the more we used it, the more natural it all started to feel. Our first scribbled tries at Scribble Selection, which involved tracing the inner outline of an object in an image with a green line to keep it and edging around it with a red line to remove, reminded us of learning to color in the lines in kindergarten (which we failed miserably at).
Yet the more we used it, the more finesse we could apply until we were extracting objects with relative ease (select the Extract button visible under the icon that’s a dotted square with a pen). After this step, you can supplant the image onto another background.
Like a cool-toned photo, the app is pleasant on the eyes – some aspects of its layout are actually rather lovely.
However, there are plenty of bizarre sizing issues that are glaringly obvious on a smartphone. There were times when an image we were trying to warp or crop to layer would take up about 30 percent of the space on the screen, leaving a slate gray border on most of the phone. Trying to edit an image that small is next to impossible.
Finally, as sharing has been placed on a pedestal for mobile functionality, there is of course the built-in ability to upload pictures to the greater world. But, there seems to be a hitch. Although the app’s description in Google Play says users can upload images to Facebook and Twitter, we saw no such option on the Droid Razr Maxx HD we used to test the app.
We’ve asked Adobe to see if we’re missing something, and will update this review when we learn more.
Like driving a sports car with manual shifting for the first time, the more you time you spend with the Photoshop app, the more enjoyable it becomes.
There’s a lot of learning as you go, which shouldn’t pose a problem for those familiar with the desktop and tablet versions. However, first time or beginning users might want to retreat to the comfort of Instagram and easier to use photo editing apps before they get the full feel of PT.
We did enjoy those "How did I get to this feature?" moments as it opened up doors to some interesting and unexpected editing features, but it also speaks to a lack of intuitiveness in the app. Again, those who’ve used the tablet version before should have an easier time getting from Point A to Point B on purpose. But, mobile users might find themselves somewhere they don’t want to be (or can’t get out of) more often than not.
Is it worth $4.99? There are plenty of useful features that will get some good drive time, but it really just depends on how often you’d use it.
It’s not something we can see ourselves using every time we take a photo, but for those with creative inclinations and professionals who need a way to edit their work while on the go (projects are accessible through the Creative Cloud), you should get a lot of mileage out of this app.
For the rest of us, it could easily serve as an introduction into the wider world of photo editing, whether hobbyist or aspiring designer. Or, it could simply be a way to kill time on the train while creating a crafty photo for a family member or friend. Either way, you might be pleased with what you can come up with.