Photoshop Touch is one of six apps initially launched in a suite by Adobe, in a range that includes Ideas for sketching, Collage for assembling moodboards and Kuler for developing colour themes. Touch is the app for photo manipulation and offers many of the same functionalities that the full-blown version does, with some limitations.
While the app is Android-only at the time of writing, an iOS version is in development for the iPad. It's also only for tablets at this stage, and to be honest it would be a particularly squashed experience on a smartphone.
All the apps are able to send and receive content from Adobe's Creative Cloud, a service that lets you share and download files to multiple devices. Creative Cloud offers 20GB of online storage.
Loading up the Touch app presents a panel that can walk you through a tutorial or create a new project straight away. The tutorial is a great way to get to know the various parts of the touch interface and it does look quite different to the desktop version of Photoshop you may be familiar with. Never fear, though, as you will find most of the same icons and functionality here.
Photos can be imported into Touch through a variety of different channels: locally as stored on the tablet, from Adobe's Creative Cloud, the on-board camera, Google or Facebook. The Google option is particularly fun, plugging into Google's image search to find photos based on a particular keyword. You can even sort the images by colour and find content that can be modified and adapted for use in your project.
Importing images from Google according to their colour is a nice touch.
There are some unique quirks to the Touch interface that may take some getting used to. Renaming a file is done by touching its existing name rather than pressing and holding the image. Pressing and dragging to move, rearrange or delete files doesn't work when viewing files in the main project menus; instead you need to select the command you want to perform first (like deleting) and then select a file.
Touch automatically resizes photos you import to the maximum resolution it can work with: 1600x1600. We had a number of images uploaded straight from a camera to Creative Cloud at their full 10- or 12-megapixel resolution and imported them into the app, but Touch scaled them down. This is a huge limitation to photographers who want to work with full resolution files on their tablet, though understandable given the computational power needed to work with large images.
Several adjustments familiar to Photoshop users are available from the top menu bar, including common tweaks like converting to black-and-white, adjusting saturation and colour temperature, tweaking brightness and contrast, and adjusting levels and curves. There's also a range of effects ranging from basic blur tools to drop shadows, moving into some more photo-specific filters like "sunny afternoon" or "sleepy hollow", which adds a vignette and boosts the contrast.
The effects panel in Photoshop Touch.
Navigating around areas of the image and zooming is done using familiar gestures like pinching and swiping. All the menus flanking the main editing window can be hidden easily to view the work on the screen using the menu option at the top right, and the side and top panels can be hidden independently if needed. The left panel houses most of the main tools that Photoshop is renowned for including marquee selections, the magic wand, eraser, blur and smudge. They all work just like the desktop version of Photoshop and relearning how they work using a finger for a stylus is half the fun of this app. Layers can be added and adjusted, too, with opacity, blend modes and merging layers all available from the panel on the right.
Working with layers in Photoshop Touch.
Photoshop Touch offers a neat function specifically designed for the app; the scribble selection tool. Accessed from the menu on the left, this tool is useful for letting the app do all the hard work of transposing one image onto another. The best way we found to use it was to open up an image, and then open up another on top on a separate layer. Using the tool you can "scribble" on the image an area to keep using the green marker, and do the same for the area you want to remove in red. Touch will create a selection mask and you can refine it by tracing over the area again with the scribble tool. Select the "Extract" option from the top menu bar and the app will automatically remove the unwanted part of the image, revealing the background photo underneath.
As mentioned earlier, the Touch app can never replace the desktop version of Photoshop given the limitations in regards to file size. There's also a couple of other quirks that will hopefully be addressed in future versions, like a dedicated and separate saving option on the menu bars. The only way we could work out how to save changes to an image was to press the arrow button at the top-left corner to exit out of the image, prompting us to save.
There's also no Flickr integration, which is a little bit of a blow to photographers who might want to share images this way. It seems Facebook and Creative Cloud have the monopoly on sharing here. We also found our connection to Creative Cloud was a little flaky — the Touch app wasn't able to see all the files in our Cloud, requiring us to sign out and in again to sync.
Users can only add 16 layers to each image and photos can only be saved as JPEG or as files that can be read by Touch or CS5.5.
While it may not be as fully fledged as its desktop namesake, Photoshop Touch offers a robust editing experience for tablets. As long as you don't expect every single feature from the full version, Touch is a great investment that makes the most of editing photos on your tablet. Photoshop Touch is available from the Android Market for US$9.99.