Photoshop Touch: The Best iPad Image Editor Yet

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Harry McCracken /

When I do graphics stuff on a computer, I spend 99.994% of my time in one tool: Photoshop. When I do it on my iPad 2–which I’m doing more and more–I jump between multiple apps, including PhotoForge2, iResize, Snapseed, TouchDraw and others.

Basically, I’m trying to piece together my most-used Photoshop features. Even by using a bunch of programs, though, I can only get partway there. But starting now, I have another option for iPad image editing: Photoshop.

OK, not full-blown, infinitely powerful Photoshop. But Photoshop Touch, which arrived for Android last year and is now available in a $9.99 version for the iPad 2, comes closer to replicating Photoshop’s bag of tricks on a tablet than any other application I’ve seen.

Its user interface is only vaguely reminiscent of the time-tested Photoshop one, and doesn’t feel that much like a typical iOS app. Overall, though, it works well–Adobe has clearly put a lot of thought into the best way to help artists interact with photos and tools using fingers rather than a mouse. Even if Photoshop Touch grows richer in future versions, the foundation that Adobe has already built should still work.

You can use photos on your iPad or stored on Adobe’s own Creative Cloud service, pictures from Facebook albums and images you find using a built-in version of Google Image Search. A surprising quantity of familiar Photoshop features are here, including basic stuff like resizing and cropping, layers, extensive masking tools, image tweakers like levels and curves, a profusion of filters, and the ability to warp images and add gradients. They only work on images up to 1600 by 1600 pixels, a constraint that Adobe says was made with performance in mind. And the app does feel snappy.

It’s easy to pick nits in this initial version. Signature Photoshop CS5 features such as Content-Aware Fill and Puppet Warp aren’t here. There are text-handling features, but they’re extremely crude: You can’t even edit what you typed after you add it to an image. I don’t like the interface you use to open photos on the iPad–albums don’t show a thumbnail image that represents the album as a whole, making it hard to figure out what’s what, and on my iPad, at least, there seems to be something wrong with the Photo Library view. (It shows no photos, even though I have scads of them.)

But even though Photoshop Touch in no way renders full-strength Photoshop superfluous, it’s still a major advance for image editing on the iPad, and one of the richest iPad productivity apps so far in any category. I expect it to become my go-to app for most graphics work–although I’ll stick with TouchDraw for anything involving text–and I hope that Adobe aggressively improves it in the months and years to come.