Photoshop Touch for Android
This is my review of Photoshop Touch for Android based on using it for only one day. I was considering buying this program when it first launched for $15 in the Android Market because of the claims that it had a lot of photoshop built in for not much money. My two primary tools for my photographic work are Lightroom (by far) and Photoshop desktop, and having a powerful app on my tablet was a natural draw. Before I bought the program, I asked (several times!) on Twitter if any of my photo friends had used it. Crickets. ;) So I decided to buy it anyway and try it out - as soon as I said that on Twitter, I got a half dozen tweets from people asking me to share my thoughts on the program, so here it is:
First, the really good stuff:
Very Smooth Operation - at least on my Android Tablet, which is a bit unfair because my tab is the Transformer Prime with 64gb internal storage, and the fastest chip inside of any current Android tablet - the Nvidia Tegra 3 Chip, a crazy quad core mobile chip with ridiculously low power draw. At the Prime’s normal balanced setting, Photoshop Touch just flies - sure, some of the more complex filters and effects can pause the display as it thinks and redraws, but it never lasts more than a few seconds. Other operations, like getting PS Touch to auto select backgrounds based on where you draw lines is instantaneous. Most layer effects ditto - in fact most operations are instantaneous and smooth with the exception of just a few of the more complex filters and effects. I also noticed that as you lay on effects, it can get a bit slower.
Just to see how it might perform on an older tab, I ran my Prime in the super power saving mode which really reduces the processing chip’s juice. It was still very smooth, but perhaps a bit more herky jerky. Still extremely usable.
The interface is fairly intuitive as well. There’s a lot borrowed from how Lightroom’s interface works, but of course, it is all set up to work with your finger touching the screen. Nice smooth transitions in and out if you want tools off screen.
Great Set of Tools - for a First Release - for a first release, I have to say the overall toolset is quite impressive. There are layers allowing you to create masks and overlay various effects, but other than blending mode and opacity levels, there isn’t much else to layers and how they work. There are 28 filter effects available, including all the usual basic ones (unsharp mask, Gaussian blur, etc) as well as a few modern-trendy photo effects (thankfully no “holga” that I can see, though you should be able to simulate the holga effects if you know what you’re doing).
There is an adjustments tool covering a lot of stuff, from black and white, to saturation to colour balance, and the more powerful levels and curves tools. Other tools include various crop and gradient effects that work for everything else you can do in the program - you can apply an effect across a gradient selection if you like.
My favourite thing in Photoshop Touch that I still think needs to be implemented better in Lightroom is the clone and healing tools. They work a bit more basic than desktop Photoshop, but better, IMO, than Lightroom’s version. Other tools on the left toolbar include some usual suspects: 3 different selection tools, a paint and pen tool, and the blur/sharpen brush tool.
Interface - I talked a bit about this above, but to expand just a bit - for a first effort, the interface is pretty good, and if you have any experience with Photoshop desktop, you should figure most things out pretty quickly with this touch based interface. It seems quite well laid out and while I find myself missing certain things (layer effects, for eg would be cool, and I’m not quite sure where the text options are in the program yet) overall, it’s good and very touch friendly on the main editing page. But…
Problems with Photoshop Touch
There are some issues with this application. None of them are deal breakers or ones that make me feel the $10 was wasted.
A photo editing program can be the best in the world at innovative editing tools, but none of that matters if you cannot easily save or share your work. And if you only lave limited ways to save, and crippled ways to share, it makes the program a downer. Most of my issues with Photoshop Touch for Android revolve around save and share.
The first one is a problem with Asus’ Transformer Prime and how their ICS upgrade worked, but the problem was magnified by a limitation in Photoshop Touch that Adobe really needs to address: In my first several hours of using the program, I could not save any image I worked on. I could not email any image I worked on. I could only upload them to Adobe’s cloud service (sigh, do I need another cloud service? ( l already have 3!).
The problem is, on the Prime after Android 4.0.3 was installed via OTA install, both the Pictures and Music folders on the Prime are munged a bit. You can’t save files into these folders nor can you delete files in these folders. Apparently a full system restore and reset will correct this, but I put so much time into setting up my Prime I really didn’t want to do a system factory restore.
This is problem for the native (and 3rd party) music apps because they cannot save new music files into the Music directory. And they kind of have to. But it is also a problem regarding the Pictures directory for exactly one application I’ve used so far: Photoshop Touch. That’s because one glaring problem with Photoshop Touch is it save file options. They are excruciatingly basic. You cannot choose the directory you want to save your work into. You are limited to jpeg or png formats only for saving. You cannot set the pixel size of the saved image (apparently it defaults to 1600px max width). You cannot set the quality level of the jpeg exported. And you cannot save your work as a psd or TIF file.
Because I couldn’t choose what directory to save my images to, and because Photoshop Touch saves files to the sdcard/Pictures folder, no files were being saved on my Prime. And no warning either that the files weren’t saved, which was even more disconcerting.
I fixed the problem the same way I fixed my Music folder problem earlier - I was able to rename /sdcard/Pictures to /sdcard/Pictures2. Then I created a new folder, calling it /sdcard/Pictures. And PS Touch was able to save the images after this change.
There are very limited save options, as mentioned above. But also very limited sharing options that shows Adobe isn’t playing very nice with other Android apps (something they should be doing). For instance, every other image editing program for Android that I’ve used (and in fact pretty much every app, from Pulse news reader to Currents) uses ICS’s built in sharing function to share with whatever tools you’ve set up, from Google Plus to Twitter to Email to Save it Later, to Send to Chrome, you name it. But Photoshop Touch doesn’t do this. It doesn’t display ICS’ very familiar 3-network arm sharing icon, and when you go to ways to share your document, you have the following choices:
Well that and Adobe’s own cloud service. And a wonky (didn’t work for me) email attachment sender. All within the app in a custom way. Android has a fantastic share system built in, and Adobe doesn’t make use of it. Boo Adobe. I don’t want yet another cloud service. Both Box and Dropbox are baked into my share options on my Android devices. I want to upload to flickr or Google+ - again, both baked into my share options on Android. No need for you to build custom upload apps. They are built in. Just produce the jpg (or png) and let the share options built into Android take care of the rest. I know Adobe wants to get you to use their cloud system (cuz they can make money and it works with the latest Photoshop) but don’t cripple the app in order to bake that into your own application.
This lack of sharing functions, tied in with the limited save functions are the biggest letdown of the program. And what pro (or advanced enthusiast) photographer uses Facebook for images? Geez. Is this Instagram Photoshop? At the very least they should have had a built in flickr tool (considering how very powerful Flickr’s API is).
Also, a lot of the UI outside of the main editing window seems incomplete and inconsistent. Images you work on are not called images, they are called projects. When I think of projects, I think it is multiple images and files. And the interface for setting up a “project” seems like you can add multiple images to a project, but you can’t. Saving, exporting and the limited sharing are not done inside the edit window either, they are done in the launch window of the app. Confusing.
There’s a few other things, but I initially thought this would be like a 8 paragraph review. I’ve gone on quite a bit. I’ll say that I would like more layer and mask editing options, more serious filters and effects, perhaps taking a lot from Lightroom’s editing tools, and I’d be even more happy with the edit system. But the file export / share system needs a complete overhaul. They got it wrong first time around.
This app is worth the $10 purchase if you are serious about photography and need a good mobile tool for the quick (yet still powerful) edits. This is Android Gallery’s editor on steroids and then some. No other editor on Android even comes close right now to the power that PS Touch has. It’s also a serious creative tool. Again, it lacks some of Photoshop Desktop’s heavily used but powerful tools for creative work, but most of the essentials are there.
I do recommend this app. But if Adobe doesn’t update their file and export and share options and instead comes out with Photoshop Touch 2 with those included and wants another $10, I am going to be pissed. ;)
Here’s some photos of the UI of Photoshop Touch for Android Tablets.
Above you can see some of the basic filters in PS Touch - usual suspects mostly.
Above you see Photoshop Touch’s Photo filters. A bit basic in selection, but thankfully no obvious holga / instagram style filter here. Curiously absent though are proper vignette abilities (both removal of, and addition).
Above screen cap: How you grab images in Photoshop Touch; it will scan your local storage and find most images. Unfortunately, when you suck them into PS Touch, edit, and save new JPGs, they are scaled down to 1600px wide max. Fortunately, original images are unchanged.
In the above screen capture, on the left is a familiar set of Photoshop tools. Each has a few choices as well. Notice no eye dropper though (it might be elsewhere). Right side shows layers.
Above, you see built into Photoshop Touch is a Google Image search. It’s cool, but limited too - for instance, searching for Speedster Espresso Machine turns up a bunch of my images. But it only grabs low resolution (even if a higher resolution is available). It’d be cool if you could set pixel size as a search parameter.