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When the iPad was first released, critics dismissed it as strictly for media consumption. More than two years later, Apple's tablet has become a master of creation, as well, thanks to new apps and services built for iOS. The latest is Adobe Photoshop Touch, which reinvents the company’s flagship product into a rich (though limited) image-editing tool for iPad 2.
Adobe Photoshop Touch reworks key functions from desktop Photoshop for the iPad 2 touch screen. Layers, selection tools, adjustments, and filters are all here, although the app works strictly in landscape view and images max out at 1600x1600 pixels. These limitations aside, Touch is a faithful reimagining, polished for mobile users with a downsized toolset that eliminates feature bloat.
Images can be imported from your photo library, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Image Search, or Facebook, and Touch can also grab quick images from the iPad 2 cameras. The app offers its own photo browser by default, but it's cumbersome and slow; thankfully, the iOS default is available via settings, and required if you want to access Photo Stream. Completed work can be saved to Camera Roll, printed via AirPrint, or shared to email and Facebook.
The Photoshop Touch UI is reminiscent of the desktop: Import, edit, selection, and filter options are found along the top, with key tools at left and layers at right. Menus are tucked away with a tap in the upper right corner, while layers can be rearranged and toggled, with full control over opacity, blend, and merge; plus tap to undo or redo with ease. While most of the layer, edit, and filter tools will come second nature to Photoshop users, selection tools take a bit of getting used to -- for example, Magic Wand is nowhere near as accommodating as the desktop. Instead, a new Scribble Selection tool can be used to select part of an image for extraction, which can be further tweaked with Refine Edge.
Layered files can be opened for further editing in Photoshop CS5 on a Mac or PC. Users must first install Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop plug-ins on their computer, then upload files to Creative Cloud (2GB free with signup); these native .PSDX files can then downloaded from any web browser, opened in Photoshop, and saved in PSD format – a process that will hopefully be streamlined when CS6 arrives.
Photoshop Touch is no performance slouch – the app is fluid, fast and responsive. Sadly, Adobe had to abandon original iPad owners in order to pull this off. But given the processor, memory, and graphics resources of the desktop version, it's amazing to see Photoshop work at all on a tablet.
The bottom line. Considering the price and feature set, Adobe Photoshop Touch is a fantastic value that promises to revolutionize image editing just as Photoshop itself did in 1990. Now iPad owners can create and share from anywhere – assuming they don't require high-resolution images, or a round trip from tablet to desktop and back. While not the full Photoshop experience, it's easily the best image-editing option to date for iPad 2.
iPad 2 running iOS 5.0 or later
Offers the right amount of tools and features to be creative while mobile. Extremely fluid, touch-based image editing. Wide variety of image import options, including camera fill mode.
Limited to iPad 2 and iOS5. Image size maxes out at 1600x1600 pixels. Moving images from app to desktop Photoshop requires too many steps. PSD files are flattened when opened in Touch app.