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Hands on: Photoshop Touch is not for Instagram users

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The problem with the popularity of Instagram is how it makes everyone feel like they are a professional photo editor. It simplifies the process so much that anyone thinks they can do it. While Instagram makes pictures of your food or the designs etched in your coffee cream look that much cooler – or at least vintage – it doesn’t actually qualify you as a graphic designer. If you download Adobe Photoshop Touch, now available for iOS and Android phones, don’t expect the outcome to be like an Instagram edit. Photoshop’s learning curve is steep but the results can be impressive if you know what you’re doing – and if you have very small fingers.

When one thinks of Photoshop, they probably think of the feature-rich photo editing software that is usually housed on a powerful desktop computer. It comes with a hefty price tag and is basically only affordable if you’re a professional, pirate it, or find it at a discount. Photoshop has been the standard for image manipulation since the late 1980s.

It’s strange to think of a stripped down version of Photoshop becoming available en masse, but the popularity of on-the-go photo editors has made Adobe play the game. While it could easily skate by on the namesake of Photoshop and the accompanying $5 price, which is $5 more than the most popular photo editors and about $700 less than desktop Photoshop software, Adobe hasn’t skimped out on its mobile offering. Photoshop Touch is feature rich for something so portable and is the easiest way for people to get their hands on Photoshop, but it won’t be the easiest app to pick up and use for those unfamiliar with it.

If you’re familiar with the tablet version of Photoshop Touch, you’ll know your way around the phone equivalent. You can do everything on your small screen including adjustments and sliders, a text editor (with an impressively bad collection of font choices), transforming and warping, selection and extraction tools, layering, and blending. It’s not the all powerful tool that the desktop option is, but it does suffice until you get to your computer – where you can then export the image from your phone in a Photoshop-friendly file like PSD or PSDX. If you’re satisfied with your work on the phone, though, you can output the image in JPEG or PNG, which can easily be moved around or shared. There is a social function built in to Photoshop Touch, though it’s not as friendly or as varying as apps that are designed specifically for photo sharing.

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You can use actual photos as a layer in Photoshop Touch and then do editing over the top, be it in the form of some filtering or drawing with brushes. You can use photos up to 12 megapixels, though not all camera captures (like the Samsung Galaxy Camera, for example) are compatible. Layers of images can be created, but only to three with a full sized image. The numbers of layers can be increased with a smaller resolution image. This can get overworked a bit too easily sometimes, causing crashes and forced restarts more often than one would expect from a stable app. It will vary from device to device, though, as this is one app where your device specs will factor in.

Photoshop Touch is full of ways to edit your pictures, but its menus aren’t always easy to use. On the phone, in comparison to the tablet, the menus can take up the entirety of the screen and obscure the view of what you’re trying to work on. Additionally, the Help menu is extremely sparse. This means, if you’re a newcomer to Photoshop Touch or photo editing as a whole, you’ll be on your own as you dive into a pool that will be way over your head at first. You will have to do your learning by trial and error, with an emphasis on error as you try to figure out what each feature does what and how you can use it to create a better image. A lack of real time rendering on some features will make this process more frustrating.

If you’re a photographer that wants to make some quick fixes on your phone-based photography – something that may be becoming more prevalent as phone cameras continue to improve – then Photoshop Touch probably belongs in your repertoire. It has some bugs and glitches, as most first-generation apps do, which will hopefully be worked out. It’s also worth noting the $5 charge will be per device, so that whole “Photoshop for cheap” idea can add up quick. It has some UI issues and some steep learning curves, but it’s clearly the best photo editor for mobile in terms of sheer capability and power.

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