Photoshop for iPad is finally out – but what do designers think?

Image taken from this Día de los Muertos-themed tutorial by Chris Parks.

Adobe Photoshop for iPad is finally here, and you can download it in the UK and US here. Find more information below in our updated piece, now including hands-on reactions from designers and the latest additions to the Adobe software (read here or scroll below.)

The tablet version of Adobe's most famous application lets you comp and retouch photos and illustrations just like the desktop version. In fact, you can share PSDs back and forth between the versions (find out more in our hands-on review below.)

Released in November, more features have been added to the app to bring it closer to the desktop original, such as this week's inclusion of the Select Subject feature.

Originally released on the desktop Photoshop in 2018, Select Subject enables you to automatically select the subject of an image to speed up complex selections.

Teased at Adobe Max this year and in a recent Adobe blog, this feature works on the iPad works in exactly the same way as on the desktop, producing the same results.

Good to know

What iPads does Photoshop support and how much does it cost? From the app's specs, you can use any that support iPadOS - from the latest iPad, iPad Air and iPad Mini up to any of the iPad Pro models.

The Photoshop for iPad app has a 30-day trial version, after which it costs £9.99/US$9.99 per month. If you have a Creative Cloud subscription that includes Photoshop, whether standalone or a Creative Cloud bundle, Photoshop for iPad is included.

Photoshop for iPad was first announced at Max 2018 and beta invites for Photoshop for iPad started to be sent out to select creatives as far back as May 2019.

Photoshop for iPad is unlike most of the apps Adobe has released for Apple’s tablet in that – unlike the currently available Photoshop Draw, Fix and Mix – Photoshop for iPad is a full-spec image editing and compositing app. Those tools were either just for sketching or were little more than tech demos, but Photoshop for iPad was conceived to be much nearer to the desktop release, or Serif’s Affinity Photo for iPad, which we've included here on our Best iPad photo editors guide.

Adobe says that Photoshop for iPad will offer a subset of the features of the main application initially, with more added over time. Some may never be added, as Photoshop has acquired multiple ways to do many creative tasks over the years of its developments – think of how many different selection tools there are – but you should still be able to achieve everything you want.

The app uses the same PSD file format as the desktop version, so you can share documents between the two – with versions kept in sync through Creative Cloud’s online Libraries storage.

You can create, edit and manipulate the same layer stack on the iPad version as on the desktop version – with support for blending modes, opacity, clipping paths and adjustment layers.

Photoshop for iPad tools

Along the other side of the interface is the very familiar-looking Tools panel, where you can see tools including selection, lasso, brushes, the Eraser and Paint Bucket, Healing, text and shapes – along with the familiar foreground and background colours. One notable omission is the Pen tool, though there is a Venn-diagram symbol in the interface that doesn’t match anything in the desktop version that could refer to vector shapes in some way.

Adobe says that the interface has been designed to be as near to the desktop apps as possible, but modified for an environment where Pencil and touch are how you interact rather than keyboard and mouse (or keyboard, mouse, stylus and/or touch).

Will Photoshop for iPad come to Windows?

It’s notable that Adobe refers to the users of Photoshop for iPad as “designers and photographers”, as its primary toolsets are for those editing and compositing photos and photo-illustrations such as those featured in screenshots the company provided to us alongside information about it. For artists looking to draw and paint, Adobe released this summer a separate app – Freso, which is now available on Windows devices. Interestingly, while speaking with the Photoshop for iPad dev team we learnt there are 'investigations' into making a tablet version of Photoshop for Windows devices like Wacom and the Microsoft Surface.

Hands-on with Photoshop for iPad at Adobe MAX

On first impressions, we were disappointed to find that photos saved on your iPad cannot be launched into the Photoshop app; instead, the only way to open a photo is by entering Photoshop and opening from there.

We were also surprised to see there are no crop ratio presets for photos (8x9, 16x9 etc), and that photos cannot be rotated along with the iPad. 

At Adobe Max we spoke to designer for web and more Nicolas Solerieu, whose work you can see in the above and below shots.

Nicolas was also disappointed by how you can only undo an action up to twelve times; the endlessness of CTRL+Z from the desktop classic is a distant dream with this version.

He also felt the icon menu to be too small, and that too many things were hidden behind one tab; knowing what's under what tab a bit of a minefield for even a Photoshop pro like him.

Tapping layers, he was disappointed to see a lack of pop ups on screen. Nicolas also felt the sensitivity of the Apple pencil was good for broad strokes but nothing finer, and hated how fiddly it was to keep a colour as Fill; choosing a grey for sketching linework quickly removes the main colour for filling in the Colour Wheel.

Lastly, the designer dislikes how opening the app gives you no way to set dimensions you need. All you're presented with is a blank canvas that cannot be altered to size. 

Adobe CC 2020 to 2021

Adobe also used Max 2019 to launch Illustrator for iPad, plus new versions of its desktop apps from Photoshop and Illustrator to Animate and XD.

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