Photoshop Touch: A Full-on Mobile Editing Experience

It would seem that there’s barely a man, woman, or child alive who doesn’t take and share pictures using their mobile phone. Yet how many of us properly edit images before sharing them online? I don’t mean warping the colours and applying a weird frame – I mean proper editing.

Judging by the deluge of grainy, uninteresting photos which seem to fill my timelines on a daily basis, I would suggest very little editing is going on. In the case of these snaps, though, the lack of editing is understandable. In other situations, however, it’s worth taking a bit more care – one look at the galleries of Kevin Russ or Chris Ozer is enough to illustrate what is possible with a photographically-proficient smartphone, a bit of skill and some mobile editing.

It is with these situations in mind that Adobe has created Photoshop Touch, which joins a very limited selection of heavyweight image editors on Android. The feature set is impressive on paper, but can the editing king of the desktop successfully make the leap to the small screen?

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First Impressions

If dark grey is your favourite colour, Photoshop Touch will seduce you instantly. Don’t get me wrong – the design is understated and smooth, with a darkroom feel to it. But boy, is it seriously dark grey.

Photoshop Touch is a rhapsody in dark grey

Photoshop Touch is a rhapsody in dark grey

The layout, it must be said, is superb. Once you’ve loaded an image into the editing screen, you are presented with a range of tools, which are all neatly confined to bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

Allowing easy access to dozens of controls when you’ve only got a small screen to work with is always a challenge, but Photoshop Touch’s pop-out menus work nicely.

Editing Options

The feature list of Photoshop Touch is so long as to be barely credible. Nearly every major tool in my desktop version of Photoshop Elements can be found in Photoshop Touch, which is pretty impressive given the computing power required to perform complicated functions like Transform or Curves.

The majority of the action in Photoshop Touch originates in the bar running along the top of your phone’s screen. The first pop-down menu is the mobile equivalent of the Edit menu found on the desktop, mostly dealing (in some depth) with any selections you make.

Photoshop Touch's equivalent of the Edit menu

Photoshop Touch’s equivalent of the Edit menu

Next are the adjustment tools. The usual, run-of-the-mill options like Brightness and Saturation are all present, but it’s nice to see more advanced features, like Levels and the aforementioned Curves, in a mobile editor.

The pop-down adjustments menu

The pop-down adjustments menu

Move along further, and you’ll arrive at the “fx” menu. This contains the near-obligatory styling options, and while there 48 to choose from, I can’t actually envisage using any of them – a very half-hearted effort from Adobe here.

The range of effects is large, but of poor quality

The range of effects is large, but of poor quality

The final top-bar menu is dedicated to what I would describe as image manipulation. This is where tools like Crop, Resize and Rotate reside, along with surprisingly high-level features like Warp, Gradient and Lens Flare.

Phtotoshop Touch is very well equipped for image manipulation

Phtotoshop Touch is very well equipped for image manipulation

Along the bottom of the screen are the finger-operated tools, which include the cloning, selection and brush tools, as well as a fly-out view of Layers. At the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to have to note the impressive array of options here. Selections can be achieved with the Magic Wand, Scribble, or Marquee tools, and any of the options found under the adjustments menu can be painted in selectively. The usual Clone Stamp, Spot Healing and Blur tools are also available, and the Layers palette is very clear and easy to operate.

The range of finger controlled tools

The range of finger controlled tools

It’s noticeable that many of the tools which Adobe has included in Photoshop Touch are not specifically, or necessarily, photo-related, which gives the impression that they are trying to stick to Photoshop’s graphic design roots. For instance, when you start up Photoshop Touch, it gives you the option to create a blank file, something you’d only do if you were planning to use multiple images or layers – very much graphic design territory.

In Action

Whilst there are, undoubtedly, many adjustments listed in Photoshop Touch, what we really need to know is whether any of them work. I must admit that I was sceptical as to whether Photoshop Touch could deliver true editing quality throughout its sprawling feature set, but it didn’t take very long for most of my doubts to be quashed.

The adjustments, as a whole, work with beautiful smoothness, responsive controls, and no slow-down when applying changes. Equally, selecting specific areas of an image is very easy, despite having to do so (in my case) with clumsy fingers.

Curves is a joy to use in Photoshop Touch

Curves is a joy to use in Photoshop Touch

Pretty much all of the brush-type tools produce high quality results, but some are rather frustrating to use, due to their poor on-screen cursor. As a result, the process of painting in adjustments entails wiping your finger across the desired part of the image, with very little idea of what effect your action is having.

Stability is always a concern when it comes to image editors, there is nothing worse than toiling away on a blend for hours, only for your work to be lost. Thankfully, I found Photoshop Touch to be solid, both in terms of stability and speed. In fact, the only true glitch I found in the whole app was when I tried to load images from my Google+ library; one of these photos took ten minutes to load, and another didn’t load at all. Other than this small misdemeanour, however, Photoshop Touch seems to be a smooth operator.


I get the sense that Photoshop Touch is Adobe’s attempt to create a bite-sized clone of the desktop Photoshop, and in large parts, they’ve succeeded. Clearly, some considerable thought has gone into packing a desktop’s worth of options into a phone, and the result is an easy-to-navigate app. Also, by and large, the tools work nicely, producing print-ready results, and they do not seemingly cause any instability.

Bear in mind, however, that Photoshop Touch is a full-blown editor, with a slight lean towards graphic design. As a result, anyone looking for quick, no-fuss edits might be better off with a more basic, but intuitive, app like Snapseed. For those of us wanting all the tricks in the book, however, Photoshop Touch represents real value at $4.99, and it is most definitely a quality image-editing product.


A fine, in-depth mobile editor, at a very reasonable price.