Photoshop Touch walkthrough: the app that changes the rules of what tablets can do.

For all their success tablets still come with apps that don’t measure up to their desktop equivalents. Not one major desktop software maker has tried to crack through the hardware limitations to create a tablet app with the best functions of its desktop equivalent. When it comes to productivity apps on a tablet most users still have to make do with glorified phone apps blown up to fill a tablet screen. 

Adobe is about to change that with Photoshop Touch a subset of the Photoshop image manipulation program which is built from scratch entirely for tablets (Android and iPad). Actually we believe Photoshop Touch is the single most important app yet built for tablets because it’s the first to show that it’s possible to do desktop-like work on a tablet using a touch-interface. It’s another triumph for tablets and starts to dismantle the myth that tablets are for content consumption only. Best of all Photoshop Touch is priced like a tablet app: $9.99 and will be available initially in Android Market sometime in November (iPad is in the works but no delivery time yet announced).

Adobe Touch

That Photoshop Touch icon (circled) on a Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android home screen – it will revolutionise what people expect from tablets.

To be clear Photoshop Touch is not a replica of the desktop Photoshop. Its limitations are dictated by the limitations of the tablet hardware it has to run on. For instance it can only work on images up to a resolution of 1600 x 1600 pixels and handle only up to 16 layers. It also misses out on some advanced Photoshop features such as layer masks 3D effects web slicing and so on.

But Touch is built around the fundamental functions of Photoshop (with the key tools such as layers selection tools adjustments and filters) and makes these available on a tablet. It’s not to be confused with the Photoshop Express app that’s in the App Store which is your classic useless first-generation tablet app. While the desktop version of Photoshop will always be a designer’s primary program Photoshop Touch is a fantastic place to generate concepts you can then take to Photoshop proper (or workshop with your clients) create cool images for social consumption do work for the web (where most photos don’t have to be wider than 1600 pixels) or use in the classroom.

 “It’s the 80-20 rule” says Michael Stoddart Adobe Asia Pacific Product Marketing manager for Creative Solutions. “Photoshop Touch doesn’t do everything the desktop version does but it does what most people do. They select stuff in Photoshop and do something to it. Generally you are retouching getting rid of imperfections and you are compositing putting a number of pictures together. I would put it that most Photoshop work falls into those camps and Touch is built them around. We have tools like the Clone Stamp Tool we also have the Healing Brush Tool which in the desktop version is still getting wows. The key tools are there.”

Despite being built from the ground up for a touch interface (and pressure styluses when these become available) Photoshop Touch’s layout – and particularly the icons – are familiar. Adobe’s goal was to maximise the benefits of the touch interface but retain the familiarity of toolbars and menus and making the whole thing work in smaller tablet screens (1280×800 in the Galaxy Tab’s case or 1024×768 in the iPad’s case). So most of the R&D for Touch went into the interface – the toolsets already existed and just needed to be converted.

Stoddart says: “So the idea is that if you open Touch and you are a Photoshop user you should be not be too afraid to jump straight in. But also we know that tablets appeal to casual users non-professionals so it’s a professional app but we also wanted to make it approachable enough so that people new to Photoshop would be interested in it.”


Please note the screenshots below were taken on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet (the same kind Apple has banned in Australia) but Adobe is also developing a version of Touch for iPad. Like in the desktop version there’s menus in the expected positions and as you touch each icon the current tool you are using highlights and then offers options for that tool. The icon at the very top of the left menu shows the currently highlighted icon.

Most of the images below link to full-size versions.


Left menu > Marquee Selection Tool

You’ll notice the tools icons are replicas of the ones in the desktop with only a couple of strange new ones.


Left menu > Lasso Selection Tool

In the Lasso Selection Tool options only the Magnetic Lasso Tool from the desktop missing.

Lasso selection tool

Left Menu > Lasso Selection Tool > Options

Showing the options in the Lasso tool.

Magic Wand tool

Left menu > Magic Wand Tool

The Magic Wand has been around forever but on Photoshop Touch it gets something new the Scribble Selection tool..(see below)

Scribble Selection tool

Left menu > Magic Wand Tool > Scribble Selection Tool

The Scribble Selection Tool is one of the highlights of the tablet version. This tool selects by colour rather than on shape and when you apply it it’s so effective it generally brings gasps from those watching.

Brush tool

Left menu > Magic Wand Tool > Scribble Selection Tool > Options

Here we’ve activated the Scribble Selection Tool and with our finger traced a line around the areas of the image we want to select to help Photoshop Touch understand where the edges are (next slide)…

Scribble outside selection area

We’ve traced our finger around the outside of the selection (the red bit) to tell Touch what colours to exclude.

Brush Tool

Voila! The Scribble Selection Tool selects the image perfectly. But you can refine the selection further around the hair for example by using the Refine Edge option where you blow up the image and repeat the process.

Brush Tool

Left menu > Brush Tool > Mode

The Brush Tool is one of the richest tools in the program.

Brush Tool effects

Left Menu > Brush Tool > Effects

Brush Tool effects - Saturation

Left Menu > Brush Tool > Effects > Saturation

Clone Stamp tool

Left Menu > Clone Stamp Tool > Options


Eraser Tool

Left Menu > Eraser Tool

Blur Tool

Menu > Blur Tool

Left Menu > Blur Tool > Options

You might be using your fingers but Touch still allows you to be precise.


Top Menu > Add Image > Photo Albums

This shows the options for inserting images from onboard photo albums the Creative Cloud the onboard camera Google and Facebook. The CreativeCloud is a kind of Adobe iCloud on which any Photoshop user can save work and access it from any device and Photoshop Touch will hook into it. It’s expected to be launched shortly.

Top Menu > New image > Google > Search by Color

A Google search is integrated into Photoshop Touch. When searching Google Touch gives you the ability to refine your word-based search with a colour. The Google integration is cool because designers do a lot of that!

Top Menu > New Image > Google > Search by Usage rights

If you intend to use the image commercially Photoshop Touch lets you search Google Images for images which you can re-use commercially.

Top menu > New Image > Facebook

You can also search for images on Facebook and Photoshop Touch draws in all your friends’ albums.

Top Menu > New Image > Camera

Add an image directly from the tablet’s onboard camera.

Top Menu > Edit

Top Menu > Select tools

Top menu > Control tools (Image selected)

Top menu > Adjustments

Top Menu > Effects

Top Menu > More

Right menu > Layers

Another distinguishing feature of Photoshop Touch is that virtually every function has an associated tutorial. When you first load Photoshop Touch little blue overlays appear all over it pointing to in-context interactive tutorials. . It’s all about taking Photoshop to a wider audience.

Ultimately Photoshop Touch will do wonders for creativity says Adobe’s Stoddart. “The whole point of Photoshop on a tablet is that you are mobile if you are stuck at a desk and staring at a wall all day it’s hard to be creative. Now you can take it out let your ideas run free outside! You can now bring photo albums from Facebook and the Creative Cloud (not live yet). And for people who aren’t Photoshop gurus it’s not as intimidating as the desktop version. It’s fun and with you all the time.”

Touch is expected to first appear in Android Market in November priced at $9.99.


From the horse’s mouth – Touch explained by John Nack the product manager for Touch i.e the head honcho.

A really good run-through from Russell Brown a kind of mega Adobe evangelist. Tip: there is an in-joke in this video he’s also the guy dressed as the Mad Hatter.

Brown shows you how Touch integrates Google Image search.

Brown again on using Photoshop Touch’s camera fill.