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Photoshop on the iPad: Does it change anything?

Am I getting an iPad? Well that’s a fairly loaded question, filled with doubts and questions as to the practicality of such a purchase. I mean, it’s not a phone, and it’s not a laptop, and given that my day job means I spend a lot of time in teh photoshopz, the iPad doesn’t really fill a productivity niche for me, short of the ability to present concepts and materials to a small group in a quiet room. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want one. Ask my ever-so-patient-and-understanding wife. Around our house, iPad is as much a verb as it is a noun. “I could iPad that” is a common phrase, applied to pretty much anything. Responding with “Sure, I’ll iPad that” to simple questions like “Please walk the dogs” or “How would you like an omelet?” is about as subtle as getting slapped in the face with a shiny, new, super-sexy 64gb 3G iPad 2. Want? Sure. Big time. But need? Eeehhhhhhhh….

So when I saw this, the iPad justification machine went into overdrive.

Youtube Video

It never fails to baffle me that Adobe keeps working so hard to make amazing products for a platform that works so hard to keep one of its flagship products off of it. I mean, OK, maybe Flash isn’t that much longer for this world, but it’s a pretty integral part of the web today, and Apple’s practice of keeping it off iOS devices borders on vindictive. But in spite of that, Adobe’s developers have produced an iPad version of Photoshop that might in fact be more practical to use than a laptop; at least, until touchscreen laptops start becoming the norm.

The demo, which some are already calling the “real” photoshop for iPad, shows a simple layer and masking procedure, as well as some groovy animations that do a nifty job of showing just how layers work in Photoshop. It’s pretty much a lock that the latter won’t make its way into the final app, but the rest does a pretty great job of showing how finger painting in Photoshop could, and in my mind should, work.

It also opens up the door to a huge world of opportunity for productivity apps that have until now kept people like me chained to a desk. Want to see a change on the fly to your illustration? No problem, a couple of finger strokes, and we’re done. And check it out…no mouse. Ta-daaaaa.

Obviously, an app like this will still be met with limitations offered by the hardware, but considering we’re only at 2.0 (which is Apple slang for “thanks for the $700 beta test, peeps”), the potential is clearly there. Adobe is by no means the first to the table-based photo editing party, either; apps like Sketches have been allowing people to create original paintings on a blank canvas for a while now. Masque allows you to play with layer masks and apply effects to certain regions in an image. And then there’s this famously fancy number done in Brushes, for the cover of the New York Times:

YouTube Video

The site App Craver has compiled a list of a few more apps they consider “must haves” for the photo editing crowd. But none of these, and indeed not even the existing Photoshop Express app, offers Photoshop’s real core functionality: non-destructive, layer-based editing. The touch-screen interface seems like the most intuitive way to engage with a masking, layering, or colour correction project, and lays bare the potential for other developers to create similar functionality in mobile, pro-sumer versions of their applications. Imagine manipulating a 3Ds MAX model in space by hand, applying textures or shades with your fingers. Imagine a touch interface for Adobe Illustrator, allowing you to create proper vectors and apply beziers with your finger as you would with the brush tool and a mouse. Imagine how easy it would be to drag and manipulate film clips around on a Flash timeline, editing vectors and objects with simple gestures.

Wait. Scratch that last one.

No word yet on when the “real” photoshop for iPad is dropping, but keep your eyes on the App Store updates, and your credit card payments up to date, as this thing is not likely to be cheap. As to the original question of whether this changes anything; for me, it helps me justify this otherwise unnecessary purchase by arming me with the phrase “I need it for work”. Hopefully, my office’s expenses coordinator agrees.

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  • Paul Laroquod

    The fingerpainting aspect sounds cute, but dragging objects around on a touchscreen is a terrible experience. It’s the worst part of the iOS interface, is the dragging interface. If I were to try to edit a timeline (say in Final Cut Pro, or in Flash which you mentioned and is just a simplified version of the same thing — both require a lot of dragging), I would acquire murderous thoughts toward the app designers, very quickly.

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