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Photoshop On-The-Go | Adobe To Drop New Mobile Photoshop & Astropad Gets Even Smaller

By Kishore Sawh on August 31st 2015


Like Kleenex is to tissues, Photoshop is the eponymous name when we think of photo manipulation. It has, however, generally been the reserve of the technologically, artistically, and photographically inclined. You just don’t find the average person using it, and that’s for a plethora of reasons; it’s pricey, it requires lots of time and practice to understand and utilize well, and generally you’re tied to a desk when you use it. This doesn’t bode too well for a world that’s anything but stagnant. To reach and keep an audience now, there’s got to be convenience and freedom of mobility, and many companies are trying to find the right way to approach this, and Adobe being one.

This October at the Adobe MAX Conference, Adobe is slated to introduce the newest iteration of Photoshop and it’ll be a mobile one. ‘Huzza!’ you may exclaim, but probably only if you’re not a prolific user of the software, in whose case this news is probably met with all the interest a raised eyebrow can convey.


The thing is we’ve heard it before, and Adobe has even released mobile Photoshop versions prior (read: the horrid Photoshop Touch), and frankly, they’ve been rather crap, pleasing neither the pros not the average consumer. It was news in brief, at best. This though, tentatively named ‘Project Rigel’ is apparently aimed at filling the gaps. Manu Anand, Adobe’s Senior Product Manager had this to say,

Project Rigel is designed and built in a way that serves the needs of professionals familiar with retouching tools on the desktop, but more so for people not familiar with Photoshop tools like content-aware fill or spot healing…It democratizes them and makes them easier to use.

Democratize is an interesting choice of words, because by definition then, it will try to please the larger target market, and if I had to guess, that would be the market Adobe has yet to capture – the amateur/casual user. The user that wants to make images on the commute and good enough to fit within the restraints of Instagram. It’s understandable, of course, as Adobe is a business that wants to make money, and can only do that by adapting to the trends (sort of).


The new app will be released for iOS devices first, and Android second, as it should be, ahem. It’ll also be free, but suspected that it will come as part of the Creative Cloud membership (now nearing 5 million), as a way to lure others in, perhaps with the promise of easy back and forth handoff from the more powerful desktop versions. So what can it do? There are the usual suspects like crop and vignette, but now there’s healing, smoothing, painting, and every wanna-be Kardashian’s favorite, the liquify tool. No word yet on just how the layers will work if at all, but it would seem moronic not to have some layer functionality.



And if you had any doubt that mobile photo editing is going to become more and more mainstream, might I remind you of an app called Astropad which I wrote about a some fortnights ago now. It essentially aimed to turn your iPad into a Wacom Cintiq-like retouching surface for about $20. It’s an app built for creatives of all sorts that allows the iPad to be used as an interactive graphic tablet with any Mac app (no drivers needed). It’s all down to it being powered by a technology called Liquid. that keeps iPad colors true to source, uncompressed live-view image quality, GPU-accelerated for speed, and gets 60fps with USB cable for smooth fluid responsiveness. It sounded brilliant, though to mixed reviews.

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There was a lag for many, and those used to a Wacom knew there was no replacing it with this. It did however have some success as a back-up, and no doubt the next iteration will be even better. Hopefully that will come soon, but, understanding that not everyone has an iPad, but loads more have iPhones, there is now Astropad for iPhones. It may seem a bit ridiculous to retouch on a surface so small, though I should mention that when I use a Wacom I shrink the active area down to a size smaller than my iPhone 6 screen…so maybe there’s some use in a bind? Would you use it?

I still will always be one to suggest a Wacom to you, and if price is a concern then understand you can get a Wacom Intuos Pen & Touch Small for around $70 which is well worth it, and what I move around with. You can see my full review on that here, or it’s massive pro brother the Intuos Pro Large here.

Sources: Astropad, CNET

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dave Haynie

    Hopefully, these both get proper stylus support on Android. The problem with using a pen on an iPad or most other tablets is the lack any pressure information, and they’re designed to be used with a finger. So you have these pens available, but they require a big fat tip which is effectively simulating a finger.

    The built-in “S-Pen” surface on Samsung Galaxy Note devices isn’t “Wacom-like”… it’s actual Wacom technology. It’s not an Intuos, but you’ll get 1024 levels out of it, and if you’re not happy with the included pen, Wacom sells a much nicer one

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  2. Hagos Rush

    never have really used photoshop as a result of the learning curve and not anting to use a tablet. This actually makes me want to use photoshop and its editing features. I really like this idea. AND it’s only $20 to use something I already own.

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  3. Suzanne Offner

    I’d love to see one of these that would work with Windows. I have a Wacom, but being able to work on my Android tablet or iPad would be great. I’m still getting used to the Wacom, I guess my hand-eye coordination isn’t what it could be. I’ll keep playing the lottery and hoping it will get me a Cintiq someday.

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  4. Stan Rogers

    Well, the “tablet” working area might not be a problem — the three-and-a-half by five or four-by-six area of the Graphire/Bamboo/Intuos Pro Small is sufficient for retouching if a bit cramped for illustration — but the fact that it’s got its own screen probably will be at that size. If you can teach yourself to ignore the phone screen and work from your monitor (that is, treat it as if it were an ordinary pen tablet) it will probably work out okay… but you just know the temptation will be to spend hours on end hunched over that tiny screen with your face close enough to see the level of detail you’re working at, and that’ll get really painful really quickly. And it’ll take more discipline to learn to use the thing properly, since the hard part of working with a “blind” tablet is developing an intuitive sense of how absolute position works after having your common-sense notions eroded away completely by mice and trackpads (it takes about two weeks for most people, whereupon it’s with you for life and scales automatically with tablet size). Sure, it’d be nice to have a Cintiq — even a tiny one — for a few seconds every now and then, but having the screen means you’re going to use the screen, and that’ll mean neck and shoulder pain and a lot of eyestrain before too much time has gone by.

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  5. Dustin Baugh

    I would like to see an android version of Astropad that would make use of the integrated stylus for the Samsung Note 4. It’s not wacom level accuracy but makes using an iPhone stylus seem like typing with boxing gloves on.

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