Adobe this week released Photoshop Touch for iPhone and Android — a big step up from its stripped-down Photoshop Elements app and leagues ahead of simple Instagram filters. Photoshop Touch will set you back $5, but it's worth the cost of skipping your latte for a day.
Photoshop has long been an editing staple for professional photographers and the source of frustration for amateurs. Photoshop Touch offers most of the editing features available in the pricy desktop version ($560 on Amazon.com) but with a simplified touch interface.
You can start a project by taking a new picture, selecting one you've already shot or using one that you've stored in Adobe's Creative Cloud Web service (the app includes a free 2 GB of space).
Once you've finished a project, you can send it to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr as well as save it to your camera for posting to Instagram and store it in Creative Cloud.
Before you start your first project, go into the app's settings, choose "General" and tap "Reset Screen Tips." This will activate helpful prompts on the screen to guide your editing. You might also run through the tutorial under "Help," especially if you're unfamiliar with Photoshop layers, the key editing feature that sets Photoshop apart from basic mobile photo-editing apps.
If at any point you don't like what you've done, don’t worry. Just tap the curved-arrow icon in the upper right corner of the app to reverse your steps.
Need some motivation to break through Photoshop fear? Here are three things you can do the first time you try Photoshop Touch:
1. Add a new 'live' background with camera fill
You can shoot any scene around you as a new layer in your project and use it as the background for another picture. Do this by starting a new project and opening a photo you'd like as the foreground. Cut out the part you want by using the Scribble tool to select the object you want to keep and the background you want to remove. Select "extract" from the main drop-down menu. (Go back into this menu and choose "Deselect" before moving onto the next step.)
Add a new empty layer and drag it under your photo layer. Choose "camera fill" from the menu under the "&" tab to activate your camera. Shoot a photo and it will appear as the new background. Now, for instance, the picture of lunch at your desk appears to have been taken in the park.
2. Combine two photos
You can use this same layers technique to combine pictures. Say you want to put yourself in a photo of the Washington Monument that you took on a recent trip. You'll add a picture of yourself as a new layer and use the Scribble Tool to select the part you want to appear.
3. Add professional effects
Instagram has a blur tool and a good selection of filters, but that's about it. With Photoshop Touch, you've got a whole new bag of tricky effects found under the "fx" tab. You can sharpen, add blur in a specific direction and add drop shadows. You can also apply so-called artistic effects such as making your photo appear as if viewed through an old piece of rippled glass.
Unfortunately, there's one big thing that you can't do with Photoshop Touch: quickly remove an unwanted object and have the program fill in the hole to match the background. That feature, called content-aware fill, is only in the full version of Photoshop .
Photoshop Touch for smartphones works only with newer devices. Android users must have a phone running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or later, while the iPhone version works only on the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 models.