Adobe’s approach to mobile apps seems to be “The More, The Better”. Right now, there are five Photoshop branded apps available for iOS and Android.
- Photoshop Express (iOS, Android).
- Photohop Fix (iOS, Android).
- Photoshop Mix (iOS, Android).
- Photoshop Sketch (iOS, Android).
- Photoshop Lightroom CC (iOS, Android).
Each of these apps takes a different part of Photoshop (or Lightroom’s) core functionality and adapts it to mobile devices. You can use them all on your phone or tablet, although you will definitely have a better experience if you’re using something like an iPad Pro rather than a cheap phone with a small screen.
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While you only need a free, basic Adobe account to use the Photoshop mobile apps, you get more functionality and better syncing between apps (as well as easy syncing to the desktop versions of Photoshop and Lightroom) if you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber.
Photoshop Express was Adobe’s first major attempt to make a Photoshop mobile app. It’s been around for a few years and is the most general (and least Photoshop-like) app available.
Photoshop Express offers basic editing tools, resizing and cropping, Instagram-esque filters, RAW image support, blemish removal, text overlays, borders, and a really good collage maker. It’s basically a very competent, if generic, mobile image editor that syncs with Adobe’s Creative Cloud and other apps. If you’re a Creative Cloud user, that’s probably reason enough to use it. If you’re not, there are better mobile image editors out there, like Snapseed (iOS, Android).
Photoshop Fix takes Photoshop’s image retouching and restoring features and puts them in a mobile app. With it, you can heal blemishes, adjust the shape of facial features using liquify, smooth or sharpen skin, dodge and burn your image, add vignettes, and perform basic image adjustments like brightening or adding contrast.
Photoshop Fix packs a lot of power into a mobile app. You can do some semi-serious retouching, especially of selfies taken with your smartphone. While using your finger is a bit blunt, if you’re using a stylus and a tablet, you might actually prefer Fix’s tools to the one’s in Photoshop on your computer.
While I’m not sure how many people need Fix, it can definitely make any selfie you post to Instagram look exceptional, and it shows just how powerful smartphones and tablets are that Adobe is able to get it to run on mobile devices.
Photoshop Mix is the mobile take on Photoshop’s layout and compositing tools. You can remove and replace objects from your images, combine multiple images, work with different layers and blend modes, perform basic image edits, and otherwise just mix different images together into a single composite. For example, you could use Photoshop Mix follow along quite closely with my article on how to create a lightsaber in the desktop version of Photoshop.
Like Photoshop Fix, Photoshop Mix is a great app and an incredible tech demo that works best on a tablet. I use it occasionally when I want to quickly combine a few different image assets on the go.
Photoshop Sketch takes Photoshop’s painting engine and brings it to mobile devices. If you’re familiar with Photoshop’s brush features, you’ll be right at home in Sketch. You can use different brushes to digitally paint new artwork or work on existing images. You have total control over the different brush effects, color, opacity, and more. You can even work with shapes to make painting easier.
Sketch is probably the best of the Photoshop branded apps. Its features fit most natively with the kind of things people tend to do on their phones or tablets. It’s a really great digital art app and well worth checking out.
Photoshop Lightroom CC
Photoshop Lightroom is Adobe’s photo organization app and RAW image editor. The mobile version fulfils the same purpose, and if you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber, syncs all your photos and edits with your regular Lightroom Library. You can sort, rate, tag, and edit all the images on your device or synced through the Creative Cloud. The editing features aren’t as powerful as Photoshop, but they’re more than enough for most things. I edit 90% of my images in Lightroom without ever sending them to Photoshop.
Unlike the other apps, Lightroom keeps some features, like local adjustments and RAW editing, locked away behind a Premium subscription. If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber you automatically get the Premium features; if not, you can get them, and 100GB of online storage, for $4.99 a month.
Lightroom is a lot more than just an image editor. If you’re going to seriously start using it on your mobile devices, it will most likely replace the Photos app as your go-to image browser.
Adobe has a lot of different Photoshop apps and each serves a purpose. Now you should have some idea which one to use when.