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Everything you need to know about Photoshop for iPad

Stollhaus Design
Photoshop for iPad

Creating an iPad app that will do Adobe Photoshop software justice is a challenge. I’ve used Adobe’s free mobile apps including Photoshop Express, Fix, and Mix but they don’t measure up to working on the desktop. Photoshop for iPad is an exception because it is a nearly full version of Photoshop designed for your tablet. You can start creating on the go!

As a designer, I use Photoshop on my iPad Pro for nearly all of my projects! I love the mobile convenience of Photoshop for iPad, and you will too! This app is more similar to the desktop software than any other mobile Photoshop app. Adobe aims to include all of Photoshop’s features in the app, but for now the iPad app is starting out with the most necessary tools. Photoshop for iPad differs from desktop software, but it’s based on the same code so you have access to Photoshop’s best features.

What do I need to use Photoshop for iPad?

Photoshop for iPad. The iPad Pro is displayed next to the Apple Pencil, a coffee cup, and weekly planner. On the screen there is a floral graphic and the Layers Panel is displayed.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

The mobile version of Photoshop for iPad is free to download from the app store, which you can visit by clicking here. All you need is an Adobe Creative Suite subscription and iOS 13.1 or later to run this app on your iPad. There is no additional charge to use this app. 

For the best working experience, I use the Apple Pencil because it is easier to draw with on the iPad. The Apple Pencil is especially easy to use when I select objects. You will find that it is better than a mouse or the Wacom tablet. If you work on a small laptop, the large iPad tablet screen size will give you another advantage. However, if you don’t own an iPad, is it worth buying one so you can use Photoshop? Here’s everything you need to know before using Photoshop for iPad.

Photoshop for iPad App Release Date

Photoshop for iPad Crop & Rotate tool.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Adobe released the Photoshop for iPad app on November 4th, 2019. Adobe’s goal is to add missing features over time, so eventually Photoshop for the iPad will be on par with the desktop software. There is no exact update schedule, so like all Adobe software, expect automatic updates for the iPad. Additional features will be added over time, so you may need to be patient if you want a specific feature.

Photoshop for iPad Compared to Photoshop for Desktop

Photoshop for iPad Layers Panel and Adjustments menu.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

On Photoshop for iPad, you have convenient access to basic masking and retouching tools. Several main features are missing. At the moment, there is no dodge and burn tool so you will need to use desktop Photoshop to access these tools. Adobe responds to user feedback as they develop their software updates, so if there’s a feature you want, let them know! You can leave feedback and report bugs on their website by clicking here

Features in Photoshop for iPad

Photoshop Reveal tools help menu. Tap twice to reveal your tools.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

In Photoshop for the iPad you can create layers, masks, selections, and more! Additionally you can use basic Photoshop tools for retouching and illustrating. Here are the features on Photoshop for iPad:

Layers in in Photoshop for iPad

Photoshop for iPad Layer properties panel.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Layers are an essential part of your Photoshop workspace. In Photoshop for iPad, you can create new layers, layer masks, adjust opacity, and change blending modes. You have the ability to delete layers and load layers as a selection. Additionally, you can select, delete, add, subtract, and intersect masks. There are no layer effects and smart filters yet, but hopefully Adobe will add them. Photoshop for iPad adds a condensed layer view that’s very detailed compared to the desktop layers panel, so this may be advantageous.

Adjustment Layers in in Photoshop for iPad

Photoshop for iPad Layer Actions panel.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

In addition to regular layers you can add adjustment layers to change levels, brightness, contrast, hue and saturation, color balance, and more. To add an adjustment layer, tap the triple dots at the bottom of the layers panel, this will open the ‘Layer actions’ menu. From the menu, tap ‘Add clipped adjustment.’ Next, you will be brought to a secondary menu where you can choose your adjustment settings. 

Adjustment Layer: ‘Add clipped adjustment’ > ‘Adjustments’ 

Selections in Photoshop for iPad

Use the Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro to make selections in the Photoshop app.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

It is easy to make selections on the touchscreen! The Apple Pencil makes complex selections far easier than using a mouse. In Photoshop for iPad, you can use the Lasso, Quick Selection, rectangle or circular tools, and the Select Subject tool. Selections can be inverted or made into masks. Refine your selection with the Refine Brush found in the Selection Toolbox. For all Select and Mask options, such as Select Object and the Magnetic Lasso, you will need to use the desktop version until the app is updated.

Refine Brush: ‘Selection Toolbox’ > ‘More’

Tap the Lasso tool in the main menu twice to reveal your other selection tools. 

Retouching in in Photoshop for iPad

Photoshop for iPad Spot Healing Brush settings panel.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Do you love photo editing? So do I! Use the clone and healing tools in Photoshop for iPad to retouch your photos. You’ll have to wait for more advanced retouching features  like the dodge and burn tools. To create a dodge  and burn alternative, I use adjustment layers to make a dodge and burn effect. 

Basic Tools in in Photoshop for iPad

Photoshop for iPad Brush Settings display panel.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Photoshop for iPad includes all of my favorite basic illustration tools! Use the Paintbrush Tool to select various brushes and adjust their settings. Just like Photoshop for the desktop, use the Fill Tool and Gradient Tool to add color. You can add text with the Type Tool. In addition to these features, you can crop and transform objects as well in Photoshop for iPad. To rotate your canvas, you will need to open the Crop Tool and drag one finger to rotate the image in your desired direction. 

You will need to wait for Adobe app updates or use the desktop software to use missing features such as Curves, Content-Aware Fill, Liquify, Warp, Sharpening, and essentials such as Image Resizing. The only filter available on Photoshop for iPad is Gaussian Blur. You should use Photoshop for the iPad in partnership with the desktop software so you can get the benefits of both digital editing software programs. I wouldn’t consider the app as a replacement for the desktop Photoshop software.

Get Started in Photoshop for iPad

Using Photoshop on the iPad with the Apple Pencil to make selections.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Adobe Photoshop for iPad is similar to Photoshop for the desktop! Opening the app will feel familiar if you use Photoshop on the desktop. Your toolbar will appear on the left. You will find layers and properties on the right side. The app interface is simpler than the desktop interface so there is more workspace on your screen. Finding certain tools may require some extra searching because the controls are optimized for the iPad interface instead of desktop. 

Here’s a tip to find tools in Photoshop for the iPad. To access similar tools, tap and hold the corner Triangle icons to access a Tool Options bar when a tool is selected. The Triple Dot menu is also integrated to hide more options. More tools can also be found by opening a smaller menu.  You will notice that there is no File menu at the top of the workspace, but you do have a header that provides options such as undo, redo, export, and save files. 

Adobe Document Cloud

Adobe Photoshop Export Menu
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

With Adobe, you have the option to save your files to the new Document Cloud. Streamline your workflow by saving files to Adobe’s Cloud when you work on a mobile device and access them later in the desktop version of Photoshop. You can be confident that your files are safe and secure. Connecting to your files is easy, and with an iPad you can access files from anywhere and share across devices. Creative Cloud gives you 100GB of storage in addition to 20 apps, thousands of fonts, your own portfolio website, and more. It’s the perfect digital toolbox for creative professionals.

You may need to be patient when syncing large files, but all of my large PSD files took very little time to sync. 

Gesture Controls for the iPad

Adobe Photoshop Gesture Controls
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

In Photoshop for iPad, the touch shortcut replaces keyboard shortcuts. Change tools with ease. For instance, When you’re using the Paintbrush Tool, simply tap the circle to switch to the eraser tool. Tap and hold the center to access the primary shortcut. Tap and slide your finger to the outer edge of the circle to activate a secondary shortcut. Move the touch shortcut circle by tapping, holding, and dragging it to another part of your screen. When activated, a description of the shortcut’s action according to the selected tool will appear in the upper right corner of your screen.

Touch Shortcut Tool in Photoshop for iPad

Adobe Photoshop Touch Shortcuts
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

In Photoshop for iPad, you can find several tool options in the Touch Shortcut Tool that require a keyboard in the desktop version of Photoshop. Tasks that require a shift key can most likely be found in touch shortcuts. Use the touch shortcut to crop proportionally or add to a selection. View a full list of touch shortcuts here (coming soon) or tap the ‘question mark icon > and ‘View touch shortcuts’ inside the app.

I love using gesture controls to streamline my work! Here are a few app gesture controls that can help you. Once you get used to them, gesture controls will speed up your work pace. Here are some basic gesture controls:

Gesture Controls

  • Undo: Use two fingers to tap on the screen.
  • Redo: Use three fingers to tap on the screen.
  • Zoom: Use two fingers to pinch on the screen.
  • Pan around canvas: Use two fingers to drag on the screen.
  • To View at 100%: Use one finger to double-tap on the screen.
  • Rotate: Use one finger to rotate by dragging the image in the desired direction. It will return to its original position. In order to set the desired rotation, use the crop tool and rotate within it. 

Should I get Adobe Photoshop for iPad?

Photoshop for iPad, Layers Panel, and Apple Pencil.
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

Of course! Photoshop for iPad is easy for professionals and beginners to use. If you are already a Creative Cloud subscriber, the app will be at no extra cost to you. Photoshop for the desktop is the true professional workspace, but you should try the app! Personally, I prefer drawing on the iPad with my Apple Pencil over using my Wacom tablet to draw on the desktop because it feels more natural. For the best experience, it’s worth utilizing both versions of Photoshop.

On the desktop version, you can access all of the features that haven’t been added to Photoshop for iPad yet such as curves, content-aware fill, warp tools, liquify, sharpening, filters, and image resizing. Use Photoshop for iPad in partnership with Photoshop for the desktop to access all of Adobe’s tools! Visit the app store today to download Photoshop for iPad, free for Adobe Creative Suite subscribers!

The new Adobe Document Cloud is also free with your Creative Suite Subscription. Document Cloud is great for saving and securely sharing PDFS. Save to the Cloud for easy file access between your mobile iPad and desktop!

iPad App Updates

Photoshop for iPad Help Panel
Sarah Stoll / Stollhaus

You can follow Adobe’s updates to Photoshop for iPad on their website by clicking here. In the latest February 2021 update, Adobe added an invite to edit option so you can share and collaborate with other users. You can find the Invite to edit icon on the top right corner of Photoshop in the iPad app. Additionally, you can sync your presets, such as brushes and patterns, across devices through your Creative Cloud ID. To enable Preset Syncing, check Preset Syncing in ‘Preferences’ > ‘General.’

Why should I subscribe to Adobe Creative Suite?

Not only can you use Photoshop for iPad free by subscribing to Adobe Creative Suite, you have access to the best design software. Whether you are a design professional or a Photoshop hobbyist, Adobe provides many platforms for visual design and creative development. If you would like to learn more about what Adobe Creative Suite has to offer, visit the Software Blog section (coming soon) to learn more about video editing, 3D design, 2D design, and photography retouching. If you enjoyed learning about everything you need to know about Photoshop for iPad, you will  love our free Photoshop tutorials and tips. Click here (coming soon) to learn more!

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