Adobe has been hard at work trying to create mobile editing experiences for photographers on the go; maybe Photoshop Express and its new updates will make the mobile software a viable option.
Being able to edit our images on devices like iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices isn’t anything new. Still, many companies have tried and failed at making photo editing software that offers everything we need while still be able to run smoothly on devices that are far less powerful than our laptops and desktops.
Adobe’s Photoshop Express has been around for a while now, and while it’s not a full Photoshop suite, it does have some interesting features. A new iOS update to the software has made it even more compelling. We’ve had our hands on the software for a little while now and we’re ready to share our findings. Should you download it? Well, read on to find out.
Editor’s note: Adobe provided me with a free one-year subscription to their Creative Cloud so that we could test out all of the new features in Photoshop Express. This has not affected the thoughts and views expressed here. This is a totally independent review.
What new in the latest update?
Adobe has introduced a ton of new features in Photoshop Express that bring some of the more advanced editing tools across into this mobile software. The update includes:
- Smooth Skin: Remove blemishes and smooth skin for a natural yet flawless finish in one tap.
- Heal: New and improved healing that is easier to use than ever to remove unwanted spots/objects in photos with spot healing and patch replacements, with adjustments for brushes, opacity and feathering.
- Face: Retouch a face with sliders that recognize face shape and adjust the angle of a head, add a smile, play with contouring and more.
- Caricature: Exaggerate facial features including a forehead, mouth, nose and more with sliders to create fun caricatures.
- Liquify: Reshape, swell or twirl an image.
Per Adobe, there are also tools for replacing closed eyes and selective edits. There’s also a new Discover Feed, which allows you to see how someone created a look, and then you can apply the same edits to your own photos. You can also send Photoshop Express PSD files directly from your mobile device to Photoshop on the desktop.
As you can see, there are some powerful new tools in Photoshop Express, and maybe a couple of gimmicky ones too. I used the software on my non-pro 9.7-inch iPad with the Apple Pencil and my iPhone 11 Pro Max. I mainly edited portrait images as this update seems to be all about portraits.
The user interface
You’re going to have two pretty different experiences using Adobe Photoshop Express. If you use an iPad or Android tablet, you’ll find that the software is well laid out and easy to navigate. If you use a Phone, you’ll find the menu systems a little cluttered and a little more difficult to navigate.
It’s by no means bad, nor is it unusable. I would like to have seen a better layout on the iPhone, though. You’ll find yourself swiping up, down, left and right an awful lot and it can just become bothersome. Still, we have to remember here that this is a mobile editing platform. Screen real estate, especially on phones always makes things a little more challenging. So, I guess we cannot be too picky here. It works and it gets the job done.
The new Photoshop Express tools, when used right, do a pretty great job
We’re not going to go into all of the functions of Adobe Photoshop Express. Instead, we will focus on the tools that have been added via the latest update.
The Smooth Skin tool
As the name implies, this tool will help you edit the skin of your model(s). We all might different opinions about how much is too much when it comes to editing. I think we can all agree that modern cameras with higher megapixel sensors and lenses that are sharper than ever make skin smoothing almost mandatory. Now you can do this on the go once you have transferred your images to your mobile device.
The tool is actually very easy to use. Select Retouch and then select your image. You’ll be greeted with a nicely laid-out screen with just a few options. The options are none, smooth and smoother. It’s pretty straightforward.
Smoother is much more aggressive than smooth, though smoother has a slider that lets you choose just how aggressive the treatment is. Smooth just applies a predetermined amount. Both honestly do a nice job. The AI in play in Photoshop Express does a great job at determining which areas of the images get the treatment. If you want to do a quick edit on the go so you can send proofs off to a client, the Smooth Skin tool does a more than decent job.
The Face tool
The Face tool in Photoshop Express allows you to alter the angle of your model’s head. It can create smiles that aren’t there, You can adjust the width and height of the nose, you can tilt, resize and change the distance of eyes. You can even contour the chin, cheeks and forehead. Personally, I’m not a big fan of these types of edits. I think it takes things too far, but, if you need these tools, then they’re there for you.
Again, the tools are easy to use. You simply select which part of the face you would like to alter and then you are presented with a simple sliding bar that allows you to increase or decrease the effect. My favorite by far would be the smile tool. It does a nice job, but like many other things, a little goes a long way. If you’re too heavy on the slider things can look pretty hideous very quickly. If your work requires you to sculpt perfection then you can now do it pretty easily on your iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows device.
Liquify and Charicature
The caricature and liquify features are fun to play with for sure. You can create some unique images as you can see above. I swear if anyone tells me they can’t tell which is the before and after, I’m done. Haha. If you want to have a good laugh, these are the tools for you to play with. I am sure your kiddos will have a good chuckle at the images you produce.
Like the other tools, once you select caricature you simply select which facial feature you want to change, and then you use sliders. It’s very simple to use. The Liquify tool allows you to add twirls and swells to your images. You can adjust the size of your brush, and you tap on the screen to select the area of the image you wish to liquify. Then, yes, you guessed it, you use a slider to adjust how much of the effect to apply. Unless you like to create incredibly abstract images, these will likely be a wash, but they’re fun nonetheless.
The new Healing tool
Anyone who has been around photo editing for a while will tell you just how powerful the healing tool can be. The new Photoshop Express update adds a reworked and more powerful healing tool to this mobile editing suite. I have to say, it’s mighty impressive. With just two taps I was able to remove the seagull in the image above. The basic mode will select an area to heal from for you, and for the most part, it works very well.
The advanced mode in the healing tool allows you to be much more selective. You simply paint the area you want to remove. Then you select the area of the image that Photoshop Express heals from. You can feather the brush, and you can alter the opacity. As you can see, I was able to remove all of the elements apart from the beach and the ocean. It took me about 60 seconds to make these adjustments. This is one powerful tool.
Is Photoshop Express worth the download?
I have to admit, before being asked to take a look at the update to Photoshop Express it had been a hot minute since I last tried to use it. I’m glad that I gave it a look. I have been using Lightroom Mobile and Snapseed on my mobile devices to edit images, but I think that with this update, Photoshop Express might just replace them both.
On top of the new features mentioned above, you can still use Photoshop Express to do standard image adjustments. You can also apply many filters and effects such as light leaks, raindrops, bokeh, smoke effects, noise, flares, glitch effects and more. There are also some pretty good presets baked right in too. It even has Dropbox, Facebook and Google Photo integration so you can easily import images. Is the software perfect? No, not by any means, but for a do-it-all mobile editor (mobile being the keyword here), it’s pretty darn good.
Photoshop Express is a free download for iOS, Android, and Windows devices. However, you’ll need the premium subscription version to get access to all of the editing tools. Download it and give it a try. You might be surprised at just how far mobile editing has come.