Last year at Adobe MAX 2018, the company announced development of Photoshop on the iPad. There was a lot of excitement built up around that, and finally, we have the chance to use it!

On Monday, Photoshop on the iPad was released, marking the first time that Photoshop — yes, the actual Photoshop that’s been around for nearly 30 years — has made it to a touchscreen device.

Yes, there was Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Express, but nothing is quite like the Photoshop on the iPad experience. It brings capabilities over from the desktop version we know and love — everything from Layers to Blend Modes — and puts them into an interface specifically designed for the iPad screen.

Earlier this week I had the chance to sit down with Jenny Lyell, the Lead Project Manager for Photoshop on the iPad. We talked about the development process, initial impressions of the app, as well as what users can expect with future updates.

Touch is the name

Simply put, Photoshop on the iPad is Photoshop. In Lyell’s words, “It’s the only mobile app that uses the same shared Photoshop code base as desktop. It has the same power — the same computing power — and it delivers the same results.”

Because of that, users can expect a very similar experience no matter the device they’re using.

“We wanted to get the [version 1.0] out early because we want to build with that community of people who are working on it now and 30 years into the future,” Lyell said. “We want to bring the latest, most efficient, precise, fastest technology over [to the iPad] too. When we do our planning, we plan as an ecosystem, so it’s very tightly coordinated.

What about the …

Lyell is well aware that every tool available in Photoshop on desktop hasn’t made it into Photoshop on the iPad yet. But it’s a matter of taking the code that’s already there, and designing it in a way that makes sense for touchscreen devices and users.

“What is different, intentionally, is the user experience and design experience,” said Lyell. “We wanted to make sure that we put some core features in, but we didn’t want to put all 30 years of the features in, because that’s being pretty presumptuous that people are going to have the same exact problems and same needs.”

So will we see things like the Pen tool, and the new Object Select tool, in Photoshop on the iPad soon?

“It gives us an opportunity, if we start with some core features, to create new and improved features,” said Lyell. “The features are coming in gradually because we want to make sure we give you the best. That takes time because, one, from an experience standpoint, what’s the best experience here? And two, how do we make sure from a technical standpoint that that feature is a model that will work with the iPad?

“There were updates that we had to make to the shared code base so it worked across the [Windows, Mac and iOS] systems. [For example,] Liquify is currently a plugin on desktop, and iOS doesn’t support plugins. So we’re looking at, ‘how do we get Liquify rearchitected and refactored so it’s in this code base that is shared between both iOS and the desktop?'”

Primary or secondary device?

One of the things I was most interested in talking about is whether Lyell thought that Photoshop on the iPad could replicate the desktop experience, and in a sense, become a professional’s primary machine.

“I think it depends on the user. The main reason why we built this is because we kept on hearing from our existing Photoshop desktop customers that they simply want to have the choice to work away from their desktop. They just want the choice,” said Lyell.

“For existing users today, it’s a great companion. For new users, they may be mobile natives and not want to use their desktop. We’re constantly thinking of both of these groups and their workflows.”

And yes, Lightroom is on the horizon

In my interview with Tom Hogarty, Senior Director of Project Management for Lightroom, he mentioned creating an integration between Lightroom and Photoshop on the iPad. Lyell agrees.

“Right now we’re figuring out what that looks like. There are a lot of our customers who use Lightroom and Photoshop together. So we’re exploring and learning about what’s most important first,” she said.

When will Photoshop on the iPad be caught up?

There’s been a lot of talk from users about the app not being fully finished yet. But Lyell sees it differently.

“I think it would do us a disservice if we were constantly chasing the 30 years of 10,000 features,” she said. “Catching up to me means people can complete their workflows end to end, have the same quality output and feel like it is efficient, powerful and fast. We’re constantly thinking about how to get there as soon as possible.”

Looking ahead

While Photoshop on the iPad is still in its infancy, Lyell is excited for what the future holds.

“A lot of people have put a lot of emphasis on what it’s going to be like on day one. But we’re thinking about the long game — where do we want to be in five or ten years?” she said.

“We want new creatives of our future, students who are in high schools now to be able to use it. We want existing pros to really see this as a first class citizen and have that choice to use it on the desktop or use it anywhere. I see this gradually rounding out. By listening to the community, we will build the right product, and I’m confident of that. That’s our goal.”