Rejoice, Photoshop junkies of the world, because Adobe is jumping into the tablet world for real. And while this is not Photoshop for iPad (yet), my most precious body appendage is tingling with pleasant turgidity anyway.
These are the first three Photoshop Touch apps coming from Adobe. They will be available sometime in May from the App Store and their names are Eazel, colour Lava and Nav. But if Photoshop Touch is not the Photoshop for iPad, what is it and how do these three apps work?
What is Photoshop Touch?
Adobe is updating Photoshop CS5 with a new architecture that will allow it to speak to iOS, Android and Blackberry tablets wirelessly.
Called Photoshop CS5 Extended, the free update has plugs that allow third-party applications to communicate directly with it in real time. These plugs will be publicly accessible through something called the Photoshop Touch Software Development Kit, meaning that any app developer would be able to integrate their applications with desktop Photoshop.
The possibilities of the Photoshop Touch SDK are truly endless. People would be able to use their iPad or Honeycomb tablet to do things like fully control Photoshop tools, from brushes to colours to layers. In effect, this transforms your favourite tablet into a control surface for your favourite image editing software, just like there are apps that could work a control surfaces for music and video editing software.
Adobe Nav for Photoshop CS5
That's the case of the first of their new three apps: Adobe Nav for Photoshop CS5. Using Nav you can create a custom palette with 16 of your favourite tools, as well as use it to pick colours or zoom. It will also allow you to navigate up to 200 documents already opened in Photoshop CS5, access their information, allowing you to reorder them to suit your workflow, and even zoom into the documents at will. Think about this last feature as a virtual light box for your current open documents. Nav will also allow you to open any document from your iPad on your desktop Photoshop instantaneously.
But Adobe's new touch SDK goes beyond turning your tablet into a control surface. Developers would also be able to create painting or photo editing apps that could work independently of the desktop version of Photoshop, but integrate with it when they are connected via Wi-Fi.
Eazel and colour Lava
That's precisely what Adobe has done with Color Lava and Eazel. colour Lava allows you to mix colours in a natural way, like a real paint palette. From the mixes you can create individual colour swatches and also colour themes. This app works connected to Photoshop in real time, but also on its own. I can imagine an industrial or interior designer using it anywhere to match colours or create colour themes that can later be instantly synchronized with the desktop version of Photoshop.
The most exciting app of this pack, however, is Eazel. Their painting application for iPad works completely independently from their desktop version and it uses new technology to simulate paint media and do some really neat and very useful tricks:
• The first is their interface, which looks beautiful in its simplicity: Place five fingers on the screen and controls appear to change colour, opacity or brush size.
• The other cool technology is the mixing of wet and dry paint for colour blending, with an engine that allows paint to dry over time, just like in real life.
• But my favourite new tech comes with their Photoshop CS5 export process. When you send your paintings from Eazel to Photoshop CS5, you can select to render them at any resolution. In other words: You can re-create your painting and have it ready to print at any size you can imagine, with full detail and no pixelation whatsoever.
I'm a Sketchbook for iPad junkie, but after reading that, I'm sold (I hope Autodesk works CS5 integration on Sketchbook too). I'm really excited to learn about this resolution-independent operation, because it means that a future Photoshop for iPad may work in a similar way. I can imagine taking my iPad and my DSLR on a trip, connecting to the iPad to quickly make modifications to RAW photos, compose shots or make HDR on the go using proxy images, and then re-rendering them on the desktop for print resolution (until the iPad has enough built-in memory to handle big DSLR images on its own, something that will happen eventually too).
I will be testing these apps for the next few days and post the review here when they are available in the Apple store, sometime in May. Hopefully, many others will come both from Adobe and third-party developers.