Adobe Photoshop Fix review: Serious image retouching goes mobile
By J.R. Bookwalter
At a glance
Nearly three years ago, Adobe launched Photoshop Touch, initially an iPad-only mobile version of the company’s legendary desktop image editing software. As the name implied, tablet (and eventually smartphone) owners could manipulate layers and other familiar tools for the first time with multi-touch to create or tweak artwork and photos using only their fingers.
Earlier this year, Adobe announced plans to discontinue Touch in favor of an entirely new “serious retouching solution for mobile,” having previously branched many of the layer-based tools into a new app called Photoshop Mix. Now that the replacement has finally arrived, are two image editing apps really better than one?
It’s no coincidence Adobe Photoshop Fix arrives on the scene just as smartphones and tablets have become more powerful with each passing year. In addition to larger resolution images and iOS 9 Split View multitasking, Fix also supports Apple Pencil for more precision painting and other adjustments not possible with fingers alone.
One thing leads to another
But that only scratches the surface: The new Liquify feature allows users to manipulate or reshape areas of an image in powerful new ways using Warp, Swell, Twirl, or Reconstruct tools. I was particularly impressed by Face mode, which can be used to automatically recognize and reshape the look of anyone’s mug, or even turn that frown upside-down by adding (or improving upon) a smile instead.
Fix also delivers Photoshop’s awesome Heal and Patch tools to mobile. Use a finger to select an unwanted object, and within seconds it’s removed and intelligently replaced with pixels from the surrounding area. However, this feature isn’t yet quite as thorough as on the desktop—objects extending beyond the edge of the frame left the remnant of a thin line that had to be removed with the Clone Stamp tool instead.
Among the other tools included with Fix are the ability to Smooth or Sharpen selected areas of an image, as well as Lighten or Darken specific portions, rather than affecting the entire photo. While in use, the Brush panel along the left edge (which automatically collapses when not in use) provides size, hardness, and opacity settings.
Marquee features aside, Photoshop Mix also includes an impressive lineup of more traditional crop, exposure, contrast, saturation, shadow, and highlight tools, as well as color, paint, defocus, and vignette. They’re all quite intuitive and easy to use, with tooltip pop-ups that walk users through the process at every turn.
Saved by zero
Surprisingly, all of this works equally as well on iPhone as it does on iPad, something rarely true in the case of the now-defunct Photoshop Touch. Edits made to projects on one device are synced to others, but must first be saved to your Creative Cloud asset library before they can be loaded into Photoshop Mix.
Personally, I’d prefer a more seamless way to move projects between the two apps. For example, Creative Cloud members can send edits to the desktop as a layered PSD file, which open directly in Photoshop CC, ready for further refinement. The combination of Fix and Mix is actually strong enough that Adobe should consider consolidating them into a single mobile powerhouse, similar to how they recently combined four individual (yet loosely connected) camera apps into Capture CC.
One other thing conspicuously absent from Fix is extension support for the built-in Photos app. Adobe Photoshop Express already offers this for adding basic looks and adjustments, but it would be awesome to have more powerful retouching tools available without having to first load images into Fix, then save them to the Camera Roll as new files.
Although earlier versions of Photoshop Mix relied on the cloud to do some of the heavy lifting, Photoshop Fix performs its impressive tasks on the device itself; however, an active internet connection (and free Adobe ID) are required to use the app. Unlike the separate Photoshop Touch apps for iPad and iPhone, Fix is also universal and free to download, but you’ll need a Creative Cloud Photography or higher membership to take advantage of the sync features.
Together with Mix, Adobe Photoshop Fix is indeed the serious mobile retouching solution the company pledged to deliver. Now it’s time to either consolidate both into a single app or make it easier to move projects between each—and throw in extension support for Apple Photos while we’re at it.