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Photoshop touches down on the iPad

Adobe's excellent Photoshop Touch tablet app finally arrives on iOS 5.

Your opening screen, which shows all the projects you've saved. To transfer them to the desktop, you can upload them to Adobe Creative Cloud and open them in Photoshop CS5.1 or later. It preserves the layers, but not much else.
Screen capture by Lori Grunin/CNET
While Photoshop Touch offers a nice set of special effects and adjustments, $10 is probably overkill if that's all you're looking for. Lori Grunin/CNET

Just a few months after its first suite of Creative apps debuted on Android, Adobe makes good on shipping its flagship Photoshop Touch for iPad. The app, which is as close to identical to the Android version as is possible given the platform differences, is available on iTunes for the same $9.99; it requires an iPad 2 running iOS 5. Adobe says the iPadification of the rest of the Touch apps is under way.

Once you get the hang of it, the interface is pretty straightforward. However, it also tends to block large chunks of the image. Lori Grunin/CNET

I really liked the Android version, and the app has generally gotten high marks from users in the Android Market. There are some complaints that it lacks features of the desktop version, which makes me laugh; yes, I'd love modern niceties like adjustment layers, a real text engine, and the ability to handle images larger than 1,600x1,600 pixels, but tablet tech isn't quite ready to handle those demands. That said, it can be frustrating, for example, to not have enough detail for selections and adjustments when the original photo starts as a 24-megapixel image.

The app has a nice set of adjustment and special-effects brushes. In the layer stack on the right you can see how the app treats text as individual rendered layers. Lori Grunin/CNET

Working with text also feels like traveling back in time. You can enter, place, resize, and rotate text using one of the handful of included fonts. But once you click apply, it rasterizes the text.

The PSDX files can get pretty large, too. For instance, a 1,600x1.200-pixel image with two layers combined with a blend mode takes about 5.5MB. That seems small, but can add up over time, and if you choose not to fork over $50 a month for Creative Cloud then you (at least for the moment) can export only flattened files.

The one tool that I do think it needs is a one-click white balance; instead there's a difficult-to-use three-channel color balance adjustment or an all-or-nothing Auto Fix tool. And some of the algorithms, like Reduce Noise (which seems to merely blur), don't seem quite up to Adobe's usual standard.

Nitpicks aside, PSTouch is a full-featured image-editing app, with modern selection tools, brushes, adjustments, effects, warps, and gradients. If your needs run beyond quick auto adjustments and effects, Photoshop Touch on either tablet platform is well worth the $9.99.