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Adobe Photoshop for iPad, Project Gemini and lots, lots more

The Adobe Max conference brought a taste of Adobe's cross-device version of Photoshop, art spin-off Project Gemini and a deluge of Creative Cloud updates.

Photoshop for iPad.

Adobe

At its annual Adobe Max conference, Adobe let loose with its new Creative Cloud cross-platform apps, highlighted by a preview of the long, long-awaited Photoshop for iPad

It also previewed Project Gemini, which spins off the brushes and brush engine from Photoshop into a drawing and painting app and Project Aero, the AR-creation app that briefly debuted onstage during Apple WWDC 2018 in June. Plus, the mobile video-editing app that went into preview in June, Project Rush, is a now full-fledged, start-subscribing mobile and desktop app dubbed Premiere Rush CC. And, oh yeah, there are updates to the desktop apps.

Don't get too excited, though. Photoshop, Project Gemini and Project Aero aren't expected until 2019 the earliest. Gemini is currently out in a limited, prerelease iOS-only trial. It will be available first on iOS then roll out to other pen-and-touch devices. 

One of the most notable other changes Adobe made to CC involves fonts: It rebranded TypeKit to Adobe Fonts and changed the service so that all CC plans include the complete library, all faces come in web and desktop variants, and there's no limit on the number you can sync or usage based on page views or domains.

In the works

For its most recent mobile apps, Adobe has been using the code base of the desktop software and combining it with its Adobe Sensei AI architecture and cloud syncing to provide a coherent creation experience across all devices. (Lightroom required a lot more back-to-square-one work because the desktop version is built around an archaic database.)

So, for example, Photoshop for iPad will save native PSD files, which will open in Photoshop and import as you'd expect into other Creative Cloud applications. Since Project Gemini is also based off the Photoshop engine, you'll be able to sync brushes between the two.

It's not clear exactly how much of Photoshop's capabilities will make it into the iPad version, though it's definitely a targeted subset specifically for photo editing and compositing, supplying blending options, adjustment layers, layer masks and support for a lot of layers. Adobe replaces keyboard modifiers (for example, alt) with touch-and-hold gestures.

Project Gemini currently supplies only two natural brushes, watercolor and oil.

Adobe

As for Project Gemini, it seems to me that it's on shakier ground as a product, simply because it's so late to the game. If you need the cloud sync and Photoshop brush integration more than a fully developed feature set, then that's one of the few reasons to use it rather than one of the zillion excellent veteran competitors such as ZenBrush, ArtRage or Procreate.

Project Aero works with AR-compatible USDZ files out of Photoshop and Adobe Dimension -- that's the new format developed by Apple and Pixar which was announced at WWDC -- allowing you to place and animate AR overlay content. All the CC 2019 applications now support USDZ.

Now available

With Premiere Rush CC Adobe hopes to provide social media professionals with a video-editing tool that's both powerful and easy to use across desktop and mobile. It combines the underlying engines of Adobe's big three video creation tools -- Premiere Pro (video editing), After Effects (motion graphics) and Audition (audio editing) -- under a simpler, streamlined interface that works on any device. Projects get synced automatically, and when necessary it performs a lot of the heavy lifting in the cloud.

Premiere Rush CC on Windows.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Adobe's strategy of shipping redesigned, cross-platform tools feels like a blueprint for dragging its desktop-application users into modernized versions of the software -- without the kicking and screaming it experienced when it demoted Lightroom CC to Lightroom CC Classic. But the problem with mobile-first interface design is that you end up trading efficient use of screen real estate for cross-app consistency -- it's all compressed down to the size of the smallest intended screen.

Or, in the case of Rush, it forces desktop apps to adhere to mobile conventions. For instance, you can't save your projects manually. On the desktop they're saved automatically to... somewhere. (Thankfully it syncs independently of your CC files, otherwise I'd have had to wait for 16GB to sync in order to access. Creative Cloud is great for syncing libraries and so on, but as a cloud drive it's still pretty bad.)

Premiere Rush CC on the iPhone (left) and iPad (right).

Lori Grunin/CNET

Performance varies. It takes a while to ingest new videos and populate thumbnails of content in the folder views on all platforms. I found that it worked smoothly on a modern laptop (HP Spectre x360 15 with an Intel Core i7-8705G, the one with AMD Vega graphics) and an iPhone 8 Plus, but was unusable on my old iPad Air 2 -- unable to play back video smoothly or respond quickly enough to select frames precisely. And on both Apple devices it failed to render transparency properly in a graphic overlay video that looked fine on Windows.

Rush interoperability with Premiere requires the 2019 version. Like all of the individual CC app plans, it will cost $10 per month for individuals, $20 per month for teams and $30 per month for enterprise. It's included with the full CC subscription, a Premiere Pro CC subscription and the student subscription and includes 100GB storage. The free trial lets you create an unlimited number of projects, but only allows you to export three.

Update highlights

The parade of news for other products includes:

  • All the video application upgrades announced earlier this year are now available. They include Characterizer, within Character Animator, a cool new program which lets you quickly and automatically create facial animations.
  • Spark Post is now available on Android.
  • With all the attention on the iPad version, the only updates Photoshop CC received were a host of small, quick-to-implement new features that streamline operation -- what Adobe refers to as JDI, or "just do it" updates.
  • Lightroom CC finally got its People view and a tool to migrate from Apple Photos on the desktop to LR. Lightroom Classic received a significant performance boost earlier this year, with improvement to performance scaling in systems which have a lot of processor cores. This go-round, Adobe has improved the speed and stability of tethering for Canon cameras, with Nikon improvements on the way. It also can now use the depth-map information found in portrait-mode phone photos to improve masking (also in Adobe Camera Raw), and a single-step HDR panorama merge.
  • Illustrator CC now allows you to perform global edits across artboards -- woo hoo! -- can take advantage of an external GPU on the Mac, and a resolution-independent zoom (so that 100 percent view on a 4K monitor is the same size as a 100 percent on an HD display, for example). There's also a new presentation mode, which turns each artboard into a slide.
  • InDesign receives some of the whizziest updates, such as content-aware fit (which determines what the subject is when it places a photo in an existing frame), automatic layout adjustment for photos and text frames when you make changes, the ability to import PDF comments and faster text handling.

And a lot more.