Product Review: Adobe Touch Apps 
for the iPad

June 7, 2011

By Dan Havlik

Adobe’s three new apps for the iPad—Adobe Eazel (shown here), Adobe Nav, and Adobe Color Lava—offer touch control and artistic tools that interact wirelessly with Photoshop on your computer.

It’s no secret that Adobe has big plans to bring a touch-based version of Photoshop to the iPad and other mobile devices. Sure, Adobe’s Photoshop Express app has been available for some time but that little, consumer-focused effects program is small potatoes compared to what the company has in the pipeline. At Photoshop World earlier this year, John Loiacono, a honcho in Adobe’s Digital Media Solutions Business Unit, showed off a demo of a prototype version of Photoshop for the iPad and it blew people’s minds. (You can find a video of the demo online. Google it.)

That product, however, is only a concept and there’s no word on when it might be available to the public. In the mean time, Adobe has released three quirky apps for the iPad. While they don’t necessarily revolutionize Photoshop, they should give you a hint of the potential of touch-based wireless photo editing.

The three apps, Adobe Nav, Adobe Color Lava, and Adobe Eazel, are all designed to work with Photoshop CS5 but you need the free upgrade to version 12.0.4 to enable them to work wirelessly with Photoshop on your computer. They also work with the new CS 5.5 suite but there’s a fee attached to that full package.

It’s worth noting that these three apps have been released in conjunction with a Photoshop Touch SDK (Software Developer’s Kit), which allows third-party software developers to create their own apps for Apple iOS, Android and Blackberry mobile and tablet devices to interact with Photoshop. The floodgates have opened and I’m looking forward to seeing what other developers have in store. Here are Adobe’s three entries.

The most photography-centric of the three touch apps is Adobe Nav ($1.99), which lets you customize and wirelessly activate Photoshop’s tool bar on your computer via your iPad. The app also serves as a document and image picker, letting you wirelessly scroll through and inspect photos on your computer using your iPad.

Photoshop’s tool bar hasn’t changed a whole heck of a lot in the 21 years it’s been around but Nav lets you hack it at will. You can get rid of tools you don’t use, add ones you like, rearrange the order of the tools and customize how they’re displayed all by using select and drag touch on your iPad.

At the same time, you can activate tools in Photoshop on your computer just by touching them on the iPad screen. This is pretty cool if not exactly earth shattering. It also means you’ll be adding another device to your workflow to access and interact with Photoshop.

Nav’s image picker capabilities seemed far more useful to me. Touch the grid view at the bottom of the app and it’ll show all the photos you have open in Photoshop on your iPad. Select one by touching it and it’ll immediately come to the foreground. If you want more info about a particular image, double tap it on your iPad and you’ll be able to see the basic metadata. You can pinch and enlarge or pinch and shrink photos on your iPad and scroll through them by swiping. Pretty neat stuff.

Even more useful, I think, is that Nav allows you to show off images in Photoshop on your iPad to other members of your creative team even if they’re in the next room or down the hall. Just take a stroll with your iPad and show them what you’ve got up on your computer.

Abode’s other two touch apps will likely appeal more to artists and designers than photographers. But anyone who remembers the joys of finger painting will probably dig them too.

Adobe Color Lava ($2.99) is a virtual palette, letting you mix and smear digital paint to create new colors, which you can export wirelessly to Photoshop or send out via e-mail. Select a color with your finger from the paint well in the lower left corner and smear it on Lava’s palette on your iPad. Choose more colors and blend them together. When you’re satisfied with a particular color, touch a swatch on your right and it will appear in that location.

The app’s developers have even created a simulated water well in the upper left hand corner of the app, which you can touch to “clean your finger” when you want to change colors on the palette. But you don’t have to. It’s only for fun and is actually pointless. I must say though, the computer-generated rippling water effect when you touch the well is pretty addictive.

Touching a color swatch on the right will wirelessly set it as the foreground color in Photoshop. Double-tapping a color will give you more info about it including a breakdown of its RGB values. Although I’m not sure I’d use this app regularly, there’s no denying it’s a blast to use and makes you feel like you’re back in art school (or kindergarten).


Adobe Eazel ($4.99) takes the finger painting attributes of Lava one step further. You start off with a blank page and by placing your five fingers on the screen it activates Eazel’s interface controls. With your index finger you can call up the color picker and then drag down to select your color.

Slide away with your finger on the digital canvas and start working on your masterpiece. The developer’s have done an excellent job of simulating the wet effect of paint by letting it swirl and eddy under your finger as you move it across the screen. (There’s no water well in this app though.)

Your other fingers reveal different options on the iPad’s touchscreen including adjusting brush size and opacity of the paint. While I enjoyed being able to control the app with just my hand, it takes some trial and error to figure out how to activate the various settings. Because this is an iPad app, there’s no manual though there are some helpful video tutorials on Adobe’s Web site.

When you’re done with your painting, send it wirelessly to Photoshop via a touch of your pinkie on the screen. One neat trick is that Eazel will automatically increase the resolution of your creation to correspond with the larger screen size of your computer. I’m not much of a painter—nor a finger painter, for that matter—but I’m sure this app will spawn it’s own subgenre of digital art. The results will likely be beautiful and terrible.

The photo world has been talking about a touch version of Photoshop pretty much since the time the iPad launched. It’s not here yet but, in the interim, we have these three appealing touch apps from Adobe. While none of them are likely to rock your world—unless you’re a painter, in which case, you’ll probably be spending a lot of time with Eazel and Lava—they show that Adobe has not been resting on its laurels as other software companies have dominated the photo app market. Adobe Nav, Lava, and Eazel are blast to use; they exploit the iPad’s touchscreen in creative ways; and they might even be useful for your day-to-day imaging workflow. But the best, I think, is still yet to come.

Adobe Touch Apps for the iPad

Pros: Fun to use; may help stimulate your creativity; seamless wireless integration 
with Photoshop.

Cons: Two of the three apps aimed more at artists than photographers; need most recent version of Photoshop CS5 or the full CS 5.5 package to connect wirelessly to your iPad.

Pricing: Adobe Nav – $1.99; Adobe Color 
Lava – $2.99; Adobe Eazel – $4.99