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Touch up photos on iOS for free with Adobe Photoshop Mix

Ben Pitt
5 Feb 2015
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Edit photos on iPhone or iPad with the very handy Photoshop Mix

The shift from desktop software to mobile apps has caught some software publishers on the hop, but Adobe has embraced the change. Photoshop Mix is its latest effort, and is available for free for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. It's not as feature-packed as Photoshop touch (£6.99 for the iPad, £2.99 for the iPhone) but there's a surprising amount it can do even with its small collection of features.

Creative Cloud

Creative Cloud is the name of Adobe's subscription service for its desktop applications, but it's also the name of its cloud storage service. Customers on paid subscriptions get 20GB of online storage, but it's free to sign up to an Adobe ID and receive 2GB of free storage. This is a requirement for using Photoshop Mix. The app can transfer images to and from the iOS device's Camera Roll, but saving to Creative Cloud has various advantages. It provides an offline backup, and makes it easy to transfer files to a desktop computer. It also means projects can be saved in PSD format, retaining access to separate layers and masks if you want to carry on editing in Photoshop Elements or another desktop editor. Transfers work the other way too, so files can be uploaded from a desktop computer to the cloud and downloaded into Photoshop Mix.

With the app installed, tap the + button to load an image to edit from the available sources: the iOS device's local storage and camera, Creative Cloud, Lightroom (via Creative Cloud), Facebook and Dropbox. Existing projects can be saved to Creative Cloud as a PSD file using the Save to Photoshop option. Tapping the Creative Cloud icon below a project file in the browser backs up that project, complete with project settings.

Shaping up

The first task for most photo-editing jobs is to crop and straighten the image. As we'll explain below, there are some situations where you might want to hold off doing this until later, but we'll cover it now because it's so easy.

In fact, it's arguably a little too easy in Photoshop Mix. When no editing tool is selected, dragging the canvas to move, pinching it to zoom or twisting to rotate performs an edit rather than just changing your view of the canvas. Thankfully, this and many other edits are non-destructive, so cropped pixels are merely hidden rather than removed. However, if you want to overlay two copies of the same image (for reasons we'll explain below) it's best not to crop just yet.

Moving, resizing and rotating when no tool is selected only adjusts the one layer. To perform a conventional crop that affects both layers, tap the Crop button. Edits can still be made by dragging the canvas itself, but here it's also possible to drag corners and edges to adjust the size and shape of the canvas. Various preset aspect ratios are available by tapping the thumbnails at the bottom.

Colour correction

Tapping the Adjust button reveals Photoshop Mix's colour-correction controls. The Auto Fix button calibrates colours automatically, but it's easy to fine-tune these settings or to process colours manually. Adjustments are made by selecting a control and then swiping the image left and right.

^ Lowering the Contrast and boosting the Clarity controls brings out details in the shadows and highlights while still maintaining punchy contrast

Exposure, Contrast and Saturation don't need any explanation, but the Clarity control is more unusual. This boosts the contrast compared to nearby pixels, placing the effect somewhere between contrast and sharpening. It's useful for bringing out details, but without the risk of obliterating shadows and highlights as the Contrast control is prone to doing. Boosting the Clarity can make faces look a bit craggy, but it often works a treat for landscapes.

It's a bit frustrating that Photoshop Mix lacks a gamma control for adjusting the brightness of mid-tones. However, reducing the Contrast and boosting the Clarity does an excellent job of revealing details that are getting lost in the darkest and brightest parts of the image.

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