When you need a lot of editing power, Photoshop is the go-to solution, with a wide variety of tools and options. But what if you don’t need all those options? What if you favor working on your Android tablet or smartphone? What if you want a platform that is simpler to operate, but offers more than just a few filters?
That’s where Adobe Photoshop Express comes in. The Android tablet and smartphone version is designed for taking advantage of a touchscreen interface and for doing simple photo edits. And where Photoshop software is available for a monthly fee that can really start to add up, Photoshop Express is free. Of course as free software, the app is going to be more limited than the full-fledged software. Did Adobe limit their free app too much, or does it include the right mix of features? Exploring the Adobe Photoshop Express for Android review gives us a pretty good idea of whether or not it’s worth the free download.
Adobe Photoshop Express Review: The Interface
Photoshop Express is designed to be a more universal app that even casual smartphone photographers can use easily. Adobe worked to make the app user-friendly, and it shows. While the Photoshop software takes lots of time to learn, the app is simple to pick up.
After downloading the app, users are prompted to find the photo they’d like to edit from their photos, an Adobe Revel account, or by taking a snapshot directly from the app with the smartphone or tablet camera. The built-in camera feature certainly isn’t a reason to download the app itself, but there is the option to use a self-timer and choose a resolution.
Once the image is open, the bottom menu holds all the options: crop, correct, looks, red eye, reduce noise and auto fix. At the left, the app has options for sharing and reviewing the changes with the original photo. Of course, since it’s a touchscreen there’s a few tools that you can’t physically see—like on many apps, you can pinch or unpinch the screen to zoom in or out. If you tap the screen, the editing options will disappear, leaving you in a full screen mode with just the photo to view.
With a single simple sidebar for options and touchscreen controls that any experienced tablet user can easily figure out, Photoshop Express has a very simple interface. Unlike the full software, the app is easy to use without any experience at all.
Photoshop Express Review: The Tools
So, how does a free app compare to all the features that are in the real Photoshop software? Of course, there are some big limitations, but the tool selection does a decent job of making quick edits.
There is a built-in autocorrect option. Like any auto correction, how well it does depends vastly on the photo. On some, it does a great job, while other photos may still need a bit more tweaking afterwards. Still, the autocorrect is a one click fix in the bottom toolbar, and you can undo the action in the right sidebar it it’s not right for that particular photo.
Most of the tools are inside the Correction option at the bottom. Selecting this tool opens up several sliders, for adjusting exposure, contrast, clarity and vibrancies. The exposure option opens up to reveal two separate sliders, one for shadows and one for highlights. Having two separate sliders is nice, since many photo apps only adjust the highlights and shadows at once. These are great tools for lightening or darkening an image or simply working to add more contrast and punch to a photo.
Like in the full Photoshop, the crop tool can be used to straighten an image as well as of course simply cropping the photo. The red eye tool is self-explanatory—but tends to work well. Users simply click on the red part of the eye and the program makes corrections.
Don’t be fooled by the “noise” option in the bottom of the toolbar—noise reduction is, unfortunately, an in-app purchase. For $4.99 though, the app does do quick work of reducing noise common in low light smartphone photos. Like Photoshop’s noise reduction feature, using the noise reduction can reduce the sharpness and detail in an image, but the slider allows the user to choose the right mix between reducing the noise and losing the detail.
Of course, no photo app would be complete without a set of filters. This is the area of Photoshop Express that Photoshop doesn’t have (though you could easily mimic them with presets). There are 22 filters included, and a few more available if you do that $4.99 upgrade.
So, what’s missing? A whole lot, compared to the actual Photoshop software. While the app contains a nice selection of tools for the price (free), the app just does the most basic edits with a few sliders, a crop tool, red eye tool and filters. Outside the red eye tool, the app doesn’t have any tools that you can use to paint effects over only certain areas—there’s no dodge and burn, or healing brush, for example. There’s also no way to work in layers, or select just one portion of the image to apply edits to. (Note: Photoshop Fix offers a few of the healing tools and Photoshop Mix creates composites with layers). Users also can’t add objects like text, shapes or other graphics.
While the app is missing a lot of the features of Photoshop, comparing an app to a desktop feature is like comparing apples to oranges. Apples to apples, or app to app, Photoshop Express has a good set of adjustments and filters when compared to other free image editing apps.
On the right hand side, the app offers easy instant sharing to your social networks once you’ve finished with all those edits. There’s only the options for adding text with the image (not tags), but it’s nice for quick shares. Photoshop Express is also compatible with Adobe Revel, which syncs images across multiple devices. Revel is free for up to 50 uploads, or $5.99 for more frequent use. So, if you do happen to work with photos on both a mobile device and a desktop, syncing the images is fairly easy. Edits are automatically updated across all devices using the sync service.
While Photoshop Express is far from having the capabilities of the full Photoshop, it offers a nice little set of features. It’s easy to use without any Photoshop experience. Experienced shooters won’t find it close to replacing the software, but may use it for quick adjustments to snapshots and easy sharing.
Photoshop Express is a solid, free photo editing app for making quick adjustments that apply to the entire photo. For more editing options, it could be used with Photoshop Fix for tools like repairing skin blemishes and Photoshop Mix for creating photo composites.