Color Lava, Eazel & Nav preview

Adobe has announced a free update to Photoshop CS5 that includes the Photoshop Touch Software Development Kit (SDK), a new scripting engine that lets developers create tablet applications that interact with Photoshop. The first three apps were written for the iPad by Adobe to showcase the mind-boggling capabilities of this new technology. If you have Photoshop CS5, an iPad and a wireless network, prepare to be amazed.

Color Lava

Once you’ve created five swatches, you can send them to Photoshop’s Swatch panel or email the colour scheme to a client or colleague

If you’ve ever mixed paints in the real world, you’ll enjoy Color Lava (£1.79), a colour-mix and colour-scheme creator. The mixing interface is beautifully simple and user friendly. At the upper left is a well filled with water that you use to clean your finger/brush (when you touch it the water actually ripples and the paint colour bleeds into it). Below the water well are circular colour wells, a mixing area in the middle, and five empty (white) colour swatches on the right.

You can start from scratch or begin with a photo in your iPad’s Photo library. Just tap a colour well, or a colour in your photo, and swirl your finger around in the mixing area to create a dab of paint. That colour then appears as your first colour swatch at the upper right of the interface. To add another colour, click that well and swirl it onto your dab – the swatch changes automatically as you mix colours. Use the greyscale colour wells to add white or black to produce a tint or shade. When you’re ready to produce another colour swatch, click a white swatch on the right and repeat the process. You can also customise the paint colours by double-clicking a colour well and using sliders to change hue, saturation, and brightness.

Once you’ve created five swatches, you can send them to Photoshop’s Swatch panel. You can also email your paint dab plus the colour scheme – along with their RGB and HSV values – to a client or colleague.

The process of setting up Color Lava (and also Eazel and Nav) to work with Photoshop is similar to pairing a Bluetooth device. You need Photoshop CS5 installed and must set up a name and password in Photoshop. Just choose Edit > Remote Connections, enter a name and password in the resulting dialog box, and then turn on the Enable Remote Connections checkbox. Back on your iPad, click the little Photoshop icon at the bottom-right, and the name you entered will appear in the Discovered list. Click on the name to let Photoshop and your iPad talk to each other.

Eazel

Eazel lets you finger paint, without any menus or toolbars or mess, on every free pixel of the iPad’s touch screen

Adobe’s new painting app, Eazel (£2.99), lets you get in touch with your inner child. Finger paint, without any menus or toolbars or mess, on every free pixel of the iPad’s touch-screen.

When you place all five fingers on the screen, an interface appears beneath them in the form of graphical icons that let you change paint colour, brush size, opacity, undo/redo one action (it won’t undo more than one), or close the painting. The icons follow your fingers as they move. If that’s a little disorienting, you can place all five fingers down and then lift to summon a static interface in the middle of the screen.

While the new interface feels awkward at first, within an hour or two of dabbling, the five-fingered gesturing starts to feel intuitive, though it does take some experimentation to grasp how the controls work together. For example, paint is wet when first applied – it dries in a few seconds – so crossing it with another stroke causes blending. Also, the larger the brush size, the more blending you get, just as if you were using watercolours.

Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, you can send it to Photoshop where it appears on its own layer, complete with transparency. The art is enlarged to four times its original size, producing an image that’s 2,048 x 1,536 pixels (9MB). You can also save paintings into the iPad’s Photo app in JPEG format. Unfortunately, there’s no way to open a saved painting in Eazel and continue to work on it. Hopefully, we’ll see that in a future version.

Nav

More of a productivity tool than a creative app, Nav (£1.19) lets you control Photoshop tools from your tablet, change a document’s zoom percentage, change Photoshop’s screen modes, and even change the foreground and background colours.

If you frequently work with a slew of open Photoshop documents, Nav can display up to 200 of them as large thumbnails, providing a handy way to scroll through them, in order to switch from one to another – something you can’t do in Photoshop. Since Nav is in constant communication with Photoshop, closing a document in Nav also closes it in Photoshop (and vice versa). You can also create new documents from within Nav.

If you have a wireless network, you can use Nav to show Photoshop documents in progress to colleagues or clients.

OUR VERDICT

The iPad’s touch-screen integration with Photoshop makes the experience both fun and realistic. Furthermore, by having nothing between you and your artwork, you can focus on creating in the purest sense.

Find the best price