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How to Photoshop on the iPhone (yes, it’s a thing)

photoshop on iPhone: Photoshop Express image
(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Trying to learn how to Photoshop with iPhone might seem like a silly pursuit. Photoshop isn't available on the iPhone, right? Well, it is, and it isn't. It's a bit complicated. 

It's true that while Adobe has recently released Photoshop for the iPad, a fully-fledged version of the original desktop software, this isn't yet available for smartphone users (even those with the best smartphones).

Photoshop on iPhone: Quick links

But it's also true that there are not just one, but three separate Photoshop apps that each have their own specialism – Photoshop Express, Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Fix. Use the links on the right to click straight through to a mini review and tutorial on each app.

Photoshop Express can be seen as 'Photoshop lite' for the iPhone and does a good job at providing plenty of editing tools combined with selective adjustments to cover just about every editing requirement you’d need while mobile. 

Photoshop Mix picks up the ability of layering images into composites and gives users the opportunity to cut out sections of shots and overlay textures to make more creative artwork. 

Finally, Photoshop Fix focuses on the retouching side of things by including a well-thought-out approach to healing tools, selective adjustments and includes good brush properties for minute retouch work. It’s good for any kind of photographic genre, but works especially well on portraits due to the automatic face and skin detection algorithms. 

So let’s take a look at what each app does and see which one’s right for your workflow. The added benefit of using one (or all) of these Adobe apps is that they’re free. Although Photoshop Express, Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Fix do offer in-app purchases, this doesn’t limit the tools available on start-up.

As well as explaining each Photoshop on the iPhone app, we'll also show you how to perform a simple action within each app. For more on using Photoshop, see our Photoshop tutorials. And you might also want to check out our Photoshop for iPad review.

Photoshop Express

Photoshop on the iphone photoshop express

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Photoshop Express

Photoshop Express is the closest you'll get to 'real' Photoshop

Price: Free (IAPs) | Compatibility: iOS 10.0 and above, Android 4.1 and above, Windows 8 and above

Great visual cues for gestures
Thumbnail previews help preset choice
Good selective adjustments
Doesn’t match Photoshop CC layout
Auto Enhance feature can make shots worse
Can only save in JPEG

Photoshop Express is a good all-round image editing app for a mid-level edit of photos. It contains many of the standard tools Photoshop users will recognise, but unlike the main version, Express’ layout is strange and unformulaic. However, the gesture visuals upon first use on iOS and general layout make it a much more approachable app than its Android counterpart. Large thumbnails act in real-time to show users how the tools will affect the image before its even used. Selective editing is also possible and touches on the same functions that Photoshop Fix and Photoshop Mix both have but combines them in one space. Photoshop Express is the closest Adobe app to the desktop/iPad Photoshop on smartphone.

How to add overlays and selective adjustments in Photoshop Express

01. Add Light Leaks

Photoshop on the iphone photoshop express

Myriad overlays easily blend in with photos on Express, each tidied into a theme in the menu (Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

In the Blending panel we’ve added some gentle bokeh (B14) to act like twinkling light over this gorgeous staircase. It also embellishes the warmer magenta tones of the shot. The slider was increased to around 60% of full effect.

02. Selectively adjust brightness

Photoshop on the iphone photoshop express

Express automatically splits the image into separate light and dark areas which makes altering brightness much easier (Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

In the Adjustments panel we’ve targeted the brighter sections of the shot to increase dynamic range by boosting highlights and darkened shadows. To do this we’ve selected the appropriate parts in the automatic masking on the right-hand side of the photo.

Photoshop Mix

how to Photoshop on the iPhone

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Photoshop Mix

Quick on-the-go layer processing

Price: Free (IAPs) | Compatibility: iOS 9 and above, Android 4 and above

Good cutting out tools
Blending modes give live preview
Simple interface makes edits a breeze
Lack of Pen tool makes things more difficult
Could do with more preset overlays
No option for drawing shapes, lines or other graphics

Photoshop Mix is aimed exclusively towards users who want to combine imagery and make composite artwork through the use of cutting and blending layers and adding looks. It comes with a small layout of basic controls to refine selections, alter brightness, change colour and crop your images accordingly. Photoshop Mix is great for quick, on-the-go layer processing, but for more detailed work users will want to send their piece straight to Photoshop through the app, where more complex masks can be made with accurate tools such as the Pen tool. The text tool comes with a good spread of fonts and the ability to change several parameters such as colour, size, style, fill and alignment.

How to cut selections and content-aware fill in Photoshop Mix

01. Cut it out

how to Photoshop on the iPhone

Quick selections are easily created through the Smart brush tool (Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

In the Cut Out panel quick selections of complex scenes can be swiftly chopped with the Smart tool brush where contrasted edges are sought by the app to make selections. Then edges can be enhanced using the Refine panel. For more accurate selections pinch or double-tap to zoom on the image first.

02. Fill blank areas

how to Photoshop on the iPhone

Content-Aware Fill works excellently like its matching counterpart in Photoshop to fill areas of the scene (Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Use the Content-Aware Fill tool to improve blank patches in your scene. With the Basic brush selected paint over a gap in a blue sky and have the app automatically fill the selection with another part of the image, here the app has added a pink cloud to the top-right.

Photoshop Fix

how to Photoshop on the iPhone

Here the skin has been made smoother, structure added to the face and eyes made larger with the use of Liquify (Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Photoshop Fix

Retouch on you iPhone with Photoshop Fix

Price: Free (IAPs) | Compatibility: iOS 9 and above, Android 5 and above

Awesome face detection
Good brush properties 
Automatic skin selection 
Specialises in portraiture
Some tools such as Defocus lacking
No Layers

Photoshop Fix is predominantly a retouching app that allows users to Heal unwanted blemishes from any image, though it is most adept at portrait retouching because of its face recognition algorithms. It has a good layout of image adjustment tools including Exposure, Contrast, Clarity and Saturation but its focus is on selective adjustments using brushes. Brush properties can be changed with intuitive gestures, from brush size, hardness and opacity and a coloured overlay is even available to toggle on/off during editing. As with Mix, it’s hard to get surgical precision with the finger but zooming in on the subject helps a lot. Automatic skin and face detection help alleviate laborious masking, speeding up workflow.

How to retouch a face in Photoshop Fix

01. Use Liquify to adjust features

how to Photoshop on the iPhone

Automatic face nodes aid Liquify controls in portraits (Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

In the Liquify panel Fix automatically detects faces and lays face nodes over the most important features such as forehead, eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth and chin. From here click on a control point and adjust using either Warp, Swell, or Twirl to make adjustments. Hit Restore to undo changes in longer chains of editing.

02. Smooth the skin

how to Photoshop on the iPhone

With the overlay button selected you can easily trace the selection if any parts have been missed (Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Press and slide on the Size button to adjust brush size and make a simple selection of the skin you want to smooth. Pinch to zoom in on the eyes, lips and hair and use the Restore button to remove unwanted effects from these areas. You can also use the Sharpen tool to focus on features such as the eyes or hair for a crisp-looking finish.

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Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer, educator and writer. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and the former technique editor for N-Photo magazine.