Apple iOS: Photoshop Companion Apps for the Apple iPad

ANewDomain’s Fred Lewis takes a look at Nav, Color Lava and Eazel, three companion apps for Adobe Photoshop on the Apple iPad.

Adobe Nav, Color Lava and Eazel are three apps that integrate the iPad with Photoshop on your desktop computer via your wireless network. Are they any good? I took a look.



Adobe Nav, available in the AppStore for $1.99, lets you use your iPad to browse and select documents that are open in Photoshop on your desktop computer.

I found this to be really handy if you’re working with a lot of images at once in Photoshop. On the Apple iPad, the images display as an array of large thumbnails. View up to six thumbnails at a time– just scroll through if there are more than six.  Tapping any thumbnail on the iPad selects that image and brings it to the front in Photoshop on your desktop.

When I have a lot of images open in Photoshop, it can be difficult to quickly get to the one I need. Photoshop’s Arrange command lets you arrange all the images into thumbnails. But that’s disruptive.  Adobe Nav lets you keep all  images large in Photoshop, even while you switch among images.  That’s a huge time saver. This feature alone is worth far more than the price of the app.

There’s also a screen that lets you select tools in Photoshop by tapping buttons on your iPad. You can create a custom toolbar, containing buttons for the tools you use most often — up to 16 tools. Then tap on any button on the iPad to select the tool. This feature is worthwhile if you’re working in full screen mode on the desktop and can’t see the toolbar in Photoshop. With this app, it’s possible to use your entire screen for image editing. Just move the tool bar onto the iPad.

Create an empty document, transfer an image from your camera roll to Photoshop or take a photo using the Apple iPad’s camera to have that instantly appear in Photoshop.


Color Lava

Adobe Color Lava, available in the AppStore for $2.99, lets you mix colors, create custom color swatches and five-swatch color themes on your iPad and access the colors in Photoshop on your desktop computer.

Initially, you select colors by tapping on them in the color wheel at the lower left. This is actually two color wheels in one, each with six circles containing a color. You can modify the color in any of the 12 circles by pressing down on it to bring up hue, saturation and brightness sliders. But the fun part is dabbing your finger onto a color and then smearing it onto the canvas in the middle, then mixing multiple colors together using “water” from the virtual water reservoir at the upper left. It feels very natural to mix virtual water colors with your fingers in this way.

You can then save the colors you like to any of the five swatches on the right, by tapping a swatch and then tapping on part of the canvas that has the color you like.

You can also save multiple color themes. Each theme is a set of five color swatches and its mixing canvas. Tap any swatch to make that color the foreground color in Photoshop’s color panel.

This app is a natural and fun way to mix colors. It makes it easy to come up with multiple color schemes and keep them handy for use in Photoshop. At just under three bucks, it’s definitely worth the price of the app.


Adobe Eazel, available in the AppStore for $2.99, lets you create finger paintings on your iPad and access them in Photoshop on your desktop computer. As with the Color Lava app, working with Eazel is very natural. When you’re painting, there is no user interface visible. The entire tablet is a blank page waiting to be filled.

For options and controls, press down with all five fingers at once. This brings up an icon at each fingertip. These allow you to select color, control stroke size and opacity, undo and redo, and change settings. Within the settings, there are options to transmit your image to Photoshop, open an image or save an image to the camera roll, or play a demo for how to use the app.

To me, this app is the least useful of the three. The painting experience feels a lot like watercolor when the stroke size is big. But with a large stroke size, detailed painting isn’t really possible.  When the stroke size is smaller, the strokes seem jaggy edged and low-quality. Since the iPad is not pressure sensitive, there’s no way to control the opacity or size of your strokes on the fly as you paint.

Mixing colors or strokes is also difficult. Unlike Color Lava, this app doesn’t have any virtual water. For three bucks, this app might be fun as a novelty but I don’t imagine much real work getting done in it.

Ironically, this is the only app among the three that has undo. Too bad the other two apps are missing that.

The bottom line.

Two of these apps, Adobe Nav and Adobe Color Lava, are must-haves for anyone who uses Photoshop and also relies on an iPad. Considering the low price of these apps, the high price of Photoshop and the amount of increased productivity that these apps offer, it’s a no-brainer. Snap them up. The third app, Adobe Eazel, is more of a novelty. I question whether it’s even worth its price in the App store — though it does have the undo feature the other two sorely need.