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Adobe is giving away Photoshop's best features for free

It seems like everyone knows a person with a pirated copy of Photoshop. If you ask them why they don't pay for it, their answer probably amounted to something like this: Photoshop costs well over $1,000, and I use 10 percent of its features.

For so long, Photoshop simply hasn't been for those people — it's been for the professionals who need many of its deeper, more specialized, and more arcane tools. But Adobe has been making the app far more accessible lately: on the desktop, it's started offering Photoshop and Lightroom in a bundle for $9.99 per month, and on mobile, it's started to break Photoshop apart into easily digestible chunks offered for free. Today, that mobile strategy gets even more exciting with the release of Photoshop Fix, a photo-editing app that includes most of that 10 percent.

Most of Photoshop's key tools for altering photos are in here

Photoshop Fix is, as its name implies, all about fixing photos. Of course, this is Photoshop, so fixing can mean anything from removing unwanted objects that made it into the frame to removing temporary blemishes or changing a person's facial features, some of which is cool, some of which is useful, and some of which you should probably leave alone.

The app includes most of the key Photoshop tools used for altering pictures: one tool lets you make adjustments to exposure, contrast, and saturation, another tool lets you warp objects and faces, another lets you edit out objects and blemishes, and another lets you lighten or darken specific areas. There are also more general tools for cropping, adding a vignette, and painting. If you've ever used Photoshop before, you'll recognize these as a good portion of the core features that appear on the app's default toolbar. It's not everything — far from it — but most of the tools that a casual user would ever get to are here.

In my short time with the app, almost all of the tools appear to work as well as you'd want them to. They respond quickly and they work as expected. I took a selfie in the office and, in a couple of minutes, edited out the strange pipes and the fire alarm on the wall behind me, added some color back in, and closed a gap in my teeth. I don't know that it was a better photo, but it all worked, and few artifacts were left behind that would have given away the edits. The app ran surprisingly smoothly as well, especially since I was running it on my 2012 iPad mini. I'd expect that anyone with a more recent iPad or iPhone will notice almost no lag.

photoshop fix

There's one other feature in Photoshop Fix that needs to be discussed — something new to Photoshop that'll eventually make its way up to the desktop app: a tool that automatically identifies parts of a face and lets you apply various adjustments to them just by dragging on some sliders. It'll let you adjust a person's eyes, nose, cheeks, chin, and lips, generally allowing you to make things bigger or smaller. You can make a nose less wide, you can change the angle of someone's eyes, and you can turn someone's lips into a smile. It's very easy to get awful results with this tool and make a person look freakish, but it's also very easy to manipulate someone's body in subtle ways.

It's a really impressive tool, but using it feels extremely creepy — unless you're using it on your own face, in which case it just feels kind of sad. Adobe caught some well-deserved flak for how it presented this feature during an Apple event last month, using it to make a woman smile, and I expect that people will feel similarly uneasy when they see just how straightforward this tool makes it to dramatically change various facial features, too. Of course, editors have been doing this in Photoshop for well over a decade for magazines and other shoots, but this only exacerbates that ability by simplifying the tools and offering them up for to everyone for free.

When I asked Adobe about its presentation and how much thought it puts into how its tools can be used, it basically said that its job isn't to decide what people can and can't do. "We understand that some may use the app’s features and capabilities in controversial ways — for example setting unrealistic expectations around body image and beauty," an Adobe spokesperson says. "We ask customers to use their best judgement when editing images that could impact these types of issues." It's a statement that could apply to all of Photoshop — this app is just the most accessible version of it.

An Android version is coming "soon"

Photoshop Fix will be available today for the iPhone and iPad. It's free, but the app will make you sign up for an Adobe account (also free) before you can use it. An Android app is coming later. Fix is absolutely worth trying out, even if only to see how much it can do — just be thoughtful about what you choose to do with it.

In addition to Photoshop Fix, Adobe is rolling out a ton of other updates today. Most of them are improvements to its desktop apps — including additional 4K, 8K, and HDR support in Premiere Pro — but there are also some other interesting changes on mobile. Most notably, Adobe is launching a new iOS and Android app called Capture CC that combines four other apps that it had previously broken out on their own. Those include Brush, Color, Hue, and Shape — broadly speaking, the app is meant to allow you to quickly capture assets, like stencils, textures, and color palettes.

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