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How to use Photoshop on your iPhone

Hand holding an iPhone to take a photo

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Photoshop has become the go-to photo editing software over the years and it’s no surprise why: Adobe struck gold with a rich platform full of useful tools and has greatly improved user experience in the years since Photoshop’s 1990 launch. Part of the improved user experience is the current version of Photoshop Express — the best smartphone Photoshop app to date. 

The time when you had to fork over hundreds of dollars to have Photoshop on your computer is gone (though you can still buy the software for $240). Adobe moved to subscription-based licensing for its software in 2013. Just $10 a month gives subscribers access to Photoshop and Lightroom, plus 20GB of cloud storage and the Photoshop Express app.

How to Photoshop on iPhone

  • Materials needed: iPhone, Photoshop Express app
  • Estimated time: As little as a few minutes, depending on the edits applied 

  • Estimated cost: Photoshop subscription, starting at $9.99

Step 1: Download and open the app

Download the app on the App Store

Download the app through the App Store

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Download the Photoshop Express app from the App Store if you haven’t already. Open it and log in to your Adobe account. After you give the app all the permissions it needs, you can start adding and editing your photos.

Step 2: Choose a photo to edit

Options in the app

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

This is what the Photoshop Express app’s home screen looks like. You can choose what type of edit you want to make. Make sure you allow Photoshop Express to access your photos, then choose the one you’d like to edit. 

Select Edit to edit a photo and add filters, overlays, effects, text, stickers, and more. Retouch will automatically let you choose a photo with a recognizable face in it to edit. You can delete and replace backgrounds on mix, and the app will walk you through the process with a tour. Choose several photos to make a collage or capture an image with the app.

Step 3: Choose your edits

Photo from a fortress in the Photoshop Express app

This is the photo I’ll be editing, Just to play around with the app, I chose a picture from a trip I took

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

This is where the fun comes in. Edit your photo to your liking with the tools you know and love from Photoshop plus countless fun effects and filters. I chose a picture from a trip just to play around with the app.

A few filters

These are just a few of the filters available on the app

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Photoshop Express includes tons of filters to edit your photos, from basic and white balance ones to duotone and pop color. Adding a filter to your photo can enhance the feel of it, making it more or less dramatic, warm, or ethereal. This is part of what makes the app stand out from the computer software: just a few taps of your finger applies a filter, effect, or edits; without needing to be familiar with the Photoshop program.

Vignette, color adjustments, sharpening image

Some of the adjustments available from Photoshop

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

If you’re a fan of the good old Photoshop on your computer, you’ll be glad to know most adjustments have boarded the Photoshop Express. Though they’ve translated into more user-friendly and automated options, you still have the ability to play around with them and change their intensity. With these adjustments, you’ll be able to edit light and color, add effects like texture or dehaze, sharpen, work with hue and saturation, and blur, and add vignettes, among many more.

Different layers to edit on the photo

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

The adjustments on Photoshop Express also simplify selection. You can quickly select to edit the background, the subject, or the full picture. On this picture, you can see the app recognizes the building structure as the subject.

Retouch option

This option is accessible from the home of the app

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

You can quickly retouch a photo by choosing this option at the top of the app’s home screen. The Retouch option intelligently recognizes faces in photos to let you quickly smooth skin, remove blemishes, edit face proportions, and even add makeup or play around with caricature filters.

Heal tool on PS Express

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

The heal tool, available either through the Edit or Retouch buttons on the app, works as a mix of the traditional spot healing brush and clone stamp tools from Photoshop. The basic option lets you remove spots automatically, just by tapping on them. While the advanced options lets you delete larger items from your photo and choose what to replace them with. 

Some of the available overlays

There are a lot of overlays available to make your photo stand out

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Along with all of these edits, you can add overlays to your photos in Photoshop Express. Feel free to play around with bokeh, watercolor, paper, patterns, neon, vintage and many, many more overlays to bring your photo to the next level.

Overlays in the app

More examples of overlays

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Themes are also a thing in Photoshop Express, which provides birthday, travel, anniversary, and holiday templates; as well as business-oriented overlays for fashion, sales, activism, and more. 

You can choose from preset text formats to add

You can choose to add preset text formats

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Along the same lines, you can freely add stickers, borders, and text to your photos.

Text examples

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Have fun with the different text presets available on the app. They can be added to an image and are fully editable to fit your needs. You can even find some meme templates and quotes to let Photoshop Express do the work for you.


Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

If adding borders is your thing, you’ll can choose from dozens available on the app, from sleek and modern ones to quirky and holiday options.

Step 4: Save your photo

Click one of the options at the top of your screen to save

Click one of the options at the top of your screen to save

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

To save a photo, you can click on the download icon (with the arrow pointing down) to immediately save the edited photo to your photo library or the share icon (with the arrow pointing up) to save and share it. The share icon will lead you to the second screenshot, where you’re able to choose the quality of the output file, or if you prefer, just save it or share it. 

In my opinion, Adobe hit it out of the park with Photoshop Express. Adobe took a great software and instead of simply making a mobile version of it they modernized the user interface with countless editing options and automated features. This gives loyal users what they want while also attracting a slew of new subscribers. Granted, it’s not free, but while it’s a subscription-based application, it is worth it for those who value it, especially those who use it for business.

You can download the Photoshop Express app for free but without a subscription you’ll be limited in what you can do. There are many free photo editing apps for iPhone, though, like PicsArt, Photofy, PicCollage, and Bazaart, just to name a few.

Photoshop refers to the photo editing software you use on your computer, the one you’ve known and loved since the ’90s. Photoshop Express is the mobile application version of that software. 

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