First look at Adobe Eazel for Photoshop

Benjamin Rabe

Like we mentioned earlier, Adobe has just announced an update of Photoshop CS5 along with three iPad companion apps. One of those apps might be of particular interest for fingerpainters: Adobe Eazel. If you expected a photoshop-like paint experience in Adobes next iOS based painting app, be prepared to be surprised.

The interface that isn’t there

When you open up Eazel for the first time a short intro video shows up to introduce you to the interface. Which might be well needed, because Eazel doesn’t come with your well-known toolbars, popup menus and all. Instead it features two UI modes called up by a 5-finger-tap: the persistant and the ephemeral mode.

In the maybe more familiar persistent mode, you get 5 buttons to change size, color, opacity, to get to the settings and to undo/redo/clear. The buttons sit centered in the middle of the screen and get dismissed once you tap on the background.

The ephemeral mode in Eazel

The ephemeral mode in Eazel


The ephemeral mode works a bit different: if you 5-finger-tap-and-hold on the screen, the functions appear at the tips of your fingers. Lift four fingers and change e.g. the size of your brush. Another 5 fingers, lift all but your ringfinger and change the opacity.

Sounds a bit tricky? To be honest it did take me some initial time to get used to it. But after a while I really gained speed and the whole experience felt more like using an instrument rather than a tool.
This step away from the classic point and click interface towards a more gesture based interaction might be quite an initial barrier for some users. Whether it really adds up to a more natural way in terms of using a painting app will have to show: personally I enjoy using Eazel in ephemeral mode a lot.

Oops, did I drip color?

All possible innovations in terms of interfaces tossed aside, the main key to a great painting app still is its painting engine. And if you expected a similar bitmap brush-based approach like you can find in apps like SkecthBook, Brushes or procreate to name a few, be surprised: Easel rather aims to emulate watercolor instead.

Stippled Bunnies - by Benjamin Rabe

Paint you apply to the screen starts to flow into each other depending on the grade of dryness. So far there’s no feedback in the interface of the speed of how fast colors dry up, so sometimes you really hurry through the settings to make sure you get to paint wet in wet still.
Undos to the rescue? Unfortunately there’s just one undo at this point, so you will have to live with errors and mistakes most of the time.

That is a feeling I got a lot when painting in eazel: it’s not as much about control and details but more about expression and spontaneity. You learn to work over your errors instead of going back 20 undos. Again, if that is what is expected of a digital painting app: we shall see.

Snowman - by Matthew Watkins

Connectivity

With the upcoming update of Photoshop CS5, Adobe adds connectivity: meaning iOS apps will be able to connect to PS via a local WI-FI network. If you connect Eazel that way, your paintings can be transmitted with the push of a button, enlarged to 4 times the size.
Quite handy and it shows where Adobe positions its apps: rather as a companion to the big brother than as a standalone full featured app.

What is missing?

More Brushes for a start: so far there is just one round shape available. Even with the notion of it being an emulation, it would be nice to have different shapes at hand, like squared or flat ones for a start.
And layers: even if I don’t miss them essentially, eventually they will allow for more control and depth in your work.
More essential: a library, because so far Easel only holds one painting at a time.

Adobe Eazel will be available on May 3rd.


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