I don’t know why I keep looking at new photo editors. I’ve got a great system of my own here with Aperture, which is my preferred tool. If I felt like drifting into the Adobe world, Lightroom is fantastic (check out my review here on Mac.AppStorm of Lightroom 5). And while I love Pixelmator, there’s nothing wrong with Photoshop or Acorn either — they’re all great.
So what was it about TouchRetouch that made me curious? There was an implicit promise of ease of use that drew me too it, but more than that, its successful mobile apps prompted me to wonder what the Mac version would be like. Read on for my thoughts.
TouchRetouch claims to do one thing really well. It allows you to do what’s considered a Retouch in Aperture or iPhoto, and it’s supposed to nail it every time. Retouches allow you to quickly select an area and have the app get rid of the offending patch and attempt to blend the area in with the rest of the photo.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with it, it’s sort of like a Clone and Stamp tool. But since most professional photographers would attack me for such a simplified explanation, it’s important to remember that this is called a Retouch for a reason. It’s meant more for removing scratches or nicks in photos.
The thing is, some people are using it to replace things like people in pictures. And TouchRetouch is banking that’s what you’ll want to use the Repair tool for as well. The thing is, they’re promising some real miracles.
Naturally, I was skeptical. After all, this looked like a lightweight quick and dirty photo editor. What could it possibly do?
Quick and Dirty
Turns out, apart from retouching photos, it can do a fair bit. TouchRetouch also has a Clone tool (more on that later) and allows for a series of small adjustments in a relatively intuitive interface.
The Adjust pane is one of my favourite parts about the app. It keeps everything simple. It makes it easy to take a look at the shadows and highlights in the photos. The sliders let you adjust them accordingly. You can also quickly adjust the warmth and saturation of any photos with the sliders.
The Crop button gives you quick access to straightening and, of course, cropping. Clicking and holding the Original button lets you compare your progress. I like that you click and hold the Original button; it feels more intuitive than tapping it twice.
I do wish that you could enter numbers into the Adjustments pane instead of relying entirely on the sliders to fine-tune an image, but that’s largely a minor quibble. When you’re done with adjustments, you can save your work easily.
Retouching a Photo
The real bread and butter of the app is the Retouch effect. You can simply drag over an area with the Brush or mark it with the Lasso and then let the app work its “magic.” What ADVA Soft promises is that the app will deal with unwanted blemishes quickly and easily.
The thing is, that’s a really lofty promise. And TouchRetouch doesn’t live up to it at all.
I tried with a myriad of images. I was yanking more photos out of my archive than you could probably imagine, and I rarely got the feature to work. Most of the time, it was less reliable than the same feature built into Aperture, Pixelmator, Photoshop or Lightroom. Even iPhoto could occasionally get better results with the same photos.
This is where the Clone tool comes in. To AVDA Soft’s credit, the Clone tool is pretty nice. I like how visual it is. Instead of clicking the area you want to clone with your mouse, you literally drag the Clone circle around. But it doesn’t feel as precise as its competition. Granted, this gives it a leg up over simple software like iPhoto, but professionals will balk.
Who’s This For?
I kept wondering who this was actually for when I was using the app. Although I could achieve similar results to the work I do in Aperture and Pixelmator, it took much longer in TouchRetouch and didn’t seem nearly as effective or convincing overall.
And that’s fine — let’s assume, for a moment, that this is meant for the consumer snapping shots with their iPhones who want to do some quick and dirty editing.
Well, Macs already come with iPhoto for free, which is superior in nearly every way — except for its lack of a Clone tool. And the consumers that are looking for things like a Clone tool are surely more likely to download a pirated copy of Photoshop.
The people who don’t know the first thing about cloning and stamping images are going to buy this app because of it’s marketing, which feels like a lie to me. They’ll be disappointed because the app doesn’t consistently deliver the miracles it promises.
In short, this app is weaker than most of its competition. Its user interface is nice, but there are some elements of it — like a slide-out Adjustment pane — that feel more at home on an iPad than they do on a Mac, where a floating Adjustment pane would be more beneficial. And while sliders work well enough with fingers, they don’t feel as natural with a mouse.
There Are Better Options
Apart from the Retouch feature, which is the same as everybody else’s, I don’t think TouchRetouch oversells itself. I just think it doesn’t know who its market is. On an iPhone or an iPad, an app like this makes sense. There are no real RAW image editors, and the expectations of people editing their quick snaps they took with their iPhone is much lower than the expectations of people with the computing power of a Mac.
At the end of the day, I simply can’t bring myself to recommend the app. It’s not the miracle machine that AVDA Soft promises. If you’re interested in its more complex features, you’d be better off looking into powerful and inexpensive alternatives like Pixelmator. If you just want a quick way to touch up things like Brightness and Saturation, you probably already have a copy of iPhoto, which is sadly better than TouchRetouch in nearly every way.