Today, Adobe revealed three new Photoshop Touch applications designed for the iPad: Adobe Color Lava, Adobe Eazel and Adobe Nav. The apps work with Adobe's Photoshop CS5 desktop software, which will be updated to version 5.5 in order to support the new functionality. The update is due out in a matter of weeks.

What's interesting about these applications - not Photoshop replacements themselves - is how they integrate the tablet with the PC, offloading specific tasks to the touchscreen interface. In Color Lava, for example, artists use their fingers to mix colors on the iPad, creating custom swatches and themes which can then be ported back to Photoshop. Adobe Nav, meanwhile, offers a different way to navigate desktop Photoshop's interface. Only in Eazel are actual paintings created - but paintings which take advantage of the touch technology to offer new techniques in blending paint.

In addition, third-party developers will soon be able to integrate similar functionality into their apps, thanks to Adobe's new toolkit, the Photoshop Touch SDK.

Photoshop Touch Apps, Making Art on the iPad

These forthcoming Photoshop Touch apps only augment the Photoshop experience, they do not replace it. But the add-ons unlock the functionality of the touchscreen in a new way, bringing back the physical interaction between color and palette that typical Photoshop use had lacked. Instead of clicking a mouse, designers swirl their fingers over the touchscreen's interface, mixing paints on an actual palette. When you think about it, even the iPad's form factor itself seems a suitable stand-in for the real-life palette with its thin, rectangular shape, easy enough to balance on a hand, while held in the crook of an arm.

After mixing colors in Lava, artists can then port the new color combinations back to the desktop software, which they can navigate using Adobe Nav. This new user interface for Photoshop puts the software's tools and menus right on the touchscreen, where toolbars can be customized and files can be opened, accessed and zoomed into, both on the tablet and PC, simultaneously.

In Eazel, the new touchscreen drawing application, artists use their fingers to create paintings. Press all five fingers to the screen at once to reveal Eazel's tools, in order to change things like brush size or color. It even introduces a new technique involving "wet" and "dry" paints. In Eazel, the paints dry as they would in real life: over time. Paintings made in Eazel can also be ported back into the desktop version of Photoshop.

Photoshop, the Platform

Adobe is releasing tools for developers in the form of the Photoshop Touch SDK (software development kit). With this, third-party developers will be able to build similar functionality into their own touchscreen applications. That means developers can build different types of palettes, color-mixing tools and drawing applications - or even tools where the Photoshop integration is just one feature of a more complete application experience. The SDK extends this functionality to different devices, too, including Android tablets and RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook.

Designers and artists have not yet had a chance to get their hands on the new Photoshop Touch apps yet - they're due out on May 3 in the iTunes App Store, retailing for $1.99 to $4.99 each.  However, developers can begin building their own apps today, with the SDK available here.