TouchRetouch HD iPad app review

Right before Photoshop CS5 was released, a demo video from Adobe showed off a feature they were working on for CS5, called “content-aware fill”. It was an amazing demo of technology for smartly cloning out defects by taking the content around the defect into account. For example, if a user wanted to clone out a defect that crossed two areas of different colors, lighting, and/or texture, it would be really time-consuming to successfully clone out such a defect, making sure the area looked seamless. The video had many photo editors all abuzz after it came out, myself included. However, Photoshop is expensive! All I could think was, “Well, I hope the feature eventually trickles down into Photoshop Elements,” or some other software that’s more reasonably priced for casual photo editors**. TouchRetouch HD for the iPad is pretty darn close.

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Figure 1: Main Menu

Here you can load a photo and start working, or watch one of the tutorial videos linked at the bottom to get a feel for how TouchRetouch HD works. I just jumped right in without watching the videos, but I may go back and watch them later to see what tips are given.

I had heard from a few people that TouchRetouch HD was great for cloning out power lines from photos, so I specifically chose a photo with power lines for my first test.

Typical photo problem — power lines

The basic mode of operations for TouchRetouch HD is to paint over, or mask out the defects you want to remove, then hit the “go” button (the icon that looks like a movie slate, 3rd from the right). I decided to try just masking out the power lines and see how well the app does. As usual, you can zoom in (up to 800%, in this case) to do more detailed masking.

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Figure 2: Straight masking of the power lines

When you start masking out parts of the photo, a little pop-up window with a zoomed in view of the area you’re masking shows on screen, like a loupe tool. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a screen capture of this window because it disappears automatically once you lift up your finger. This definitely makes masking easier, since your finger is often blocking the view.

At one point I was slowly dragging my finger along one of the power lines, watching the loupe closely. As my finger crossed over the boundary between the loupe and the main window, the loupe jumped to the other side of the screen, which wasn’t ideal. This was because the default setting for positioning the loupe is auto. Luckily, there is a configurable setting to keep the loupe on auto positioning, fix it to the left or right side of the screen, or turn it off completely:

touchretouch hd ipad app review

Figure 3: Loupe position settings

As you can see below, TouchRetouch HD did alright, but the branches didn’t make things easy.

touchretouch hd ipad app review

Figure 4: Artifacts from the power line removal attempt

So far, the power line removal didn’t go as easily as I had expected. I started over and masked off as much of the power lines between the branches. Since TouchRetouch HD has a standard cloning tool, I planned to fix up the leftover bits of power lines with it.

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Figure 5: 2nd attempt at removing the power lines

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Figure 6: Need to clean up the remaining bits of power lines with the cloning tool

As expected, the cloning tool has two parts — a tool to set the pattern source, and a brush to actually clone the pattern elsewhere in the photo. You can change the size of the clone brush, as well as the brush mode (totally opaque, and varying degrees of edge softness/translucence). There is also a setting for choosing the clone mode. The default mode is mirroring. There are three other modes to change the orientation of the pattern.

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Figure 7: Final results of power line removal. Pretty good!

Since the power lines put up a fight, I was less confident that TouchRetouch HD would be able to magically make the railing in the following photo disappear without more manual cloning.

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Figure 8: 2nd test photo to retouch, taken at the LA Auto Show

Like before, I decided to try simply masking the railing. But this time the results were impressive!

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Figure 9: Look Ma, no railing!

You can still see some artifacts from the railing removal, but this time, since the background was fairly uniform, TouchRetouch HD was able to do a much better job at making the masked object disappear. To make things easier, I decided to mask out the circular seam in the floor instead of trying to recreate it via the clone tool.

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Figure 10: Finished result

This 2nd test photo was a far more impressive display of TouchRetouch HD’s features. People who have done this type of clone tool work in the past know how challenging a scene like this is. In a couple quick masking passes, the railing was easily removed, even though there were shadows and color changes to contend with. Very cool.

As demonstrated by the first test photo, you won’t always have an easy time removing certain defects from your photos. It depends a lot on how uniform the surrounding areas are. But TouchRetouch HD is a great tool to have around, saving you time when doing cloning work like this. At USD $0.99, there’s no reason not to have this app.

You can download the app through iTunes here:
TouchRetouch HD iPad App

**It seems that content-aware fill is not exactly a new feature. According to this article, the free, open-source photo editor GIMP had a feature like this, called Resynthesizer. Regardless, having this feature in an iPad app for easy, fast, mobile photo editing is incredibly useful, especially as more photographers do more editing on-site to do quick proofs for clients, for example.

What are some of your favorite iPad apps for photography? Leave us a comment below. Also if you ever want to see a specific iPad app reviewed just leave a comment and we will add it to our list.

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Author: Cheryl

Cheryl didn't fully get into photography as a hobby until after graduating from college. The first camera she used on a regular basis was a Canon Powershot A70 point-and-shoot. A couple Sony and Casio point-and-shoots later, she bought a Sony DSC-F717, which would become a workhorse for her and a gateway camera to her first DSLR, the Nikon D70. From there, Cheryl continues to experiment with all sorts of photography equipment and techniques for both digital and film. Her latest main photographic interest has been "iPhoneography", a term usually used for photos taken, edited, and uploaded directly from iPhones.

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