Skip to main content

How to Use Adobe Photoshop Express to Edit Photos

This image is my highly edited photo of an owl ecosculpture (made of living plants and metal) in Adobe Photoshop Express.

This image is my highly edited photo of an owl ecosculpture (made of living plants and metal) in Adobe Photoshop Express.

A Useful and Enjoyable Photo Editor

The free Adobe Photoshop Express photo editor is a useful and enjoyable app for improving a photo and altering it with special effects. It doesn't have the wide range of abilities and tools that the full version of Photoshop provides, but it's fine for many jobs. It's easy to use and enables the user to be creative. It may be the only image editing program that many people need.

The app is currently available for Android and well as iOS. It was once available for Windows. At various times, I've used it on all three systems. Adobe seems to change their apps and their requirements frequently. This review mostly focuses on the features available in the iOS version, which I've used on my iPad.

An edited photo of another owl ecosculpture

An edited photo of another owl ecosculpture

Photoshop Express has many tools. I describe a selection in this article, but others exist. The tools that appear on the bottom of the screen vary depending on the context. I've used some of them to edit my photo above.

A Useful App With Some Drawbacks

Once the app is downloaded, it doesn't work unless the user signs in with their Google, Facebook, or Apple password or with their email address. (On my iPad, I only had to sign in the first time that I used the app.) Some users may not like the fact that they need to share personal information in order to use the app, but it seems to me that the custom is spreading.

Photoshop Express also asks for the user's birth date (or at least they did when I first used the program), which may be too invasive for some people. In return for the information that they've shared, a person will obtain a helpful and free image-editing program. The app requires the user to have an Internet connection, though I've found that the iOS version works to a very limited extent without this connection.

Avoid Starred Tools in Photoshop Express

Before someone starts using the app, it's important to be wary of the tools with a blue star in the upper right of their icon. They can be used, but if the person tries to save an effect created with the tool, they won't be able to. A subscription screen appears. If the user doesn't sign up for a subscription, the effect that they have just created with the starred tool is removed. Avoiding the tools will avoid frustration.

What I found disconcerting when I started using the app is that sometimes the subscription screen appeared when I wasn't using a starred tool. I don't know whether this was by accident or design. The appearance still happens occasionally, but less often than in the past. In some cases, it could be because I did use a starred tool without realizing it. I find this quite easy to do when I'm concentrating on editing.

I photographed this plant during one of my frequent nature walks.

I photographed this plant during one of my frequent nature walks.

The flower photo above is the original one that I took with my camera. The photo below is a screenshot of the edited photo in Photoshop Express on my Android phone.

Some Useful and Free Tools in the App

The free app has many useful functions, including basic ones that a user would expect to find in an image editing program as well as some extra abilities. The app enables the user to undo and redo an edit. Some of the editing choices are described below.

  • Themes: Transforms photos by the addition of pre-set designs that can be partially edited. Examples of themes include parties, congratulations, love, and winter. The themes could be useful, but people purely interested in photography may find them unnecessary. The theme choice is very limited without a subscription.
  • Looks: Provides options such as transforming a coloured image into a black and white one, providing a flash effect, changing the white balance, and adding warmth to the image. Adobe describes the options in this section as “instant filters.”
  • Overlays: Provides textures for placing on top of a photo. The item in the photo is still visible (to a greater or lesser extent) when covered by the texture.
  • Crop: Enables the photo to be rotated, flipped, straightened, and cropped. (Cropping removes the outer portion of the image.) Automatic settings to crop photos to specific dimensions for different social media sites are included.
  • Adjustments: Provides multiple options, including the ability to sharpen the image, intensify the colours, blur the image, and add a vignette.
  • Spot Healing: Enables a person to click on a spot in the photo and allows the program to change the appearance of that spot. The size of the clicked area can be changed. The tool enables blemishes or defects to be removed.
  • Eyes: The red-eye effect in a photo can be removed. The other eye-editing features require a subscription.
The app on my Android device

The app on my Android device

More Tools

  • Text: Multiple lines of text can be added and then changed. The text can also be altered with respect to colour, font, size, angle, and location.
  • Stickers: Various stickers can be added to a photo and then moved, resized, or have their angle changed. The stickers are examples of clip art instead of photos but could be useful for posters and certificates.
  • Borders and Frames: A selection of borders and frames are available, and their colours and thickness can be changed. A few special borders can be chosen, such as one with a ragged edge.
  • Resize: Enables a person to change the size of the photo to specific dimensions (without cropping it). The required dimensions for photos of different qualities are shown.
  • Remove Background Tool: Automatically removes the background, as its name suggests. It also blurs the background and allows the user to choose the degree of blur. (Note: A person needs to log into their Adobe account in order to use this tool. The photo must be uploaded to Adobe in order for the background to be removed. The altered photo can then be downloaded to the user’s device.)

It's a good idea to practice using the program with less important photos to begin with. Once you've discovered how to use the tools, you'll be able to work efficiently with the actual photo that you want to modify. You should make a copy of the photo first in case you don't like what you create and are unable to reverse the process.

Creating a Collage

To create a collage, the collage tool must be chosen from the opening screen of the app. The design choices are very limited without a subscription, but the basic side-by-side or one photo above another arrangements are available. The photos can be moved within their box to show the desired part of each image, but they can't be resized.

When a collage is on the screen, the items in the bottom toolbar change to reflect this fact. The "Layouts" menu could be useful for changing the appearance of the collage, provided the user has paid for a subscription.

Once the collage is created, it can be edited like any other photo. Borders of different colours and widths can be added, and text can be placed on the image where desired and its appearance changed

The ecosculptures near my home are always enjoyable to see and photograph.

The ecosculptures near my home are always enjoyable to see and photograph.

I’ve used one of the Story themes on the photo above. It created the text and the cloudy effects at the edges. The symbols at the corner of the boxes allow them to be edited. More than one tool can be used on an image.

Integration With Photoshop

Photoshop Express (a free app) is not the same as Photoshop Elements, which must be purchased. The professional version of Photoshop also requires payment.

The Express app and the full version of Photoshop can be linked together. I haven't tried either of the techniques, but the Adobe website describes two ways in which work in Photoshop Express can be integrated with the full version of Photoshop running on a desktop computer.

Once an image has been created in Photoshop Express, it can be sent to the full version of Photoshop and then be further edited there. A link on the far right of the bottom toolbar in the Express app enables it to be sent to Photoshop, assuming the user is online.

A user can also open Photoshop on their desktop computer and then return to the Express app. The two programs can be on different devices, but these devices must be on the same wireless network. Assuming this is the case, Photoshop filters can be used in Photoshop Express.

This attractive mushroom is poisonous.

This attractive mushroom is poisonous.

I’ve added a vignette from the Effects menu within the Adjustments one to my photograph of Amanita muscaria.

File Format and a Subscription Cost

Photos edited in Photoshop Express are saved in the JPEG format. The quality of the file can be chosen before it's saved. The photos can also be sent straight to social media. Additional options appear when the user chooses to save the image (including another ad to buy a subscription).

I use the free version of the app. The recent cost of a one-month subscription was recently $6.49. (Although the app didn't state this, since I'm in Canada the price was probably in Canadian currency.) If a year's subscription was chosen, the cost changed to $3.83 a month. The subscription price and any special offers available may be different when you decide to investigate them. All of the starred features are available if the subscription fee is paid.

The subscription price may be worth it for some people. One of the starred features is to save images with a watermark, which could be useful. There are some other starred features that I'd like to use, as well as ones that don't interest me.

Purchased Programs vs. Free Ones

One advantage of purchased programs is that they often have more or better abilities than free ones. Another is that software that is paid for tends to be updated more often than free software. A free program may be suitable for many people, however.

I think it's definitely worth experimenting with free software before purchasing (or subscribing to) an image editing program, especially when that program is expensive. Once a beginner has learned what all the tools do in a free program and has experimented with their possibilities, they should know whether it meets their needs or whether a different program or extra features are needed.

As long as someone doesn't mind sharing some personal details with Adobe, I think Photoshop Express is worth exploring. There are a couple of effects in the previous online editor that I liked and haven't found in the free version of Photoshop Express, but in general, I appreciate the app. It won't be suitable for every photographer, but it is for me. I suspect it will also be acceptable for many other people.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Does the Adobe Photoshop app create cartoon pictures?

Answer: No, it doesn't at the moment. It's meant for photo editing and can create some interesting effects, but it doesn't create cartoon pictures. I don't know whether there are plans to eventually integrate this ability into the online app. I doubt it, because the app is free. I expect it will stick to some useful but relatively basic features.

© 2013 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 06, 2017:

Thank you for the comment, photoediting4161.

Mehedi Ahmed from Dhaka on June 05, 2017:

Very nice article. Thanks for sharing

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 14, 2014:

Hi, Kalmiya. Thanks for the comment. Photo editors do create lovely images. They're fun to use, too!

Kalmiya from North America on March 14, 2014:

I hope to advance to using Photoshop at some point so thanks for the tips in your hub! These photo editors make our visual world

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 14, 2014:

Thank you, kerlund74. I appreciate your comment!

kerlund74 from Sweden on February 14, 2014:

Great hub. Like this information and I also like to see what's possible to do:)

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 14, 2013:

Thank you for the comment, Sufia Honey!

Sufia Honey from Virginia Beach, Virginia on October 14, 2013:

Very nice article.

Thank you.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 14, 2013:

Hi, Rolly. Thanks for the comment. I enjoy using Adobe products too. I agree with you - the cheaper and simpler versions of Photoshop, like Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Express, are certainly easier to use effectively than the full version!

Rolly A Chabot from Alberta Canada on March 14, 2013:

Hi AliciaC... I have many of the Adobe products and love using them. For most people I think it is a rather daunting task to discover the program that works for them. I find Photoshop Elements 10 works well for me and I have just started to use the online tools and find the fascinating.

This is s avery timely article and thanks for all the work you have put into it.

Hugs from Canada

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 13, 2013:

Thank you very much for the comment and the votes, Vector design.

Saim from California on March 12, 2013:

Really nice share. i like this hub, you explain in detail how to edit photo in Photoshop. Very informative article. i vote for the useful and awesome.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 21, 2013:

Thank you very much, rosika. I appreciate the votes!

rosika on February 21, 2013:

I use photoshop to edit all my photos.....this article is very detailed and useful for anyone who is looking to use editing softwares for their photos..Voted up and useful!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 21, 2013:

Thank you for the comment and the vote, drbj. Photoshop Express is a nice program, and it's fun to use.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on February 21, 2013:

Bookmarked and voted Up, of course, Alicia. Thanks for your time and effort creating this easy to understand explanation.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 21, 2013:

Thank you for the visit and the comment, Martin.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on February 21, 2013:

Thank you for this. Great info.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 20, 2013:

Thanks, donnah75. I appreciate the vote and the pin very much!

Donna Hilbrandt from Upstate New York on February 20, 2013:

I had no idea that there was a free photoshop editor online! I used to drag my school laptop home on weekends to use the software. This could be life changing...thanks! Voted up and pinning. This is an excellent and comprehensive hub.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 20, 2013:

Thank you for the comment and the votes, Robie. Photoshop Express is a useful program - and it's great that it's free to use!

Robie Benve from Ohio on February 20, 2013:

Great hub, informative and well explained.

I did not know about this free editor, it's bookmarked now! :) Voted up and awesome.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 20, 2013:

Thank very much, Vicki! I appreciate your visit and your kind comment.

Vickiw on February 20, 2013:

Great Hub Alicia! You've explained it so well, and this is really useful for a computer challenged person like me!