TIL: Project Gemini

I’ve always thought that Photoshop was in a weird spot, and that Adobe had to always make strange concessions when designing and developing it.

To me, Photoshop has long been a general-purpose raster-based image editing thing. Touch-up tools. Color adjustment tools. Customizable brushes for drawing and painting. Obviously, their unbeatable typography tools that Adobe is known for. Loads of other things. Adobe’s development team can be as large as they want to support as many users and use cases as they want, but various features serving different purposes in a single program inevitably butt heads with each other.

This is in contrast to, say, Corel Painter, Paint Tool SAI, or Clip Studio Paint, whose features focus on various forms of illustration. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Clip Studio Paint, because its design and features are geared so well to the way I like to go about illustrations. Every shortcut key and every behavior seems to be exactly the way that helps me do what I need to do, in stark contrast to Photoshop’s historically cold and other-people-kinda-need-it-this-way design.


Apparently, Adobe is working on a new app— yeah, a mobile app. Like for iPad Pro, currently, but (supposedly) eventually for Windows 10 and Android— codenamed Project Gemini, expected to release in 2019. This is the latest in Adobe’s procession into this space, after attempting both Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Adobe Illustrator Draw.

Project Gemini presentation at Adobe MAX 2018

This also seems to be the reason why Adobe scooped up our beloved Kyle Webster— of KyleBrush fame— back in 2017 (press F to pay respects). Kyle seems to be playing an integral role in Project Gemini’s development, likely both as their “ambassador” to illustrators and their workflows, and as someone who is intimately familiar with the practicality of making good brushes work well digitally, and specifically in Adobe’s own Photoshop brush engine.

Zoom in on one of Kyle Webster’s many illustrations done in Project Gemini (link)

No doubt, Adobe’s continued push into mobile is inevitable. You still don’t hear from a lot of people say they choose any of Adobe’s app for drawing on tablets. And the iPad Pro + Apple Pencil train continues to chug along and pick up illustrators. ([minireview] Personally, I think you can’t argue with the battery life and device weight, but I hate how overly smooth it is to draw on, even with the specialty “paper-like” screen protector. I can totally tell when an artist drew something on iPad Pro. Their lines get kinda wobbly and inaccurate compared to their regular work. For more painty styles, it’s less obvious.[/minireview])

Some people swear by their iPad Pro and are mesmerized by it. And as hard as I find it to believe, people do actually draw and paint things on them. Maybe it just suits the way they like to work.

@kerobrand trying the app at a demo stage.

From the looks of the Instagram hashtag and the videos above at least, Project Gemini seems to be shaping up, and seems usable. I mean fancy features aside, it’s important that artists can actually be productive with it, rather than being amused with it for a few minutes but never really being able to get comfortable with it and create consistently. Now, I think Adobe has a good track record of having good UI designers but this it being on the iPad, and the iPad being what it is, who really knows how things will turn out.

And I mentioned Corel Painter, because Project Gemini’s “live watercolor” and “live oils” behavior reminds me Painter’s old gimmicks. Though I think Painter also helped drive the addition of Wacom tablet features like tilt and rotation. But I think these days,  these gimmicks suit the overall “Apple iPad” feel more than Painter did back in its time. I hope this new app still managed to give the user a solid sense of control.

And after all that, if it’s good, I hope it won’t require people to have a full Adobe CC subscription. Though, to be honest, I’ve been thankful that both SAI, and Clip Studio Paint have gained their popularity in recent years. And I’m thankful that Adobe didn’t just absolutely claim almost every facet of creative work as the default program of choice on mobile tablets as it has on desktop.

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