Detail from Adobe Comp layout

Adobe Comp

A new free mobile app for CC subscribers

Adobe recently released its first version of Adobe Comp, a mobile app that lets you “doodle” layouts as easily as, well, doodling. I’m sure they had in mind professional designers who are creating brochures, advertisements, etc., but I can’t see any reason those of us who create  photos albums, art journals, and scrap pages won’t find it just as useful. After all, we’re doing exactly the same thing—placing pictures and text on our pages to tell a story. And Adobe Comp is free! You only need an iPad2 or better, and a Creative Cloud subscription. It can be either the Photography Plan for Lightroom and Photoshop, or the full CC.

(Once they nail down the basic features for the iPad version, I’ve no doubt they’ll be bringing it to other devices, just as they have begun to with Lightroom Mobile.)

So how do we, the digital scrappers, grunge art compositors, art journalists, or family album creators, make use of Adobe Comp? First, remember this app is intended to make it easy to jot down an idea for a page anywhere you happen to be—waiting for the kids’ karate class to end, sitting in a doctor’s office, having coffee at Starbucks, or curled up on your couch relaxing. You don’t always want to haul around the laptop, but the iPad can go almost anywhere, and it’s a lot easier to use than a dirty napkin or the back of a receipt, along with the pen that’s drying up. The layout doesn’t have to be complete—it can be an idea for a cluster or photo layout, or simply denote areas for imagery and other areas for journaling. How finished is up to you.

Drawing Mode displaying gestures
In Drawing Mode, sketching these shapes with your finger will be translated to clean shapes or text by the app. The X on the far left of the screen toggles between drawing mode and editing mode.

Adobe Comp comes with basic geometric shapes, text, a bit of styling for headings or borders, etc., even color, but you have to bring in any complex imagery such as photos, flowers, or flourishes. You can do this by using the Creative Cloud Library feature that Photoshop and many other apps include (Window> Libraries). If you haven’t tried creating a library for yourself, you’re in for a treat. They’re super simple to use, only requiring enough space in your Creative Cloud account to store them.

I used some custom shapes that Photoshop ships with. After drawing one in a blank document and with the layer still targeted, I clicked on the Add Image button in the Library panel. I could also add the swatch color for the shape at the same time. The shape in the library is named after the layer name, but you can rename it by double-clicking on the name in the library. Adobe automatically synced my library to the Creative Cloud.

Custom library filled with custom shapes
Making your own Creative Cloud library gives you access to a variety of assets in desktop and mobile apps.

However, you don’t have to use a library. You can also import any images that are on your iPad or in your one of your Creative Cloud Files. Of course, using photos instead of basic shapes will take up a lot of space in your CC account, and/or on your iPad. But a photo can be the inspiration for the artwork, so if it makes it easier to envision the finished piece, you shouldn’t hesitate to use one.

Image Import Options
Choose a custom library or import imagery from several locations. Icons on editing mode toolbar—left to right: Vectors panel, Text panel, Images panel, Upload panel , Settings (mainly for page size), Toggle toolbar on or off.
Type formatting panel
Format your type in this panel, choosing font, style, size, alignment, etc., just as if you were in a full desktop app. Icons available in editing mode change according to the element selected—left to right: Color (or Image), Style, Type (or Crop), Layer order, Duplicate, Delete.

Once you’re done, you can send the file to Photoshop (or InDesign or Illustrator) and, if your computer is running, Adobe will launch the designated app and open the file in it. If your computer isn’t running, your file will stay in the Cloud until you next start it up. The transfer keeps all your layers intact. I should add that if you have two computers on one CC account, both computers will get a copy of your Comp document. Yeah, that could be better, but you don’t have to save it on both computers if you don’t want to.

Send to Photoshop and Layers panel
If you choose to send to Photoshop, your layout will open in the desktop version with layers intact and layer masks added where needed to retain the appearance. You can still edit everything. Adobe Comp keeps the files fully editable in InDesign or Illustrator, as well.

If you don’t have an internet connection, you can still use Comp, including using any library you’ve already synced with it. Sending the file to your computer will have to wait, and you won’t be able to access any files in your Creative Cloud account while you’re working, which makes having a library synced with Comp even more valuable.  But basically, you’re good to go even without the Internet.

I haven’t gone into detail on all of the features. Between touch gestures and included elements for your layout, this app goes beyond doodling on envelopes and napkins, yet remains as direct and easy. Whether or not you’re making a living as a designer, Adobe Comp can also help you design pages for your art journal, your 365 day project, or your family album. It takes only a very little time to learn, it’s portable, and did I mention it’s also free for CC subscribers?

Finished layout template for a family album page
This template took virtually no time to create in Adobe Comp using a custom library along with placeholders, basic vector, and type—all included with the app.
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