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3 Layer-supporting Mobile Apps for Digital Scrapbooking–A "Comparinion"


Photoshop, Affinity, Canva Mobile App Logos
“What is the best user-friendly app to scrapbook with on my iPad?”

This is a question I have seen A LOT lately on various social media platforms. Maybe it’s just that time of year where families are on vacations and the keeper of the photos + stories wants to document them while the memories are fresh. Or maybe there is some shift in the memory keeping universe that is making digital scrapbookers want to move away from their desktops and document on their tablets.


Whatever the reason is, I figured it was time to do a post such as this one. Comparing three popular, layer-supported, mobile apps for digital scrapbooking on an iPad is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. In this blog post we’ll compare three powerful apps digital scrapbookers choose to use when creating their pages: Photoshop for iPad, Affinity Photo for iPad, and the Canva App. We will examine the costs, main pros/cons of each one, various features, and platform availability. I really wanted to try and keep this strictly a comparison post, but I couldn't help myself and needed to voice my own thoughts/opinions here and there (hence the word "Comparinion" in the post title). While all three apps have photo-editing capabilities, those features are not being discussed in this post.


Let's dive in:


Adobe Photoshop for iPad:
Released in App Store: November 2019
Photoshop for iPad Logo

Disclaimer: When Photoshop for iPad was released in the App Store, I was a Beta Tester for the app for several months. Adobe was up front stating the launch of the mobile version was not going to have the range of features the desktop version had. Many of the features the mobile version lacked, such as adding a stroke or drop shadow to a layer, were those that digital scrapbookers desperately needed to complete pages. Because of this, I removed myself as a beta tester and deleted the app from my device.


A few weeks ago I reinstalled Photoshop back on to my iPad. I wanted to see what changes/updates had been made. Although I was surprised to see it was only brought to the app a few weeks ago, it pleased me that Layer Effects were finally added to the app. However, the only two effects added were Stroke and Drop Shadow. Which is fine, because digital scrapbookers use these two simple effects the most when creating pages.


The UI of Photoshop for iPad looks similar to that of the desktop version. Upon looking more closely at it, you will notice in the screenshot below, the app is missing several tools, such as shapes, line segment, the pen tool, and several others. In addition, while there is a color picker, there is no way to set up color swatches or install color palettes.

screenshot of scrapbook page in Photoshop for iPad

The developers at Adobe are working on bringing new features to the app. You can see what features are currently in development below. It has taken almost 4 years for them to bring simple layer effects like drop shadow and stroke to the app. So it is unclear as to how long a features such as color swatches will be added.


Screenshot of features coming to Photoshop for iPad

I wanted to put together a page in Photoshop for iPad to see how it compared to putting one together in the desktop version. I was really, really hoping that it would feel like the desktop version. Unfortunately it did not. I found the Layers Palette to be somewhat disconnected when wanting to add a filter or a Layer affect to it. There were too many hoops to jump through to simply add a drop shadow. In addition, selecting layers and moving them using an Apple Pencil seemed to be glitchy.


I opened a Photoshop template in the app that I created on my desktop. The template has rectangular and star shapes I made using the shape tool in the desktop version of Photoshop. There are also drop shadows added to these layers. Bringing it in to Photoshop for iPad, the layers and effects stay intact, and I am able to adjust the drop shadows. However, if you notice in the screenshot below the Layer Properties states it is a layer that is not yet supported on mobile devices. You can still adjust the size and the drop shadow that was applied to it but you have no option in the tool bar to make other shapes.


Scrapbook template opened in Photoshop for iPad

Again, I was really, really hopeful when I reinstalled this app, I would feel like I was creating a page in Photoshop on my desktop. I especially wanted this for those friends who subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud, as they would have access to this app as part of their subscription. Unfortunately I just did not get that desktop scrapbooking experience at all with Photoshop for iPad. That being said, the app is improving. As more and more features are added, it may eventually have that desktop feel users know and love.


If you are using Photoshop for iPad to create your pages. I want to hear about your experience. Please leave me a comment at the end of the post!


Short Summary:
Pros:
  • Familiar Interface, has core tools

  • Creative Cloud Integration, meaning you can sync your work seamlessly across devices with a CC subscription

  • Available at no extra charge to Adobe CC subscribers

Cons:
  • Is missing several tools/features from its desktop counterpart

  • It is a subscription-based app

  • There is a learning curve

Compatible Platforms:

The mobile version of Photoshop is available for iOS and Android devices.

Cost:

$9.99 a month, but is included in the Adobe creative cloud subscription.


Learning Curve:

Medium to High. There is a decent learning curve to Photoshop for iPad, but the app does have many tutorials you can access from within the app that can help you better understand how use it. I wish I could refer an online instructor for those who are looking to use Photoshop for iPad for their digital scrapbooking. Unfortunately, I do not know of anyone at this time. If I ever come across classes, I will let you all know!


Wifi Connection:

Wifi is not needed to use Photoshop on your iPad.


 

Affinity Photo for iPad:
Released in App Store: Version 1 was released in the Summer of 2017; Version 2 was released in the Fall of 2022
Affinity Photo for iPad Version 2 logo

Disclaimer: Anyone who has been following me since at least 2017 knows Affinity Photo for iPad is one of the apps I use to document my photos and stories. I also offer classes on the app. The intent of this blog post is not to promote the classes, but to educate/help memory keepers in selecting the best mobile app for their documenting style/needs.


There are two things that attract digital scrapbookers to Affinity Photo for iPad:

  1. There are no subscription fees. It is available for a one-time purchase in the App Store.

  2. Affinity Photo for iPad supports layered PSD files. This means you will be able to use all of those Photoshop templates you have collected in the past or work on pages you may have started in Photoshop, in Affinity.

I started using Affinity Photo for iPad in August of 2017–just a few months after it was released in the App Store. We were taking a cross country flight from Tampa to San Francisco. I had never completed my December Daily album from 2016 and I wanted to experiment with Affinity Photo to finish the album and see if I could actually get the hang of it while on that 5+ hour flight. Long story short, I totally got the hang of it, was able to complete the album on the flights to and from San Francisco, and the rest is history.


Scrapbook page opened in Affinity Photo for iPad Version 2

What is nice about Affinity Photo for iPad is that it is a fully functioning version of its desktop counterpart. The UI is slightly different to accommodate for the smaller screen size, but the iPad version is not scaled down at all. Bevel/emboss layer effects, brushes, a color palette, a robust text studio, etc–are features already a part of Affinity Photo for iPad that Photoshop for iPad is missing. I feel anyone coming from a Photoshop environment will have not problem finding their way around Affinity because the UI is very, very similar. Of course there will still be a learning curve, but Photoshop users looking for that desktop scrapbook experience on their iPads, shouldn’t have a problem learning their way around Affinity.


Affinity Photo for iPad does not have any in-app Cloud integration like Adobe Photoshop and Canva does. If for some reason a mobile memory keeper wants to finish a layout on their computer that was started on their iPad, they would save that layout in iCloud Drive, Dropbox, etc., and then open it on their desktop from one of those cloud-based storage areas. While some may find this a drawback of Affinity, the app not having their own cloud-based storage has never been an issue for me as I rarely create pages on my computer. I’m all about mobile memory keeping!!!


Short Summary:
Pros:
  • Not subscription-based

  • Mini-me of Affinity Photo for Desktop

  • It has that Photoshop “feel” if your are coming from an Adobe environment

  • You can open your PSD files in Affinity

  • Affinity can export files in the following formats: PNG, JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PSD, PDF, EPS, SVG, and more

Cons:
  • There is a learning curve

  • Does not have in-app cloud integration

  • Not available for Android tablets


Compatible with:

The mobile version of Affinity Photo is only available for iPads. The desktop version is compatible with both iOS and Windows


Cost:

One-time purchase of $19.99, however, at the time of publication of this blog post, Affinity is running a 25% off summer sale in their shop and it is available for $13.99. A Universal License is also available for $164.99 ($123.99 on sale) that will give you all of their software (Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Publisher) for both platforms AND the mobile apps, which is an amazing deal!


Learning Curve:

Medium to High. There is a decent learning curve Affinity Photo for iPad, but the app does have many tutorials you can access from within the app that can help you better understand how use it. You can also view classes offered in the Pixels to Pages Classroom by clicking this link.


Wifi Connection:

Wifi is not needed to use Affinity Photo for iPad.


 
The Canva App
Released in App Store: October 2014

Canva App for iPad Logo

Disclaimer: For this section of the post, I did consult the scrapbook Queen of Canva, Kim Hurst. Kim and I have become good coast-to-coast friends over the past year. I have her on speed dial whenever I have a question about Canva. Before publishing this post, I did have her review this section and give me feedback so as to not publish any incorrect information. Thank you, Kim!


Please note the following discussion is referring to the Canva Mobile App and not the desktop version.


First let me begin by saying that I do not use Canva to create my pages. I know scrapbookers are excited about this app and many people have taken Kim’s Create with Canva Class over at Ali Edwards (Kim’s class is taught using the desktop version and not the mobile app). I’ve been using Affinity Photo for iPad and the Project Life App to document my photos and stories for years now. I’m 54 years old, set in my ways, and don’t want to change them. But I do enjoy using Canva to create social media posts and other advertising pieces for various community groups I am involved in.


All that aside, if you are looking to give scrapbooking on your iPad a try, Canva is a great app to start with. Especially if you like clean, minimal design. Those friends who love creating layouts based on a grid will enjoy the collection of premade grid options available in Canva. The app also includes variety of shape photo frames, (aka photo placeholders/clipping masks), users can choose from to create their own pages from scratch.


Canva Grid examples screenshot

You can use Canva for free or upgrade to their Pro subscription for $12.99 a month. Obviously the paid version will unlock more access to graphics and advanced features of the app. One of those advanced features includes the ability to open PSD files. This is a plus for those who have a large collection of Photoshop templates. But it is important to note that while you can open PSD files, Canva currently only recognizes photo placeholders as squares or rectangles. So for example, if you have a PSD template with a placeholder that is a circle, yes, the circle appears as normal when the template is opened in Canva, but if you were to select that circle and drag/drop a photo into it, the photo will appear as a square. See the super short video below. The template opened in Canva is one of my 4x6 Mixed Photo Frames. Each shape you see is meant to have a photo clipped to it. I’m confident the developers at Canva are working on improving the PSD functionality.



In order to use your photos, digital elements, papers, etc. from your favorite digital scrapbook designers, they would need to be uploaded into Canva. The free version of Canva offers 5 GB of storage, while the pro version offers 1 TB of storage. If you are truly a mobile memory keeper and all of your digital kits are already saved in some sort of cloud-based storage, you really need to do the math on whether or not you want to use Canva as your main app for scrapbooking. 5GB of storage is not a whole lot. That is the same amount of storage you receive for free with your Apple ID. Upgrading to a Pro account for $12.99 a month with 1 TB of storage can be pricey, especially if you are already paying for a larger amount of storage with another cloud-based service. Remember, you have to upload your files/photos to Canva, in order to use them in the app. If you are already paying for cloud storage elsewhere and you find yourself needing to upgrade to a Pro account, you are, in a sense, paying twice to store the same files. You can compare the Free and Pro versions of Canva here on Kim's site.


Canva has hundreds of thousands of graphics available in both the free and Pro accounts. Many of the illustrations I prefer to use for social media and other personal projects are only available with a Pro account.


On the subject of illustrations and graphics. Changing colors of embellishments is fairly easy, once you understand the user interface, and know where to find the tools to do so. While the editing tools in Canva are easy to use, they are not as robust as those found in your industry-standard professional design applications.


Short Summary:
Pros:
  • User-friendly interface makes it accessible for beginners

  • Provides a vast collection of pre-designed templates, graphics, fonts and other elements scrappers can use to create pages

  • Pro version can support PSD files

Cons:
  • There is an learning curve

  • In order to use photos, digital scrapbook elements, templates, etc., they need to be uploaded into Canva's in-app cloud storage

  • PSD photo placeholders are limited to square or rectangular shapes

  • A Wifi connection is needed to use the app

  • Free version is limited in storage

Compatible with:

Canva is available for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows


Cost:

Canva offers a Free Version with 5 GB of storage and a Pro Version for $12.99 a month, with 1 TB of storage and access to advanced features.


Learning Curve:

Low-Medium. Ali Edwards offers a Create with Canva class taught by Kim Hurst. Kim also has a Scrapbook with Canva Facebook group with tutorials.


Wifi Connection:

Wifi is needed to use Canva. This can be problematic for mobile memory keepers who may be traveling in a car, plane, train, etc. and want to work on their pages without a data plan on their device.

 
In conclusion

Choosing the ideal app for scrapbooking on your iPad depends on your specific needs, budget, preferred platform, and level of customization required. Affinity Photo, Adobe Photoshop, and Canva Mobile App offer different sets of features and capabilities. Affinity Photo and Adobe Photoshop provide professional-grade editing tools and a familiar user interface. Canva Mobile App, with its extensive template library, is well-suited for beginners. Consider the cost, platform availability, if wifi is needed, layer effect options, and layered Photoshop file support. Each app has its strengths, so choose the one that aligns best with your scrapbooking goals and preferences.


Thanks for reading! Questions? Comments? Leave them below!












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2 Comments


Thank you Kelly! For me, I will be using both Affinity and Canva for my scrapping needs, I think they both have their strengths in different areas. Thank you always for your amazing content and classes, you know I’m here with you! ;) So glad you and Kim are friends, that is awesome!

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Kelly Sill
Kelly Sill
Jul 18, 2023
Replying to

I agree! I do like Canva for the convenience of creating flyers, social media graphics, and presentations!

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