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Original Question

I'm looking for a new laptop. Other factors and tradeoffs aside, is it worth getting a touch screen for photo editing?

I'm curious if anyone swears by (or at) editing photos on a touch screen.

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Clarifications in response to great comments and answers

[Addendum] My particular workflow is around Darktable. Darktable is an open source non-destructive RAW editor similar to Adobe Lightroom. Other than a bit of dust removal where 'dust' includes birds in the sky, distant telephone poles, etc in addition to dust. I don't do much brush work.

[Addendum] I asked the question as generally and generically as possible. I'm not seeking specific product or brand recommendations. Budgets and workflows and the state of technology require tradeoffs.

[Addendum] I'm not looking to use a touch screen as my sole interface for editing photos on a laptop (though I do use a touchscreen as the sole photo editing interface on my phone). My thought is to add it as another mode for interacting with editing software.

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    Why do you have any reason to think a touch-screen is better (or worse) than any other pointer-based graphics interface? – Carl Witthoft Oct 18 '16 at 11:42
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    Being different, the odds that it is not better or worse relative to other interfaces in regard to an individual's workflow seem vanishingly unlikely. – user50888 Oct 18 '16 at 12:33
  • OK, then, "fun with parsing the English language," eh? Pedantically, "Do you think touchscreen is worse? If so, why. If not, do you think touchscreen is better? If so, why?' :-) – Carl Witthoft Oct 18 '16 at 13:14
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    Much the same as Crazy Dino's answer below. Accuracy is very lacking unless it supports a stylus, and using the keyboard at the same time can be tricky with the form factor of many "tablet PCs". – JPhi1618 Oct 18 '16 at 17:22
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    Isn't the only way to interact, but the answer to the question "is it worth getting a touch screen for photo editing", is no. It might be worth getting for other uses, but if your only concern is photo editing, it will not help at all. And @CarlWitthoft, a touch screen is lacking compared to other pointer-based devices because you can't see where the pointer is before you click. The device decides where to click and it could be right or wrong. With a visible pointer, you know exactly where the click will be before it happens. I can't imagine using a clone tool without seeing the pointer. – JPhi1618 Oct 18 '16 at 19:29
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This really depends on what you mean by "touch screen" and "image editing" as well as your own workflow and efficiency.

I've been a Photoshop user for more than 20 years. I could use a Cintiq or other touch screen option IN ADDITION to a desktop/laptop to see directly on the drawing surface what I'm working on.

However, the many 2-in-1 options are very poorly designed for professional usage. Lenovo and Microsoft for example lose all access to keyboards when in drawing tablet mode. To make matters worse unlike Cintiq which offers buttons on the side at least neither Lenovo or Microsoft has any so you can't even setup a few hotkeys. There's nothing! Zooming in and out, undo, switching tools, all of it has to be by pressing menu or panel options.

Now if you're only using Lightroom than this isn't as big of an issue. You'll be a little slower on say flagging and rating but the rest isn't too bad. If you're doing work in something like Photoshop or Affinity Photo though forget it.

Stick to Cintiq or just an Intuous Pro connected to a more traditional desktop or laptop. You might also look at Wacom's ExpressKey Remote but even that for me is limited when I know and use hundreds of shortcuts.

I would encourage you to find the nearest Microsoft store to you and try out a Surface or Lenovo. The one by me at least had a few loaded with Adobe CC so shoppers could try it. For your every day shopper that has no idea what they're doing its a fun gimmick in a shop getting to play in Photoshop right on the screen. But for a Professional Workflow the efficiency just isn't there without key strokes.


Update if you mean a touch screen that isn't a tablet. That's also a gimmick that would find use for maybe Lightroom and not much else. The entire point for editing work of a touch display is having pressure sensitivity for masking, airbrushing, painting, etc. You'll be much better off using an Intuous Pro connected to a non-touch laptop/desktop if that's what you're referring to.

So really my answer is the same for touch screens as it is for 2 in 1s but for different reasons. Touch Screen lacks precision and sensitivity, 2 in 1's lack keyboard while in tablet mode.

  • upvoted, though the question was about touch screens, not specifically tablets and that tablets can have keyboards if you want them to. – James Snell Oct 18 '16 at 9:54
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    @JamesSnell you're right they didn't specify that. I'll update with more details. As far as the keyboard though - no you can't. Surfacebook and Lenovo P40 the only 2-in-1's worth looking at with specs and pressure sensitivity can't function with a keyboard while in their tablet modes. If you know a 2 in 1 that works in tablet mode with its keyboard please let me know so I can go investigate its specs and possibly get it. – RyanFromGDSE Oct 18 '16 at 10:29
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I have an HP Envy touchsmart, so laptop with touchscreen.

I'll be honest I find the use of the touchscreen a hindrance/gimmick rather than useful:

  • It's not overly accurate (plus compare the accuracy of your fingertip over a stylus).
  • You spend your life cleaning it.
  • With an actual laptop, rather than tablet/laptop hybrid, it's not that easy to use as they keyboard gets in the way more than you think.
  • When people point at your screen and inevitably touch something, they end up clicking on the screen.

Personally I would have a look at either a graphics tablet (I swear by mine), one of those fancy graphics tablets with inbuilt screen, or an actual tablet, then compare what works best for you.

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    "When people point at your screen and inevitably touch something, they end up clicking on the screen." - I usually find such behaviour an act punishable by death, or worse. A lot of touchscreens do support pressure sensitive stylus too, so that could be worth the OP investigating. – James Snell Oct 18 '16 at 9:56
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    @JamesSnell I agree. But people are idiots and it always ends in a 'whoops'. – Crazy Dino Oct 18 '16 at 10:09
  • Yes, it drives me crazy too -- tons of cow-orkers insist on jabbing the screen when pointing at an object or a line of code. Thank goodness modern LCD screens appear to have great elastic restoration! – Carl Witthoft Oct 18 '16 at 11:46
  • In the early 1990's, an animated architect drew on my monitor with a red Sharpie...o.k. it wasn't exactly my monitor other than I looked at it all day and well into the night and I was the one who cleaned it. – user50888 Oct 18 '16 at 12:55
  • Wow - way back then you could replace humans with animatronic architects? (quid pro quo) – Carl Witthoft Oct 18 '16 at 13:15

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