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Ted Chin's Creative Process on the iPad

In this sample chapter from Photoshop on the iPad, author Rob de Winter introduces Ted Chin, known for his iconic flamingo artwork on Photoshop 2021's splash screen, and shares his artistic journey. Based in San Francisco, Chin collaborates with notable companies like Adobe and Facebook, drawing inspiration from California's landscape. De Winter explores Chin's creative workflow, particularly his use of Photoshop on the iPad for mobile artwork creation and his favorite tools for photo composition. Through Chin's experiences, readers learn about the fusion of inspiration, technology, and creativity in digital art.

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Photoshopping for photoshop


If you’re a Photoshop user, you know Ted Chin from the flamingo artwork used in the Photoshop 2021 splash screen. Ted is originally from Taiwan. Through a student exchange program, after several years of study in New York, he ended up at the Art Institute in San Francisco. After that study, he continued to live in San Francisco and now creates work for companies such as Adobe and Facebook. He enjoys California’s forests, mountains and water immensely, and he plans to live in the United States for years to come.



Ted Chin


San Francisco, USA

Finds inspiration:

Through close observation

Favorite tool:

Select Subject

Most used tools:

Select Subject, Refine Edge, masks, selections and brushes

Other favorites:

Lightroom Mobile and Pixelsquid

Best advice:

Make the things you really like and learn all about light, shadow, perspective and color

How do you use Photoshop on the iPad?

For me, it always starts with the idea. Sometimes I get inspired by an image I’ve seen somewhere. I think of all kinds of ideas in my head until I come up with a new concept. I then develop that concept by searching stock photo sites for images that I can use for that idea. Once I find those images, I create a new Photoshop document with a 4:5 ratio. That ratio works best on social media platforms, but also works well if you have a photo or composition printed. I then import all the collected images into the new document, making selections and masks and moving objects back and forth until I have created the composition I had in mind.

I mainly work with Photoshop on the iPad when I’m on the road or when I can’t use my laptop. I traveled a lot. On those trips I only had my iPad with me and did all my work on it in the car on the way. I also use Photoshop on the iPad in my studio to complement Photoshop on the desktop. I sketch ideas on it or work out basic ideas. Photoshop on the iPad works very intuitively, making it easier to experiment with ideas if I can’t figure it out on the desktop.


© Ted Chin


© Ted Chin

Photoshop on the iPad does not yet include all the features from the desktop version. Do you occasionally feel limited when working with Photoshop on the iPad?

Very occasionally, yes. On the other hand, I’ve also seen that people who only have a very small amount of knowledge of Photoshop on the desktop find the iPad version a relief. They can create beautiful things with it pretty quickly. Not all the desktop features are present on the iPad, but maybe that’s precisely why it’s so incredibly intuitive and makes it easier to focus on the parts that really matter. And, the most missed desktop features will soon be added on the iPad anyway.

Do you sometimes combine other apps with Photoshop?

Yes, I use the Lightroom for iPad app mainly for initial, global editing of my raw or JPG files. For example, I darken or lighten the photos and increase or decrease the contrast so that they then fit better into my photo composition. Then I send the photo from Lightroom to Photoshop and create the composite image there.

I also use the Pixelsquid app. This app allows you to place ready-made 3D objects created by other designers into your composition. The handy thing about Pixelsquid is that you can rotate 3D objects at all sorts of angles until the model fits exactly into the composition. You can use either the Pixelsquid iPad app or the Photoshop desktop plug-in.

What iPad are you currently working on?

The largest (12.9-inch) iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil 2. It works great. I love the big screen and wouldn’t want a smaller one.

Are there other artists who inspire you?

Yes for sure, there are almost too many artists to mention. My all-time favorites are Hayao Miyazaki’s anime films. Some of my favorite surrealist artists are René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray and photographers such as Erik Almas, Erik Johansson and Benjamin Von Wong. I also like painters like Vladimir Kush, Rhads and Aquasixio. Lately, I’ve also been watching Benny Productions’ speed editing tutorials on YouTube a lot.

Where do you get the images for your photo compositions?

Especially from stock photo sites like Unsplash and Adobe Stock. I also enjoy taking my own photos. These are mainly photos of models that I integrate into my compositions. I also create my own Photoshop brushes. With these brushes I can draw fog, water, splashes or hair. If I don’t make the brushes myself, I use the standard Photoshop brushes or download them from various websites. There are lots of free brushes out there. I also created a catalog of standard image assets. In this catalog, for example, I have an image with white snowflakes on a black background. When I need snow in a composition, I place that photo on top of my Photoshop document, set the blend mode to Screen so you don’t see the black colors anymore, but you can still see the snowflakes. Very handy!

What are your favorite tools in Photoshop on the iPad?

I think Select Subject and Refine Edge are very useful tools. Because these tools use artificial intelligence, they save me a lot of time. That these two tools allow me to select objects and hair so easily and quickly on an iPad is almost magical.

Do you have any tips for new users?

I certainly have. My first tip is to primarily do the things you really enjoy. I love creating beautiful, imaginative photo compositions, so that’s what I focus on the most. Never forget that you don’t create your work for social media, but because you enjoy designing or photographing yourself. I’m always reminded of a photographer who told me that he’s very satisfied if he makes 10 great photos in one year—even though he photographs all year round. You can only do something like that if you really enjoy your work. The second tip is that, especially in Photoshop on the iPad, you should use layer masks a lot. Without masks, you’re nowhere. And, learn how light, shadow, perspective and color work. Those are the basics where the magic begins. Everyone is familiar with light, shadow, perspective and color, yet it takes quite a bit of time and effort to be able to apply it properly when creating photo compositions.

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