Best Photo Effects Apps for the iPad

by Reads (27,293)

Last week’s roundup of photoediting apps for the iPad was all business, focusing on the apps that help you quickly crop your photos and apply filters to them in order to improve the images. This week is all about fun, with a vast array of apps that promise to do everything from the silly to the awe-inspiring. Read on to find out which of these apps measure up to the highest standards for special effects.

Artist’s Touch ($4.99)

Artitsts Touch for iPadHave you ever wanted to be an artist, working with brushes and paints, or maybe charcoal or chalk? If so, Artist’s Touch for the iPad is the app for you. It uses your photos to create “blueprints” for you to enhance with your choice of eleven different media and six different canvas types, from paper or canvas to stone and brick.

When you choose your photo, the outlines are magically transformed into a blueprint to follow, or you can choose a blank canvas if you like. Pick your desired material, and then “paint” with your finger on the screen of your iPad. Change the brush size to bring out finer details, and create your own masterpiece. When you’re done with each work of art, you can export it to Photos, send it via email, or share it on Twitter.

It’s fun, and it’s easy to create some spectacular effects. It does take some practice, and watching the brief tutorial will make the app a little easier to use. I would like to see more features in future updates, or perhaps a price reduction. Artist’s Touch is a relatively good value that allows you to create beautifully detailed, very personal works of art from your own photos, but it is a bit on the expensive side considering what it does.

ArtStudio ($4.99)

ArtStudio for  for iPadThe ArtStudio for iPad app is perhaps slightly misfiled in this roundup of special effects photography apps. While it allows you to add captions to your images and draw mustaches on your friends, ArtStudio is actually a full-fledged drawing app with a delightfully clean interface and tons of special features.

Even if no one can accuse you of being an artist, you’ll be glad to know that there are a few lessons included with the app to help get your creative juices flowing. They start quite simply, with a 3D cube, and move up to faces and perspective. Each lesson gives you a guideline to follow so that you can learn how to use the drawing tools in this app, which are nicely laid out and well organized.

ArtStudio is a fantastic drawing app. My stick figures don’t do it justice, so be sure to check it out for yourself. It may not have every single tool a professional would want, but it does cover all of the basics at a reasonable price.

Color Splash for iPad ($1.99)

Color Splash for iPadColor Splash is the app you’ll use to create stunning black and white images with just a pop of color on a single object. To get started, you simply choose a photo from your library and the app will automatically convert it to black and white. All you have to do is use your finger to “paint” the original color back into the areas that you want to highlight.

There’s a short tutorial video that explains all of the app’s features, and it was so well done that I was an expert within four minutes. You can pinch and zoom to focus on smaller areas that might be hard to paint accurately, and double-tap to switch between gray and color, in case you make a mistake. There’s even a red mode that shows exactly what areas of the image will be colorized when you’re done. It doesn’t actually turn your photos red, but it is an excellent tool for making sure you’ve transformed your photo in exactly the way you desire.

When you’re done, you can share your new creations via email and Facebook, copy it to the clipboard, or just copy it to the Photos app on your iPad. In my testing it performed flawlessly, except for one issue: it does not work in landscape mode. The display will rotate when you rotate the device, but when you use your finger to paint on the screen none of the color ends up in the right spot. Everything works perfectly when you switch to portrait mode, and this app performs so well in all other respects that I can’t complain too much.

Hopefully this will be fixed in a future release, but as it stands, Color Splash does exactly one thing, but it does it (almost) perfectly. It’s well worth the price to create some truly clever effects that are limited only by your imagination.

ComboArt (99 cents)

ComboArt for iPadComboArt for iPad is so simple that you won’t really need any instructions, though they are there if you want to read them. Just choose a photo from your library and then use the small buttons at the bottom of the screen to apply various effects, from color filters to radial blur and photo frames.

As you choose each effect, the corresponding button at the bottom of the screen will receive a number so that you can see the order in which you have applied them. Use the plus button at the bottom left side of the screen to save the current combination of filters and create a new custom button at the bottom of the screen. Press it the next time you open up a new photo and all of your filters will be automatically applied in the same order.

If you already have well edited and cropped photos and you want to quickly add a few basic effects, ComboArt is a good choice. The ability to combine and save specific combinations of filters is clever and the results are good quality. I’m disappointed that the app will not work at all in landscape mode — it seems a shame to waste so much space on the iPad’s large display. I would like to see more filters in future updates but ComboArt is definitely worth the low 99-cent pricetag.

Masque ($3.99, free lite version also available)

Masque for iPadThe Masque for iPad app is similar in nature to Color Splash in that it allows you to “paint” special color effects onto your photos with your finger. It offers eight different effects from which you can choose: Black & White, Blur, Contrast, Cool, Darken, Lighten, Saturate, and Warm. You can layer different effects onto your photos, which you can import from your iPad’s photo library or directly from Facebook or Flickr.

Masque works well but is more difficult to use than Color Splash because there is no way to zoom in on smaller areas of your photo. Even though you can control the brush size and opacity, it’s very hard to apply effects exactly where you want them — such as in the cityscape in the screenshot with this article. I want the buildings to be black and white, and the sky to be blue, but there are several areas that I just can’t get into between the buildings.

Masque is a fun app, and it includes more options than Color Splash, but it’s hard to recommend it over Color Splash since it’s harder to use and more expensive. Unless you need to pull photos directly from Facebook and Flickr, Masque is a second choice at best.

Outcolor ($1.99)

Outcolor for iPadOutcolor for iPad is the app for you if you want to create cool “out of bounds” photos. There is a short tutorial that I highly recommend; spend just a few minutes reading the hints and following the illustrations will get you up and running quickly. Next you’ll try things out with the included sample photo of a sea turtle. Choose your background color, adjust the frame by dragging it into position, then choose what you want to come out of the frame — in this case the turtle’s flippers.

You can use either the image brush or the red color brush to “paint” what you want to highlight from the original image, and you can pinch/zoom as necessary. It can be a little tricky getting things exactly right until you zoom in a bit, but then again this is so much easier than trying to do the same thing with a mouse that I can’t really complain too much.

The app can create the most realistic shadows possible when you’re done choosing the foreground or you can zoom and drag to manipulate shadows. You can save the finished photos to your photo library or email them to friends and family. Whichever way you choose to go, you’ll find that Outcolor is fun to use, creates some fantastic photos after a little practice, and is definitely worth the $1.99 price tag.

Photonasis HD ($1.99)

Photonasis HD for iPadPhotonasis HD is an app that allows you to add filters on your photos, from the old standards like black & white and sepia to more interesting effects such as contour, artistic pencil, swirl, and emboss.

This is a dummy-proof app because you don’t do much more than import your photo and then choose a filter by swiping up and down on the pop-up selection wheel. It works well, but it is rather limited; only a few filters to choose from, and if you want to apply more than one to your photo you have to go through a laborious process of applying a filter, saving, opening up that new photo, applying a new filter, etc.

Photonasis HD works as advertised, but it doesn’t offer very much bang for the (two) bucks, at least in this version.

SketchMee HD ($4.99, plus $9.99 in-app purchase to enable PDF export))

SketchMee HD for iPadIn a nutshell, the SketchMee HD iPad app is the lazy person’s alternative to Artist’s Touch. Instead of “painting” your photos yourself, you can let SketchMee do all the work for you. Just select a photo from your library, pan and crop as needed, and then sit back and watch the show.

The results are truly amazing — no matter what you try, be it a landscape or a photo of your friends or even a painting, SketchMee turns the image into a hand-drawn sketch. There are plenty of options to try, including colored pencils and chalk, ten different kinds of paper, and various levels of shade density and colors.

You can export your photos as JPG or PDF files, though the PDF option does require a $9.99 in-app purchase. At twice the original cost of the application that’s pretty pricey but it allows you to export photos as PDFs of infinite size (you can see every brush stroke!) that can also be fully edited in desktop vector drawing programs.

SketchMee helps you create beautiful “hand drawn” sketches from your photo library and there are plenty of options to keep things fresh and interesting. It makes great use of the iPad’s large display and is a joy to use. Even if you can’t draw a stick figure, SketchMee can make it look like you’re a real artist and is definitely worth the price.

Tiltshift Generator ($2.99)

Tiltshift GeneratorIf you want to play with the depth of focus on your photos to create bizarre miniature still life shots, Tiltshift Generator for the iPad is the app for you. All you have to do is import your photo and then manipulate the sliders at the bottom of the screen to define the blur size and value, and tap your finger on the photo to show what area you want to highlight.

The rest of the photo is artfully blurred just a bit, making it look as though the area you highlighted is actually a real-life miniature scene. The effect can be subtle or over the top. You can also control the saturation, brightness, and contrast of the photo in order to achieve exactly the effect you want.

Tiltshift Generator is fun and you can do some very cool things with it. You results may vary, depending on your photos — during testing I found that the effect worked better with some of my photos and didn’t look right at all on others.

Once you’re done “tiltshifting” you can export your finished photo by either email or Twitter. I really like Tiltshift Generator — it’s both fun and easy to use — but it’s the sort of app that not everyone will use all that often.

Unicorn Shots HD ($2.99)

Unicorn Shots HD for iPadIf your idea of having fun with photos is using a magic marker to draw on a mustache and devil horns, then Unicorn Shots HD is the app for you. It isn’t an editing app so much as a funhouse app. Choose your photo and then use the menu on the left side of the screen to choose funky eyeballs, silly hats, and much more to place on your photos.

You can easily resize objects, flip them, and manipulate them by touch to create the silliest photos ever. When you’re done, you can save the new photo to your device, send it via email, or upload it directly to Facebook.

If you have kids, or are a big kid at heart, take a closer look at Unicorn Shots HD. It’s a bit overpriced at the moment, and could use some more extras to choose from, but overall it’s a fun little app that allows you to unleash the inner idiot and start decorating your village with the silliest photos imaginable.

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  1. soumik

    nice review but you forgot to add instafusion image blender app..it has a very easy and beautiful interface..try it