Over photo editing app

Software reviews

Now that your phone is your everyday camera, why move photos to a PC for editing? We look at mobile apps that put artistic control in your pocket too.



Android & iOS, £1.50

For many of us, editing a photo is just the start, and the next thing is to share it online. So how about turning it into something even more shareable, by adding captions, messages, extra graphics and so on? That is the idea behind Over, and it is one that has grown almost to a fully-fledged art and publishing tool

The basics are simple. You choose a photo then a menu option; initially this will most likely be Add. You can double-tap to enter text, then use your touchscreen and the Edit menu to move that text around, resize, stretch or rotate it, change its colour and font, and fade, tint, copy or centre it. Alternatively you can add and edit from a library of stock graphics, add another piece of text, and so on.

Once your masterwork is ready, you can use the Save or Share options. These include sharing it directly via email, text message, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Path and more. You can even send it as a postcard.

Apps like this have a multitude of uses, from personalised digital greetings cards to adverts, and from captioned photos to those motivational messages that some people like to share around Facebook. You can also buy in-app upgrades, for example to add more fonts and seasonal artwork, or upgrade to the Pro version, which lets you install your own fonts among other things.

Alternatively, if you just want something to try for free then have a look at After Photo. This simple yet remarkably capable app adds some interesting text manipulations such as flip and rub-out. Rub-out is especially useful for things like outlining a photo element so it appears in front of the text, or for manipulating text-you can make it appear torn in two, for instance.

You can also adjust the photo's brightness and add overlays or filters to change its texture and look. The one caveat for After Photo is that while the iPhone version seems fine, the Android app has a stability bug, crashing on Save - although it does appear to save the edited image anyway.



Android & iOS, free

Although it has many rivals, Autodesk's Sketchbook is still a top choice for artists looking to explore their digital creativity, especially as it runs on Mac and Windows desktops as well as on pretty much any recent Apple or Android device. For a start, it means you don't need to carry a drawing pad - as long as you have your phone or tablet, you can draw.

The free app offers 10 pre-set brushes and allows you to create a new drawing or import existing images to work on, including photos. You can use two fingers to turn and zoom the image, or double-tap the corners of the screen to access shortcuts, for example to clear the current layer or undo/redo. While it will work reasonably well with a good quality capacitive stylus and touchscreen, on an iPhone or iPad you can also connect a more accurate wireless digital pen. Drawing with your finger is convenient but takes a little getting used to, plus you can't see what you are drawing as well as you can with a stylus.

The basic version of Sketchbook is pretty, well, basic - only two drawing layers, for instance - but you can readily add more features. The cheapest way is to create a free account with sketchbook.com and log in; this gets you access to features such as symmetry (which mirror-images your drawing), adding and manipulating text, and a third drawing layer. Buy the Pro tools for around £2.50 and you get even more features - gradient fills and blends, more brush types, and so on. You can also access the extra tools via a $25 annual subscription on the Sketchbook website - this entitles you to use the full version of Sketchbook on Windows or Mac as well.

There are a few issues - more layers would be good for sophisticated work, and sharing or exporting drawings is slow. Android users also need to decide which version of Sketchbook to download, because where the Apple Appstore lists just one, there are at least four available on the various Android stores, including Sketchbook Express, Sketchbook Mobile etc. This is because Autodesk used to offer a basic free app plus separate paid-for versions with extra features, but has recently moved to a single app with the option to buy and add extra tools - in-app purchases, to use the jargon.

This change - which Adobe has also done with Photoshop Express - could eventually encourage more free users to upgrade, and will not seem too strange to business software users who know that you do not get free upgrades forever. However, it enrages some buyers of previous versions who must now either stay with their old app or buy anew. Anyway, the latest is simply called Sketchbook with no suffix.


YouCam Perfect

free on Android & iOS

Love them or loathe them, selfies - photos that you take of yourself - are one of the most popular uses for mobile phones. Whether it is to pull a face, send a smile, or to show off your holiday destination, hordes of people are posting them online or sending them to friends.

Perhaps best known for its DVD-playing software, Taiwanese developer Cyberlink has now parlayed its considerable expertise in image and video editing into a pair of free advert-supported mobile apps aimed at the selfie fan. YouCam Perfect tops the bill, as a combination camera app and image editor designed specifically for face photos. Once you take a portrait - and it doesn't have to be yourself, of course - it analyses the image, looking for key physical features. You can then apply enhancements, for example reducing skin reflections, changing the eye shape or even adjusting your height.

It can also apply different skin tones, remove skin blemishes and unwanted background objects, and its ability to identify faces in a photo means you can apply effects to several people in a picture or just one. You can then put a frame around the portrait, create a collage, or set it into a ready-made background photo. Lastly, with a powerful enough phone YouCam Perfect can modify video on the fly, allowing you to take video selfies with effects applied; of course it just applies the chosen overtone to the whole image, but the effect can be interesting.

A second Cyberlink app, which can either plug into YouCam Perfect or work standalone, is YouCam Makeup. This lets you see how you (or your subject) might look with various colours and styles of lipstick, eye-shadow and so on, even with coloured contact lenses. You can ramp up the effects from subtle to pantomime dame - the latter is pretty comedic, but used more sparingly the app should give ideas as to new styles to try. It also offers links to makeup tips, mostly videos on YouTube, where this topic is now immensely popular.

A neat feature is that there is no need to manually paint the effects on your photo because it automatically detects facial elements so it knows what goes where, and it seems pretty accurate at it too. This also allows Cyberlink to offer ready-made looks that you can apply to a photo, plus a big range of extra effects and makeup elements for download.

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