A Few of My Favorite Image-Editing Apps
My Samsung Galaxy Note 9 does double-duty as a camera, and now an image-editing device. Here are some of my favorite apps for creating featured images for the blog:
These are the versions I’m using – don’t be fooled by imitations. There are many apps bearing the same, or very similar, names. Sometimes, the “logo” or cover art looks identical. You may find some you like even better than these, and by all means, tell me about them in the comments. But beware shady apps trying to look like more popular, long-standing apps. Don’t just look at the reviews; look at the number of installations and ratings. Don’t pay for apps you haven’t tried and liked, personally. These are the ones I like:
- Snapseed (Google)
Feature-packed image editor. Has most of the tools you’ll ever need.
- Add Text (Gabo Apps)
Specialized tool for adding text overlays on images; includes interesting fonts, textures, curves, perspective, 3D effects, and more.
- Background Eraser (handyCloset Inc.)
Lets you isolate parts of an image, whether it’s erasing the background or erasing your ex from photos. There may be easier object-removal tools (for the ex) but few background eraser-type apps are as precise, and most come with a maddening number of intrusive ads.
- PhotoLayers (handyCloset Inc.)
Lets you layer images to create composite pics. Remove the ex with Background Eraser, add a tree with PhotoLayers.
- Cover Photo Maker (Photo Cool Apps)
A little superfluous, honestly, given that I prefer the control of all the previous apps, but I sometimes use this one for simple backgrounds in the right dimensions for various social media platforms.
- DU GIF Maker (DU Apps – currently suspended from Google Play Store for ad fraud)
I use this mainly to turn video into GIF. (My camera now records GIF natively, and will convert video to GIF; however, this app lets you save clips longer than 6 seconds.
- DU Recorder (DU Apps – currently suspended from Google Play Store for ad fraud)
Still the best app I’ve found for making short video screencapture tutorials.
- Word Cloud (Radical Labs)
Lets you create word clouds using a variety of shapes, color palettes, fonts, and saved lists.
- Color Picker & Extractor (LoopBots)
Why on earth do I need or want two of these? This app is easy to use – you can turn on the camera and capture the colors seen through the lens, or load an image and capture its colors. BUT…
- Pixolor (EmberMitre Limited)
This app lets you capture the colors on the screen – without having to first do a screen capture and extract.
- Retouch (ADVA Soft)
Not just for blemishes or scratches, Retouch will also remove unwanted objects like crumbs from an otherwise photogenic plate of food, scratches from wood grain, stray clouds, and so on. It’s easier for small touch-ups than Background Eraser, and fills in the removed space with blended bits of surrounding background so you’ll hardly notice that grease spot on the white tablecloth was ever there.
- Photo & Picture Resizer (farluner apps & games)
This one’s an essential tool; the higher your phone camera’s resolution, the more you need this little app. It doesn’t do a lot, but it does it well. Use this to crop or compress the size of still images. (For video, the quality of DU Recorder is better, but if you’d rather avoid problematic apps, this one’s been around a good long while and seems trustworthy as well as responsive.)
- Layout (Instagram)
Simple. I prefer PicPlayPost, but downloaded this just for comparison and you may find it easier for quick collages.
- PicPlayPost (MixCord)
An awesome app – lets you create collages with still images, video, and combinations of the two. (Full disclosure: I got the now-unavailable one-time upgrade. They’ve switched to a subscription-based upgrade model, so some of the features I have may not be available without that, and I don’t necessarily recommend it. But I’ve used this app for years, and I do like it a lot.)
- Gallery (Samsung)
Built-in with my phone, I was about to write “meh” as all I had to say about it, when I realized that they finally returned some of the “Editor Pro” options to the default screen, so you can do a quick change of image dimensions straight from this included app. Still, I’m now used to using Snapseed and it offers a bit more. Gallery’s good for choosing images from albums, and it might be fairly good for white balance corrections. I don’t hate it, anymore.
- Photos (Google Photos)
If you have an Android phone, you get unlimited storage for images up to something like 6MB. Adequate for backup!
Although I continue to use and list the DU apps above because these particular apps are not listed as being implicated in DU Group’s ad fraud infractions and have not been flagged by Norton as having “unusual behavior.” I will not recommend them here, because this is apparently not the first time this company has run afoul of Google’s policies and had apps removed. Now, they’ve been banned altogether and are telling users to download the .apk from their new, “official” site. They are not being completely forthcoming about why they were banned from the Google Play Store.
New, similar apps have appeared, but with user interfaces so similar to the DU apps it defies credibility to think they don’t share DNA. Most are buggy and look hastily copied and slapped together. Might as well use the original DU apps.
You can find the .apk elsewhere, and DU Recorder, at least, remains available in the Samsung store, iTunes, and others. They are also on Facebook and appear to be responsive, albeit dishonest about the ban. As with any app, use at your own risk.
Free or a Small Fee for Upgrades
Some of these, like Gallery, may come preloaded on your phone. Others are available in the Google Play Store – most for free. I’m happy to pay a small premium to upgrade apps I use quite frequently, whether it’s to remove ads or add features. I avoid subscription payment plans, mainly because they’re so easy to forget – months after you’ve found another, better app for free.
I don’t mind ad-supported apps, either, if the ads are unobtrusive. I won’t be recommending any that annoy me with pop-ups or ads that are impossible not to click. These sorts of ads are common; I have uninstalled apps before ever trying out any of their features, because of it.
Many of these apps, like Snapseed, are also available for iOS. This post won’t go into detail on how to use them on iOS, even if they are available, simply because I don’t have an iPhone. I’m going to assume that they work similarly, if there’s an iOS version.
Let’s Make a Featured Image for This Post
Using some of these apps, I’m going to give you some ideas and tips for making blog images.
- Find and photograph a few textures you like. For example:
This is upholstery from a couch. I’m going to open it in Snapseed, crop it to a section I like, and bump up the saturation – no, I’m going to do it the easy way, with the Accentuate filter under Looks.
This second one started life as an ordinary wood-grain coffee table top. I started playing around with it in the Retouch app, getting rid of the odd water ring and scratch, then overdid it and ended up with something artsy and abstract. It’ll do for this exercise. It’ll do nicely.
- Next, open the Add Text app. Choose a solid Background. I chose black, but you could choose a different color or even an image.
- Click the + Text icon from the bottom center. Where it says, “Enter text here,” type something. Keep it short, easy to read. This is an image, not an essay. I typed, “Creativity.”
- At the upper right corner of the screen, tap Done.
There are controls on all sides of the box containing the word(s) you typed:
- The topmost and leftmost arrows will stretch your text horizontally or vertically (but will not size it proportionally and may render it harder to read).
- The upper right corner control will let you tilt or rotate the whole block of text (but will not reshape or curve it).
- The rightmost control will resize the container box itself, but not the text – it lets you enlarge or constrain the space in which the text is allowed to flow or wrap or stretch horizontally.
- The lower-right control will proportionally size the box both vertically and horizontally.
- The bottom-center control will create a duplicate of the container and the text in it.
- The lower-left control will let you edit the words in the text box; so will double-tapping the text.
- Click the X at the upper-left of the text box to delete that block of text.
- De-select the text box, and repeat steps 2-4 to create a second text block. In mine, I typed “Rules.”
TIP: If your text box is hard to select, use the Position option at the bottom to bring it forward.
- Select either text block. Your screen should look something like this:
- Use a finger to drag the options at the bottom to the left and right (swipe right or swipe left). There are too many of them to show on one screen. Select Texture from the right side of the bottom row:
- On the Texture screen, tap Select Image:
- Choose one of the texture photos you took. Alter the position (using the onscreen up, down, left and right arrows under Select Image, as well as the Rotation, and the Horizontal and Vertical Scaling, to get the look you want:
- Now, do the same with the second block of text, using a different texture.
- Swipe right to drag the options at the bottom back to display Stroke. With one of the text blocks selected, tap Stroke and reduce the size to 1 or 2. (Anything much larger produces a sort of glow or halo effect.)
- Now, play with the 3D, 3D Rotate, and Shadow options.
TIP: Use the Undo icon (reverse, curved arrow) at the top of the screen, just left of center, to back up, one step at a time, if you make a mistake.
- When you are happy with your results, click the right-arrow at the upper right corner of the screen and Save Project (so that you can modify it later, if you wish) and Save Image (so that you can share it later, if you wish).
- Click any of the Share buttons to share your creation! Here’s what I ended up with:
If you’re feeling adventurous, try this:
- Make two copies of the same photo.
- Modify one copy to be black & white.
- Use one copy as the Texture for text over the other version (so that the text is grayscale over the color version, or the text is color over the grayscale version). See the featured image on my post, Limitless, for an example.
This is the first of what may turn into a series of posts: