iPhoneography Apps: Paint FX

The App Store is full of apps that will make changes to your photos with one click or tap. Instagram will apply filters with one stroke and immediately share them with the world. Instant Sketch or MySketch will turn your pictures into a drawing. AutoPainter (the original or the separate apps 2 and 3) will create a work of art in the manner of Cezanne, Van Gogh or Monet. Dynamic Light will bring an intense HDR look to your photos. Noir will create an intense, spot-lighted B&W photo, and Geló (which I have yet to review) will tint your photos with vibrant color.

But what if your taste or style runs to mixing those styles – perhaps a tinted subject on a sketched background? In that case, Paint FX by Sprite Labs may be the app for you.

Paint FX Example

Paint FX allows you to “paint” the effects you choose onto your photo, wherever you want. It also allows you to access textures, grunge, and blends from the web, as well as choose colors for tinting, and customize sketches and HDR parameters.

Paint FX splash

After you see the splash screen, you are shown a test picture of London. Across the top is the menu: Load, Save, Filter choice, Brush parameters, Undo, Redo, Pan/Zoom, Current Effect, Mask, Erase, Layer and Help.

Paint FX menu

You can experiment with the test picture before trying to work with your own photos. Tap Load (the first button on the left in the menu) and you are presented with a number of choices. The first four are sources for your photo, while the rest help you with examples and ideas. Some of the options are not useful at all. Instead of taking you to Instagram photos hashtagged with #paintfx, the Instagram option takes you to an ad for Instagrid and Printstagram. The More Apps button seems to be disabled entirely, giving me a message that the server is down. View Community takes you to the Facebook page for Paint FX.

Paint FX load

Loading from the Web can be useful. It offers you a search box, and tapping the gear by the search box lets you limit the search to shots that are available for reuse, and that are generally a particular color. All the web searches available in Paint FX, from load photo to Web Texture to Blend use the same screen for search. Web search is one of the best-utilized features in PaintFX.

Here, however, I’ve loaded a photo of my daughter, and chosen a filter called Burnt Photo. When choosing a filter, you also choose whether you want to brush it on (the finger) or apply it to the entire picture (the square with the outward-facing arrows). I have applied it to the entire picture.

Paint FX Burnt

I decided my daughter should not be “burnt”, so I used the erase tool to erase the effect over her. In order to do the fine work with a smaller brush, I zoomed in using a two-finger pinch. The brush size is relative to the entire screen, so zooming in automatically makes the brush smaller to get right up to the edge.

Paint FX Erase

Then I decided the dress needed a little more contrast. If you look in the menu in the picture below, you will see that the Current Filter (to the right of Pan/Zoom) is contrast. That mean wherever I brush, I brush in contrast. I’ve done that on her dress.

Paint FX contrast

Now I want to save it. Save is the second button in the menu. There are a number of options there, from social networks to postcards (printed by Sincerely) to the Photo Captions app (which I do not have). Community puts your picture into an email to Animagik; I don’t see the use for that.

Paint FX Save

Let’s step back and show what else can be done here. I’m going to reload the same picture. When loading a picture, Paint FX will assume that you wish to crop it into a square. In order to not accept the crop, just tap the square in the lower right with the scissors.

Paint FX Square

I’ve done that here and now I will load the entire photo. When I tap the Select button at the top right, a dialog box asks if I want full resolution. This may be the only time I suggest that you choose medium resolution. Paint FX has a problem with really large photos, and will crash after only a few changes of filters. So you can do multiple saves in case the program crashes when you are in the middle of something, or you can try using a medium resolution and then later upsampling the picture with an app like Big Photo (reviewed last week).

Paint FX Select

Here I’m illustrating the changes that you can make to the brush. By tapping the brush icon (the white dot) you can change the softness of the brush, the opacity, and the size. Here I’ve lowered the opacity and brushed in the vintage paper filter on the left side of the photo.

Paint FX Brush

Here I raised the opacity back to 100% and brushed in over the stairs. So you can have different opacities of the filter brushed into different areas.

Paint FX Changing opacity

The brush opacity also affects the fill option. Here I lowered the opacity down to about 10% before choosing to fill the entire picture with that same vintage paper filter. It’s given the entire photo just a tinge of the warmth.

Paint FX Opacity affects Fill

The next feature you might like to try is the masking feature. Masking allows you to paint in an area, then try different filters on that area while only having to brush once. The mask is painted in as a red overlay.

Paint FX Mask

Here I chose rainbow blend as the filter.

Paint FX Rainbow

Then I chose cartoon as the filter. It is applied just to the area I have masked.

Paint FX Cartoon

Finally, here’s color sketch.

Paint FX Color Sketch

Several of the filters have further parameters, like Custom Sketch and HDR Pro. Here’s HDR Pro 2, with both Tone and Unsharp Mask parameters that you can tweak.

Paint FX HDR Pro 2

I did not want the HDR to apply to the entire photo (why use such a harsh treatment on my daughter), so here I brushed in the effect on some of the pipes, the stairs, and the train number in the upper right.

Paint FX HDR brushed in

In order to apply multiple effects, you have to use the Layer button. Tap it when you want to commit or apply the changes. Here I’ve applied the Retro Starburst filter and erased over my daughter.

Paint FX Retro Starburst

I tap the Layer button and the app asks if I’m sure.

Paint FX Layer dialog

Then I can lower the brush opacity and add the cobalt filter to cool the picture some.

Paint FX Cobalt

Here’s one of the border filters, border grunge2. Borders are affected by the opacity of the brush and can be partially brushed in, just like any other filter.

Paint FX Border

Below you’ll see one of the Web Search pages. This one is for the Web Texture filter. I’m going to add the texture from row 4, column 2.

Paint FX Web Texture Search

The texture stretched to cover my entire photo. I then use the erase tool to reveal my daughter.

Paint FX Texture

Here’s the dialog for the blend filter. You have a multitude of blend modes to choose from, and the picture to be blended can be chosen from your photo library or the web.

Paint FX Blend dialog

Here I chose an abstract of bubbles from the web. I can drag, rotate and resize the blending photo here before or after changing the blend mode from the default Multiply.

Paint FX Blend reposition

As it turned out, I liked the Lighten blend mode for this.

Paint FX Blend Lighten


Paint FX is a powerful program that has its quirks. The main drawback is the way it crashes with larger photos. But it more than makes up for that with its many capabilities – you may just have to change your workflow to include more frequent saves.

In the grand tradition of the internet, I will leave you with a picture of a kitty (safe for reuse), with color sketch applied and erased from the eyes, followed by a web grunge.

Paint FX Kitty


One Response to iPhoneography Apps: Paint FX

  1. Pingback: iPhoneography Apps: PaintFX Revisited Part 1 | enthusiasm noted

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