iPhoneography Apps – Four years of tutorials; iColorama basic photo enhancement

Well, another year has gone by. Four years ago, the day after the last US presidential elections, I started posting tutorials on iPhoneography apps. A lot has changed in those four years. I’ve covered over 150 apps, and learned a lot about how to manipulate images on your iPhone or iPad. Some consider me an expert, but all I really want to do is to make sure the average person who finds a love for digital artistry can use the tools they pick up, and perhaps let them know which tools to pick up in the first place.

If you’re interested in which 37 apps I covered in the last year, I will list them at the end of this article. But for now, let’s move forward!

Last week I covered Microsoft Selfie, an app that does noise reduction and skin smoothing on the fly on those selfies you grab. I was going to turn to Microsoft Pix, which does the same sort of thing for images you capture with the back camera. However, it’s a little more complicated than it should be and the results are mediocre. Also, it does not capture at full resolution. Quite frankly, I am getting tired of these kinds of apps that tout themselves as quick and wonderful and yet deliver below-par results. We deserve better. The technology is there, but the instant profit is not, so we get stuck with low-res images from a huge company like Microsoft.

Can I get results as good with apps I already have? Well, sure. I can even do more, in just a couple of minutes, using an app like iColorama. In order to prove that I could get good results through iColorama using a low-res original, I took a shot with the front camera on my iPad. These cameras are known for not producing very nice images, and this one had a lot of noise and blockiness. Nevertheless, I wasn’t happy with the after image since it wasn’t that good an image to start with. The lower the resolution, and the more noise you have, the less likely you are to recover dark areas, such as the ones surrounding my eyes.


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iPhoneography Apps – Coming to Terms with Brushes using PaintHack and iColorama

Any time you try to learn a new skill, the first roadblock you encounter is the specialized terms associated with that skill. How are you going to play American football without knowing what a touchdown, punt or offsides penalty is? How are you going to operate a computer without knowing the difference between an icon and an operating system?

Art apps use a lot of terminology borrowed from physical painting with brushes and pencils, charcoals and pastels. However, since you are not actually using these physical tools, but a finger or stylus, then the app has ways to control the output of touching the screen to mimic the physical action. These brush controls are named in similar ways across most art apps.

In order to explain what some of these controls actually do, I am going to be using two apps: PaintHack and iColorama. PaintHack uses a brush engine similar to the one in Procreate, which is commonly seen as the industry standard among art apps. It undeniably gives you the most control over your software brushes. iColorama adds a control that also comes in handy for artists and is not an option in PaintHack or Procreate. It’s used in the example below; can you guess what it is?


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iPhoneography Apps – iColorama Procedural: Studies of a Brush Tip

I created a piece in iColorama the other day that used a variety of techniques. It started simply – just a background and a single dab with a brush tip on a mask. These kinds of works, the ones that use variations on a single theme, are valuable to teach these multiple techniques. So here’s a 10-minute lesson on how I came up with this work, which I entitled “Studies of a Brush Tip”.


I apologize for the fact I had to speak so rapidly to get everything in, but I cover a lot in these ten minutes. Nevertheless, you should be able to follow along as long as you pause frequently.


Here’s the end result of the video.


Until next time, enjoy!

iPhoneography Apps – iColorama: Brush Tips #2

Last time I went over the Colorize brushes, which (for the most part) use assigned colors to paint. I even showed you how to paint with a photo as your brush tip. This time we will take a look at brush types that sample the color underneath them, allowing you to paint photographs. I’ve featured these brush types many times, in discussions on Artist, Rebound, Plane, Clone, Stamped, Edged and Raised brushes. The tip I’ll be sharing is not the operation of these brush types, but a workflow you may not be using that has multiple advantages.

The standard workflow is to load an image, then select one of the types from the brush menu. A white “canvas” overlays your image, and you can use the Background button to change that canvas to another color or an image you have saved that’s appropriate for a canvas. Any brushstrokes you make pull the initial image through the canvas, in the style of that brush type.

This works fine, and many iColorama artists use this method to create fine artworks. But what happens if you want to change the canvas? Make changes to the underlying image because the painting is coming out too muddy? Add another element to your painting? Perhaps more important: what if you are interrupted and want to pick up your painting again later? This workflow I’m describing will solve these issues.

The first thing you have to do is get out of the habit of loading an image and beginning to paint. You have to make preparations. First, just as you would with oils, acrylics, markers, ink, watercolors or charcoal, you have to prepare your surface. Have your canvas created and saved so it is easy to return to. I start with an image the correct proportions for my painting and overlay it with Preset>Gradient.


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iPhoneography Apps – iColorama: Brush Tips #1

A few weeks ago, in a conversation about brushes in iColorama, I was asked, “Is there a resource that describes exactly what each function does and how to use it?” My response was, “No. I have several tutorials on Brush settings – one on Artist, one on Plane and Rebound, and one that covers Abstract, Stamped, Colorize, Shatter and Explode, I think – but an overall general Brush tutorial seems to be something I should put together.” (Since writing that, I have also added a tutorial on the Clone brush.)

I looked at creating an overall general Brush tutorial, and found it to be an extremely daunting task. Artist brushes have 15 different parameters. Stamped also has 15, but some of the parameters are different. Not only am I supposed to explain all those parameters, but I should have good examples of why I would want to use those parameters. Some parameters make obvious changes on some brush types; others are subtle to non-existent. Worst of all: a laundry list of Brush types and parameters would be extremely boring. I’d have trouble staying awake long enough to write it, and no reader would ever get to the end.

So I decided instead to create a series of “Brush Tips” articles, which will explain certain brush types and some of their parameters. I will try to give these articles some kind of context. Today, I will look into how a parameter gives you capabilities that you may not have realized were in iColorama. Next week, I’ll be describing a painting workflow that I think you’ll find extremely helpful, especially if you wish to return to a painting and work on it further. After that, you can expect “Brush Tips” to be a regular, if intermittent, feature.

This week we are going to look at brushes that can apply color directly to a canvas, with no underlying image: Colorize and Paint. In a first for me, I will be using screenshots from iColorama S, the iPhone version of the app. iColorama is not a universal app. The separate apps for iPad and iPhone match very closely, but not entirely. If features do not match, I will try to point that out.


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iPhoneography Apps – iColorama Cloning: from mundane to surreal

Once again, a new release of iColorama adds art tools that further the reach of this feature-packed art app. The latest release brings the Clone Brush, Light leak textures, and a few other tweaks. I’m going to be concentrating on the Clone Brush in this tutorial.

Why use a clone brush? You may, quite frankly, not need it in your artwork. But I’d like to show you some ideas for how to use them that you may want to incorporate into your artwork or just play around with. Here’s a result of play with the Clone Brush that made a nice, vibrant appstract.


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iPhoneography Apps – iColorama Texture Masking

Here’s a technique that may or may not interest you. As stated in the video, textures are usually blended into an image. That means that some of the color of the texture and some of the luminosity of the texture are combined with the pixels of the underlying image. But what do you do if you like the pattern of the texture, but want to use that pattern to apply a grid, or a blur, or a painterly effect to the image? That’s when you might want to create a mask from your image.

Let’s watch the video, then return here for the examples and some further discussion.

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iPhoneography Apps – Bonus post: iColorama’s Blend color sliders

There’s a new group on Facebook called iColorama Formulas and Techniques. It’s built for users to learn this robust app from each other, and limits its posts to explanations of how effects are achieved using iColorama. Of course, some questions arise there as well. One question that came up today requires more explanation than a single screenshot or a silent video recorded in the app can give.

There are settings under the Effects>Blend option that may not be obvious in their use. There are four sliders marked Gray, Red, Green, and Blue, with handles at both ends. I’ve discussed the Gray slider before. By moving the left handle toward the middle, you can have the blacks in your photo drop out. By moving the right handle to the middle, you can make whites drop out. This means that you can make an object on a white or black background “float” over a new background. It’s a kind of quick masking – you can find a picture of an object on a white background and quickly and easily composite that image on top of a new background.

The Red, Green and Blue sliders are not so easy to describe. I put together the following image to help show how those sliders work. It’s got 50% gray, red, green and blue squares. Feel free to copy it and follow along.


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iPhoneography Apps – Three years of tutorials: a recap, an Assembly feature, and an iColorama procedural

On November 7, 2012, I published my first tutorial on Hipstamatic. As usual, on my anniversary, I like to take a look back. But there’s more to this article than a walk down memory lane. There’s a feature currently in beta for Assembly that I’d like to show you, and an iColorama procedural on how to create a multicolored water color painting like this one. So let’s get started!


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iPhoneography Apps – iColorama 3.91: More art choices than you can shake 1000 brushes at

Teresita Garit, the developer of iColorama, is everything you could wish in a developer of an art app: she’d responsive to users and she develops tools that she would use in her own artwork. Every month or two she comes out with a new release full of goodies, presented with no hype. When I say “no hype”, I mean that sometimes it is difficult to realize from her change description in the App Store whether a change is good or monumental. Let’s take a look at the changes for release 3.91 of iColorama. (As usual, these changes are for the iPad version. In this case iColorama S, the iPhone version, mirrors it somewhat but not entirely.)

New Coherence (faster)

The first change adds a few presets to the Style>Coherence function. I will be working today with this image, which was used in my recent class at the mDAC (Mobile Digital Art and Creativity) Summit.


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