iPhoneography Apps – iC Painter: Automagic Painting

I’ve received a lot of requests to cover the iColorama sister apps that break out the painting capabilities of that most flexible of art apps. MetaBrush has layers and brushwork is done manually, which is not one of my strong suits. It would require many tutorials to begin to cover, much like iColorama itself. iC Painter, on the other hand, is an auto-painting program which is deceptively simple, but can yield impressive results. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in.

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iPhoneography Apps – DistressedFX+: a surprisingly worthwhile upgrade

Five years ago I wrote a tutorial on DistressedFX, a texture app to go alongside Stackables and Mextures in my library of apps. I couldn’t help but compare it to those giants in texture apps, and although I loved the textures, I found the interface clunky without the versatility of Stackables or Mextures.

In the intervening years DistressedFX has soldiered on, occasionally releasing new texture packs. But we have recently discovered that Stackables has ceased updates, and it is only a matter of time before that app crashes and burns. So I have revisited DistressedFX over the last few weeks, buying several packs that I had bypassed earlier.

So, having spent money on the app, what should happen except a new version of DistressedFX – one that is not upwardly compatible? DistressedFX+ costs a relatively steep $/£9.99, but it does include all present and future packs. Is it worth it?

I’ve got to admit, I initially thought that DistressedFX+ would be going to a subscription model, which would make it a definite “NO” for me. I have too many apps that will do everything I need that I don’t have to pay additional charges every month. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only are all packs included, but significant changes to the clunky interface have been made – enough to make me glad to support the developer with the additional upfront price. A developer has to eat, after all. I’m glad to pay for additional value.

So the new version has a colorful new splash screen.

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iPhoneography Apps – Manipulating Sort in iColorama

It’s been a while since I’ve covered any new features in iColorama, the premier mobile art app. The feature I will cover today, Form>Sort, was added a few years ago, and has been used repeatedly in brilliant works by many mobile artists. There aren’t a lot of modifications to the effect that can be accomplished in the Sort command itself, but I’ve discovered that you can make subtler, beautiful effects by modifying the image before applying sort, and I’d like to show you how to do that.

My first image here used Sort on the background, and I added the flower, dog, and painted elements after.

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iPhoneography Apps – Creating and Using Reusable Elements

Some artists who use photos as a base for their art are capable of capturing everything they want in the frame. That’s wonderful, but some of us find our creative fires burn brighter if we piece elements together in our work. We spend hours masking elements to place them in the exact position we need them. Then we discover that we want to use the same flower or cloud or drawing or face or whatever a couple of weeks later. After remasking only one or two times, we start looking for a way to make those elements reusable.

There are three ways of making items reusable that I’ll be describing here: Chroma, dropping out a solid white or black background, and using PNG files with transparent backgrounds. Each has their advantages and drawbacks. As usual, I will be working mostly in iColorama, but I’ll also be taking forays into MetaBrush and the layering apps Leonardo and Affinity Photo for iPad (Affinity).

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iPhoneography Apps – iColorama Procedural: Spinning Vinyl

iColorama can do amazing things, with a little patience. I posted the image below in several iColorama Facebook groups, and it got a lot of response, so I’ll show you how to create a 45 RPM single, from scratch, in this great app.

This image used the app Over for text and Leonardo for placement onto a background and adding a shadow. Those tasks can be done in iColorama, but they are easier in other, specialized apps. While I don’t add text in the video, I do show you how to mask the disc onto a new background and create a drop shadow.

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Weekends in Mobile Photography/Art

Joanne Carter of The App Whisperer (visit there today!) asked me to put together an article to outline what I do in mobile art on the weekend. I’m rather a strange choice, since I am retired, and weekends are not much different from weekdays. When I was writing weekly tutorials, I would gather my screenshots or rehearse a video prior to putting the article together on Monday. Since I no longer do that, my schedule is not limited to weekend/weekday work.

So, in order to get into the spirit of a weekend, I’m writing about what artwork helps me relax. For me, it’s starting with a blank canvas and creating abstracts. Playing with shape, color and texture appeals to me, and learning to use my apps in new and surprising ways is always a blast.

In order to create the first work, “Game Changer”, I used the ability of MetaBrush to create transparent PNGs to layer a painted swirl on top of itself in iColorama. This is the wallpaper on my iPad Pro.

Game Changer

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iPhoneography Apps – My Top 5 Apps

I was asked by Joanne Carter at The App Whisperer to select my top 5 apps and explain why each one was on my list. Here’s what I wrote.

I’ve covered over 150 apps since I started writing tutorials back in November of 2012. I might have another 150 that I haven’t written about. So how am I supposed to pick just five of them?

The fact that there are so many apps to choose from is a good thing. That doesn’t mean that they are all good apps. As the number of available apps grows, however, the number of really good apps grows also. Even if only one out of ten apps are worthwhile, that still means I have thirty apps worthy of consideration for “top five’.

I do have several apps that I use on a regular basis. These apps form my core, the ones that are versatile enough that I can perform many tasks easily. If an app is too specialized, it might be a favorite, but I can’t call it a top five app. In no particular order:


Snapseed was an invaluable app when I first covered it over four years ago, and it has only improved. The ability to mask changes and step back through history has made it a go-to app, especially for final tweaks.

I wanted to show a particular feature, and why it is so valuable to me: Vignette. I find a good vignette can help focus the viewer’s eyes on the subject, but I hate a heavy-handed vignette. Most apps merely darken the edges of an image, as in the picture on the right. But Snapseed does two great things with the vignette. It allows you to move the center of the vignette over the subject, and the vignette is applied in more of an Overlay blend mode rather than Multiply. Multiply darkens all underlying pixels indiscriminately, while Overlay darkens the lightest pixels less than the darkest. I prefer the Snapseed version, as shown on the left.


Surprise! Not really, to anyone who has been baying attention to the number of tutorials I’ve written on this queen of mobile photography and art apps. It has a steep learning curve, but its treasure-trove of features and masking capabilities (including reusable masks) make this the one app that nearly all of my images go through. It is also my blending app of choice for combining apped images back with the original to bring back detail.

Also, when I am creating an appstract, I often begin and end in iColorama. This appstract is called “Journeys End in Lovers Meeting”.


I hate noise in photos, but a little bit of texture can’t hurt. Stackables is my texture app of choice, because it combines ease of use like Distressed FX, with a ton of modifiable textures, like Mextures. Add in the ability to do tilt-shift effects and masking, and you have a finishing app worthy of a top-five inclusion.


There are many specialized “painting” apps out there, where the app does all the painting. I like to use them, since my brushing ability, like my sketching ability, is next to non-existent. Brushstroke offers the most varied and “realistic” painting that I have seen, at full resolution. Of course, if the result is too strong, you can always use them as part of a blend, as I did in “Putting Green”.


Sooner or later, when working with images, you are going to want to layer images. You might want to create a collage, or be able to change eye color in a non-destructive manner (oh, I wanted blue instead of green). That’s why I wanted to include my favorite layering app.

Prior to June, when Affinity appeared, I did my layering in Leonardo. My example here is “Flashback to Hawaii”, where I layered a caricature made in Moment Cam onto my own “painted” image I captured on a visit last year. The masking, crucial in collage work, uses the code found in Superimpose, a terrific app on its own. Leonardo adds a ton of features to the basics of masking, making it a definite top five pick.

Affinity is a brand-new app, with tons of promise. The final image here, “Renaissance Lighting”, uses Affinity. But it is only available for iPad Pro users, so I can’t count it among my official top five at the moment.

Until next time, enjoy!

iPhoneography Apps – A return with tips on iColorama’s Text on a Curve

Life does go on, and people still have questions on mobile photo/art apps, so here we are with some tips on the latest feature for iColorama, Txtcurve. In July 2015 I wrote about an app called Path On that places text on a curve, which worked adequately. I am pleased to say that iColorama now gives you the ability to perform the same function within the app. Naturally, Path On has some bells and whistles that are not present within iColorama, but the feature is highly customizable and can deliver some nice results.

Here’s my daughter, a recent college graduate!

I start by creating a Gradient background so you can clearly see the text. Txtcurve is in the Effects submenu, next to Text. At the bottom you will see the word Launch, which opens up a “separate window” which will do the work.

There are two buttons at the top center which bring up separate windows for you to create the Curve and edit the Text. We start in the Curve window, with Paint highlighted at the bottom. I draw across the screen from the top left, then down. The curve is in a bright green.

When I switch to the Text window, the curve is outlined with some “lorem ipsum” boilerplate text. Tapping the Edit button with the keyboard icon at the lower right brings up a keyboard for the entry of text. Unlike the Effects>Text feature, you can paste text, copy it, and edit misspellings and spacing by tapping into the text and correcting it. In the Text feature, you have to backspace through the text to edit it.

The default text is in a small, fancy font. Below I’ve changed the font and increased the size slider. As I increase the Size or the Distance between characters, the text will slide along the curve. Increase it too much, and the text will “drop off” the end.

Below I increased the Size and the Distance until it broke correctly between “Here’s the top;” and “here’s the side”.

One of the drawbacks of text on a curve is that the curve can affect spacing between letters in a word. A tight curve can bunch letters together until they’re unreadable. There are two approaches to handling the kerning. Path On forces the letters into a rigid spacing, and you can increase or decrease the space overall. iColorama seems to use an automatic type of kerning, in which the software tries to compensate for the vagaries of the particular curve. It the example below, you can see that sometimes the kerning is not particularly good. “Here’s” comes out looking like “H er e’ s”. This automatic kerning is a function of the particular curve, text and font, and it can be hard to predict or adjust.

Below I’ve mitigated the kerning problem by changing fonts. The problem is still there; it’s just not as obvious. I’ve also added a Shadow by changing the Shadow X, Y, and Blur sliders. There is a color picker if you want to change the shadow’s color.

Rotation can come in handy to create vertical text, something that’s not available elsewhere in iColorama. I would want to increase the Distance if I wanted vertical text.

If you’re not happy with the curve, you can change it. Below I switched back to the Curve window and tapped the Transform button at the bottom. I dragged the curve up and to the right with a single finger, and a two-fingered pinch reduced it in size.  You can also rotate the curve with two fingers, which is really nice.

I can also Remove the curve using the trashcan at the bottom and draw in a new curve or curves. When you draw two curves, the text is added to the curves in the order you drew them. I drew the wave at the top before the bowl at the bottom.

When you return to the Text window, the text remains the same. There is no need to re-enter it. Now you can see that the text filled in starting with the wave, followed by the bowl. You can also see that since the curve changed, the kerning problem disappeared.

When you Transform curves, all curves are changed in tandem. It is not possible to change individual curves.

Txtcurve has already been updated, but I had the following screenshots that illustrated a concept I wanted to show that used the unfinished version. That’s why you don’t see the Transform and Curves buttons.

I drew two circles, both starting at the bottom. The one on the left was drawn clockwise, while the one on the right was drawn counter-clockwise. Will that affect the text that uses the circles?

Yes it does! The text follows the direction in which you draw the curves.

iColorama contains some “canned” curves for your use, including hearts, stars, triangles, squares and spirals. There are ten of them available.

Below I used Curve 4/10, a curved star. You can tell by the text that the star was drawn starting at the top right and travelling counter-clockwise.

The spiral was drawn starting in the middle, moving clockwise. It gets pretty crowded at the middle.

By adding some space at the beginning of the text, you can bypass the tight part of the spiral.

When you use iColorama’s Text feature, the text is applied as you leave the Text window. Using Txtcurve, the text has NOT been applied. (Remember to Apply so you don’t lose your work!) Therefore, it is possible to change the Opacity before applying. More importantly, you can mask the text before applying, using either Shape masks, as seen below, or Brush masks. In this way, text can be partially hidden behind mountains, clouds, trees or people.

In the app Path On, text is placed on top of the curve that you draw, just like writing on lined paper. In iColorama, the curve passes through the center of the letters. This can make a difference. Below I drew my curve tightly hugging the outline of my daughter.

When I add the text, it overlaps onto her. It is obvious that the text is centered on the line I drew.

That’s no problem, since I can return to the Curve screen, tap Transform, and drag the curve away from her. It gives me the image that I posted at the top of the article.

If you have need for text on a curve – and you may be surprised at what a nice thing it is – then try out the new Txtcurve feature in iColorama. Here’s an image I created with using the Clone Brush on a Gradient background. The text is from a haiku by a poet that calls themselves Broken Wings.

Until next time, enjoy!


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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iPhonography Apps – Microsoft Selfie and Prisma: a couple of tips

Some apps, quite frankly, don’t need a whole lot of explanation. A tap, a choice made, a slider, and you’re done. However, just because they are simple and popular doesn’t mean that you can’t get more out of them with a couple of tips about them. That’s why I am covering a couple of very simple apps today: Microsoft Selfie and Prisma. (One other commonality between the apps is that they are available for Android as well as iOS devices.)

Microsoft Selfie

Microsoft Selfie is a free app that was released about a year ago. Its sole purpose is to remove the noise generated in low-light selfies created by the less-powerful front-facing camera. You are generally going to use it to capture photos, but you can also apply the same noise-reducing function to images in your library. There is a Gear button at the lower right that takes you to the settings for the app.


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