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!