Compatible with Android phones running Android 2.1 or later.
When it comes to mobile image editing apps, Apple iOS users have traditionally had more choice than the users of other mobile operating systems. However, with Google's Android OS increasing its popularity and snatching the number one spot in the mobile OS ranking, developers have been hard at work to make their apps available for Google's platform. Instagram and Snapseed are two examples of extremely popular iOS imaging apps that recently, after a rather long wait, have been ported to Android.
However, powerful imaging apps for Android were available before the two apps mentioned above were launched and Pixlr-o-matic by Autodesk, the subject of this review, is a good example. The app was originally launched in 2011 (the Android version only a month later than its iOS counterpart) but recent updates have added even more filters and effects which make the current version worth looking at again.
Pixlr-o-matic allows you to apply effects, overlays and frames to your images and share the results. While this sounds like a lot of other imaging apps in the Google Play Store, Pixlr-o-matic's ease of use and both the quantity and quality of the available effects make it stand out from the crowd. Read on to find out more.
- More than 100 effects, 280 overlays and almost 200 different borders
- Randomized processing option
- Saves images at original resolution
- Comprehensive sharing options
Using the app
The Android version's user interface is pretty much identical to the iOS pendant -- simple yet stylish. On the start screen you get the option to take or open an image from your gallery. In the actual editing window the main controls can be found at the bottom of the screen. Here you can choose between the effects, overlay and frame views. You can also go back to the previous step or click through to the saving and sharing screen.
To the right of the main image all available filters are displayed as thumbnail previews. You can scroll through them by swiping up and down. If you tap on one, the filter is applied to the main image almost instantly. Effects, overlays and frames can be combined, offering an infinite number of permutations.
At the top of the screen there are three more controls. You can crop your image but unfortunately the cropping options are very limited. The only available cropping ratio is 1:1 and you cannot adjust the cropping area; Pixlr-o-matic always crops the central portion of the frame.
There is also a button to access the in-app store to download further effects, overlays and frames -- free of charge in the Android version. Next to the store button is the randomization button which is a good option for those who are short of time or have difficulties deciding between the plethora of available filters. A press of this button randomly combines an effect, overlay and frame and applies them to the image. This allows you to easily flick through a number of combinations until you are happy with the results.
Your final results can be shared with any app on your device that can process images -- you can continue editing in Snapseed or Photoshop Express, save to Dropbox or send your image as an email attachment. There's also an option to share via imm.io, Pixlr-o-matic's own sharing service that creates short URLs for sharing on Twitter or similar services.
Images may be saved as small, medium or original size. The latter is pretty unusual as most editing apps save edited images at a reduced size. If you mainly share your images online this won't make much difference to you, but the additional image resolution will come in handy if you ever decide to print one of your masterpieces. This also means you can copy images that were taken with a DSLR or digital compact camera to your mobile device, edit them with Pixlr-o-matic and retain the original size, making this app a valid alternative to adding effects on your computer.
Pixlr-o-matic does not offer a way to adjust the parameters of its filter effects. If you like fine-tuning your results or want a lot of control over the way filters are applied, Pixlr-o-matic is probably not the right app for you. All it does is stick effects, overlays and frames onto your image -- lots of them. This means Pixlr-o-matic is very simple, easy to use and a great way of customizing your images if you only have a few moments before sharing them on a social network or your blog.
Effects, overlays and frames
Although Pixlr-o-matic comes with a plethora of effects, overlays and frames that can be combined in every imaginable way, you can install more more options from the in-app store. While the iOS version offers these add-on packages for $0.99 each, in the Android version they are free, giving you literally hundreds of thousands of possible combinations at zero cost -- a pretty sweet deal indeed.
Most packages include around 20 additional effects, overlays or frames. In the effects department you can choose from packages such as Creative, Unicolor or Vintage. There are currently 18 overlay packages available, including Canvas, Paper, Leaks and Vignette. Nine frame packages should allow you to find the most fitting frame for your masterpiece. Just keep in mind that the frames crop your image rather than attach to it. So when you are thinking about using one of the thicker frame types, make sure no critical image elements are placed too close to the edge of the frame.
Effects include anything from simple, soft or color filters to more sophisticated filters á la Instagram to fairly artsy creations such as the Fei effect pictured above. The overlays put a transparent layer on top your image which simulate paper or canvas materials, lens imperfections or shutter defects, or simply apply a translucent pattern. Frame packages come in Film, Grunge, Ink and Nature styles, among others. As described above, you cannot adjust the intensity of the filters or any other parameters, but the large number of free filters and their quality make up for the lack of control.
Pixlr-o-matic might not be the latest image editing and effects app in the Google Play Store, but in its current version it is still one of the best. The app's most obvious strong point is the large quantity of cool and sometimes quirky effects, overlays and frames. You can play with an infinite number of combinations, or if you find it difficult to pick a favorite you can let the random processor decide.
However, without any control over filter and processing parameters, Pixlr-o-matic is probably not the ideal app for those of you who like to fine-tune their editing results and playing with different settings. Without editing options for basic image parameters such as color correction, contrast or brightness, you'll also likely want to use another app, such as Snapseed or Adobe Photoshop Express, in combination with Pixlr-o-matic.
Pixlr-o-matic is a great tool for quick and simple image enhancement on the go and the option to save images at their original size is useful for those users who may want to print some of their edited photos. Given the app is free and in the Android version even the additonal filter packages can be downloaded at zero cost, Pixlr-o-matic should not be missing on from the Android device of any mobile photography enthusiast.
What we like: Saves original image size; large selection of great quality filters; random processing option; speedy processing; easy sharing
What we don't like: Limited cropping options, no basic image adjustments (color, brightness, contrast); no user control over filter application; adding a frame crops image edge
Our gallery of sample images have been taken with the Samsung Galaxy Camera and Galaxy Nexus and have been processed in various ways with Pixlr-o-matic. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter/magazine without prior permission.
Follow Lars Rehm on Twitter @larsrehm