Most phones today have great cameras, but not all of us are blessed with the ability to take great photos. Thankfully, there are some filters that can breathe life into otherwise dull photos in a matter of seconds.
Apart from photo-editing, which takes time and practice on Android and iOS, the clever use of filters can enhance your photos with just a few taps. We tested dozens of apps with the best filter effects and selected the best.
Some filters convert your photos into artwork, while others give you a variety of options to tweak the filter to your liking. There’s even an app that can help you fine-tune your photo for hours, depending on how detailed you want the final result to be.
We also featured a list of four apps that are worth keeping an eye out for. They don’t quite make the cut when it comes to filters yet, but a few updates in the right direction can make them serious contenders in time to come.
No “best apps for filters” list can be complete without the one that started it all.
The Facebook-owned app needs little or no introduction. Its ease of use made filters famous and proved what a blessing they can be. However, as Instagram has grown to become more of a social network, there are some better apps when it comes to applying filter effects to your photos.
Verdict — The best social platform for beautifying and sharing your photos.
App releases these days are not accompanied by much fanfare, but Prisma was the exception to this rule. Last year, we wrote about the best free apps to turn your photos into artwork and Prisma topped that list. It lets you add simple filters whose effect you can modify by swiping across your photo.
Not to rest on its laurels, the app added many more features last year, making it one of the must-have apps for filters. In the recent past, the app has gotten much faster at applying effects and it even works offline now. Unlike Instagram, you can download photos after applying your effect to them.
Verdict — Perfect, if you quickly want to add a splash of artwork to your photos.
Enlight has some powerful editing tools and filters wrapped within a user-friendly interface. You can easily undo effects if you get carried away, and there’s even a one-tap icon to compare your original photo with the edits you’ve made.
Don’t be fooled by its three Filter options (Adjust, Clarity, and Target) in the main menu. Each option has a ton of effects that you can manually adjust by swiping across to change the filter strength. Some options also let apply a filter to only a selected portion of your photo.
Not sure how to best use a certain filter you selected? Just swipe down to see the different ways you can make it better. The tabs at the bottom have more tools that let you further customize your photo.
Verdict — Great app overall for photo editing, with a wide range of useful filters.
Download — iOS ($3.99)
With its plethora of editing tools and filters, Google’s Snapseed can be considered the mobile equivalent of Photoshop. It has everything you need from rotating and brush tools, vignettes effects, and even the option to add text to your photos.
A gentle swipe up from the main editing section reveals 13 filters. Each of these have further sub-filters to take your edits to the next level. Some filters have sliders to let you manually tweak their individual aspects, including brightness, contrast, and grain.
Verdict — If you like to manually tweak each aspect of your photo and filter effect until you get the “perfect” result, then Snapseed is the only photo editing app you’ll need.
5. infiltr — Infinite Filters
Most filters apps have tons of filters as tiles that you can select. Infltr works on a different premise. Its creators probably realized that Ludwig, Reyes, Juno, and Moon (which only Instagram addicts will know) are just fancy names for filters that most people don’t instantly relate to.
You can upload photos from your online accounts, including cloud storage and Adobe Creative Cloud. After uploading, double tap your photo to add a filter and repeat the action to change it. Once you’ve decided what you want, swipe your photo in any direction to change the intensity of the filter effect.
You can also use it to add a filter before taking a photo – a feature that some third-party camera apps offer by default. The icon at the bottom left lets you shuffle an effect, while the one on the right adds a tilt-shift filter effect to soften the edges of your photo.
Verdict — It’s best feature (ease of use) is its blessing and its curse. While it lets you seamlessly shift from one filter to another in a jiffy, it doesn’t give you a preview of what each filter looks like.
Download — iOS ($2.99)
6. Filterstorm Neue
This app has tons of features but it’s not at intuitive as the others. All your options are arranged as tabs on the left. Tap Effects, select the one you want, then swipe up or down to change the intensity of your chosen filter.
The middle icons in the top left-hand corner bring up a range of Blending and Masking tools that you can use to further tweak the intensity of the filter. Use the circular icon at the top right if you want to quickly see how far you’ve strayed from your original photo.
Verdict — Photoshop-enthusiasts will love this app because you can tweak several values that a layman may not have heard of – including RGB channels, levels, color brushes, dodge, and burn.
Download — iOS ($3.99)
Mextures is a little gem in the world of filters. It has tons of interesting effects, and new ones are added regularly. As its name suggests, it lets you add a range of textures (filters). The fun starts when you tap the funnel-shaped icon after importing your photo into the app.
You’ll see a range of filter categories you can select from. Each category has effects that you can add with one tap. Tap the icon at the bottom to see a further sub-level of options that let you tweak other photo aspects using sliders.
Verdict — The only problem with the filter effects in this app is that it’s easy to get carried away and lose sight of what you wanted your original image to look like. Thankfully, it has an icon to undo all effects at one go and restart the process.
Download — iOS ($0.99)
8. Pomelo — Absolute Filters
When we first came across Pomelo, we laughed at the title, but after we were done using it, it was Pomelo that had the last laugh. The app lets you choose from a variety of filters, which you can then adjust by swiping left or right. You can then fine-tune the photo’s temperature, sharpness, fade effects, contrast, and brightness using the options at the bottom.
Tap the ? icon at the top if you see it. It tells you how that particular value will impact your photo and when to use it. Try adding the Tilt-shift filter at the end for the perfect finishing touch.
Verdict — It’s similar to Instagram but easier to use. A great way to easily add filters and fine-tune other values in your photo.
Good… But Flawed
VSCO is a brilliant photo editing app with ten filters. It’s easy to add and modify filter effects. The app even has a useful perspective correction tool and a slider to adjust skin tones in your photo. The only reason it missed out on the main list is because some of its best filters come in the form of in-app purchases.
While Afterlight is good overall photo-editing app, it falls short when it comes to filters. There are a range of filters that you can add and adjust using sliders, but some are paid for and others are only unlocked after you like Afterlight’s Facebook page.
11. FX Photo Studio HD
MacPhun, the makers of FX Photo Studio HD, produce some superior photo editing apps for Mac PCs. Even though the app works well and has a wide range filters to choose from, its interface looks more like a PC program than an app.
Download — iOS ($4.99)
Like Prisma for artwork, this app converts any photo on your device into a water-colored painting. Unlike Prisma, though, it’s not immediately intuitive how to use the app. Waterlogue also lets you combine two effects which can quickly turn your photo into a three-year-old’s water-colored painting if you’re not careful.
Download — iOS ($0.99)
Snapseed and Prisma are my two favorite apps to add filters, and to transform my photos into work of art. That said, there are tons of apps that can enhance your photos with great filter effects, and new ones are released every day. We’ve even featured an app that lets you create your own filters and five PC programs that are up to the task.
At the end of day, it’s all comes down to preference. Rest assured, one of the apps from the aforementioned list will help make all your photos stand out from the crowd.
Let us know which one is your favorite, or if you have any other great apps that do a similar job, by commenting on this post.