You know what’s really fun? Taking photos with your phone, applying effects on the go, and then sharing them with friends. Camera app makers know this, and many camera apps let you take a picture and then apply effects to it: Look at Camera360 and Vignette to see what I mean.
But sometimes separating the camera from the effects can be a good thing. An application that has a wonderful camera interface (Vignette) may not provide the most visual way to apply effects (Vignette, yet again). So, in the spirit of separation and specialization, I wanted to show you Pixel Mixer, a great (and free) application for visually applying effects and frames to your photos.
Picking An Image
The first thing Pixel Mixer asks you to do is pick an image, of course. The camera icon just launches your favorite camera app (in my case, I launched the one built into Resurrection Remix, the Ice Cream Sandwich ROM I’ve been using recently). I then did the obvious thing and took a picture of my cat:
And that’s what we’ll be using for applying effects.
Layering and Applying Effects
To apply an effect, just scroll to it on the horizontal list, and tap it. Pretty simple – but what’s cool is that you can apply up to three effects, or filters, at the same time. Above you can see my cat after I’ve applied Violet, Cartoon 3, and Mosaic 1, in that order. If I want to get rid of one of these, I just need to tap it:
That’s pretty neat, but I wish I could change the order of the filters by just dragging them around. Let’s say I deleted Cartoon 3 and then decide I did want it after all:
If you look closely, you will see that this image is different than the other one which had the exact same three filters, because their order is different. I hope future versions would let us rearrange filters by dragging, but still, even being possible to layer filters in the first place and selectively remove them from the stack is pretty powerful.
Not all filters are on/off affairs: Some filters can be applied with different levels of intensity:
Here you can see the Lomo 2 filter applied at intensity level 2 (out of three possible levels). The list of color effects is long, and applying effects is fun and fast.
Applying Texture Effects
The next tab is used for applying global texture effects, such as film grain, ink spots, and other types of retro-looking effects that can help make your photo feel a bit more organic, and not like it was taken with the cold and flawless gaze of a smartphone. Layering these effects doesn’t make much sense, and indeed, here you can pick just one effect. The list isn’t as long as the color effects, too, but then again – there are only so many texture effects.
Picking a Frame And Reviewing Your Image
Once you’re happy with the color effect and texture you picked, it’s time to pick a frame, which is exactly what you do in this next tab. There are about fifteen different frames from which you can pick and choose.
At any point when you want to see your work without all of the distracting interface elements, just tap the image once:
The interface will fall away, leaving you with just your image. Another tap will bring everything right back.
You may not always have the time to painstakingly go over effects and pick the combination that’s just right. Thankfully, you can always just tap the thunderbolt icon in the bottom-right corner, and Pixel Mixer would randomly apply one or two effects at random. Sometimes, the result may even be beautiful.
Saving Your Work
Once you’re done, tap the Plus icon on the top-right corner. A horizontal menu will pop open, and you can choose to save your work or share it. This is what the final image looks like after I’ve picked a random effect:
The image is not high-res, but it should be fine for most sharing needs.
Is It Too Much Hassle?
This is where I want to hear what you think: Do you prefer your photo effects baked into your camera app? Or is it better to use a dedicated camera app and a separate, dedicated effects app?