Snapseed Combines Power With Elegance For A Gorgeous Image Editing Experience [Android]
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android image editingEditing photos on a smartphone or tablet is fun, but it’s more often than not a heavy-handed process. Since you have a small screen to work with, most image editors don’t let you make fine-grained adjustments. Instead, they keep the interface simple by just letting you tap on a bunch of filters, and maybe adjust a slider or two to control the effect’s intensity.

This makes for a fast workflow, but doesn’t allow for much sophistication. For example, Instagram is fun, but there’s a very finite limit to how subtle you can be with it. Snapseed is one Android image editing app that bucks the trend, and manages to offer an interface that’s both elegant and very powerful.

Getting Started

android image editing

When you first look at Snapseed, you may think “oh, I’ve seen this one before“. You’ve got an image occupying the central part of the screen, with a bunch of filters arrayed along the bottom. On the top-right you’ll see a button for saving the current image, posting it to Google+ (Snapseed is owned by Google), or starting with a new image.

When you hit that top-right button for starting on a new image, you can either take the image, or find an existing image in your gallery you want to work with. Combined with a high-quality camera app such as Vignette, you can get some truly impressive results.

This is the source image I’ll be tweaking:

android image editing app

It’s All in The Gestures

android image editing app

This image explains Snapseed’s unique interface better than I could. Instead of adjusting sliders, you swipe up and down to switch between settings, and left/right to adjust the intensity. For example, the Automatic category offers two settings, contrast correction and color correction:

android image editing app

Once you pick one (contrast, in this case), swipe left and right to adjust its intensity. The image changes in real-time, and you get the numeric value for the settings both at the top and bottom of the screen:

android image editor

Once you’re happy with your work, hit the checkmark on the bottom-right, and Snapseed will process the image to save the changes:

android image editor

Selective Adjustments

So far, the interface seems nice, but you haven’t seen its real power yet. Check out selective adjustments:

android image editor

What you see above is a major part of Snapseed’s magic: You get impact specific parts of the image. When you hold your finger over the image, a loupe (magnifying glass) appears next to your finger, so you can see what you’re selecting. Once you find the spot you want to tweak, let go of the screen, and check out the selection:

Snapseed Combines Power With Elegance For A Gorgeous Image Editing Experience [Android] snapseed bigselection

I’ve got a big circle around the boat on the left of the image, but Snapseed is smart enough to isolate the boat itself. To further reduce the area of influence so that it’s really focused around the boat, I can pinch in and narrow down the circle:

Snapseed Combines Power With Elegance For A Gorgeous Image Editing Experience [Android] snapseed smallselection

Note what an accurate selection Snapseed lets me make — this is a very unique feature, and one of the main things elevating Snapseed above the competition.

Having played with the saturation and brightness of this selective spot, the boat now really pops (maybe a bit too much, even):

Snapseed Combines Power With Elegance For A Gorgeous Image Editing Experience [Android] snapseed blueboat 1

Favorite Styles

Just because Snapseed lets you fine-tune everything yourself, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy some speedy defaults every now and then:

Snapseed Combines Power With Elegance For A Gorgeous Image Editing Experience [Android] snapseed styles

Many settings have a star which you can tap to get a list of presets. These are often heavy-handed (as you see above), but sometimes that’s what you need. This makes it possible to use Snapseed even for quick editing jobs, and not just when you have several minutes to spend on your photo.


Tilt-shift is one of the most difficult effects to get right:

Snapseed Combines Power With Elegance For A Gorgeous Image Editing Experience [Android] snapseed tiltshift

Instagram has tilt-shift, so this is a great example for how much more nuanced you can get with Snapseed. Like in Instagram, you can control the angle of the tilt-shift. But unlike Instagram, you can also affect the vignetting and brightness. The end result looks like this:

android image editing

Final Thoughts

Snapseed is an absolute joy to use, and is basically the best photo processing app I’ve seen for Android. It’s fun to use, and its clever interface really lets you dig deep into a photo and tweak it to your heart’s content.

Have you tried out this Android image editing app yourself? Is there another sophisticated photo editor you prefer? Let me know in the comments.

Explore more about: Image Editor, Smartphone Photography.

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  1. Geoffrey Alexander
    November 23, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    Why does my version of Snapseed only open the JPGs generated alongside the DNGs and not the DNGs themselves?
    Is there more than one version?

  2. Mac Witty
    February 13, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Used it on iPad and I'm looking forward to use it on android

  3. Nevzat Akkaya
    February 13, 2013 at 7:17 am

    This is a great photo editor but it is also a bit heavier than some alternatives. Not suitable for low-budget and old smartphones, I think.

    • Erez Zukerman
      February 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      That's a very good point Nevzat -- it's definitely on the heavy side for older phones.

      • Nevzat Akkaya
        February 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm

        Sad but true. Time has come for me to upgrade to a newer phone. I can't use many great applications just because of the phone's hardware limitations. More RAM is essential.

  4. Pat
    February 13, 2013 at 1:11 am

    I tried Snapseed right after reading this article and must agree that is the best photo editing app I've tried for android. I can tell that this app will replace a few other apps that I already have installed. Great article.