Top 10 Professional Image Editing Apps for Android (and 10 worthy mentions)
Featured Apps: PicShop, PicsPlay, PicSay, Photo Editor, PS Touch, Infinite Design, Pixlr Express, Fotor, Touch Retouch, Phonto
Topics Covered: Apps, Editing
Looking around the web, there are a number of blog posts out there that point to (or list) various Android photo editing apps. So why do yet another? For starters, these lists all tend to be out of date by a year or more and there seems no current list of the best of the best. Or worse, they are recent lists that are crowd sourced and, sadly, show preferences by the crowd for mediocre apps. So here’s a comprehensive list of 10 quality Android editing apps on the market currently, and a list of 10 additional apps worthy of brief mention. I focus here on professional editing tools. This will also make for a handy reference point for upcoming DroidEdit Darkroom tutorials for the month of December. The order the apps are presented in is not an order of quality, nor even a personal preference of mine.
I’ll make a disclaimer here that none of these developers have endorsed me in highlighting their particular apps. I want to also mention that there are many lower resolution apps that are otherwise excellent in their own ways. I’ve tried to mention these in passing within the list, though without highlighting them in their own right.
In this tutorial we’ll cover a number of quality and professional photo editing apps available for Android phones. Emphasis is placed on image resolution capabilities as well as editing and enhancement toolset.
Although PS Touch, developed by Adobe Systems, is not available for android phones, you might shoot on your phone and edit on your Galaxy Tab. If that is the case, this app is by far the best app there is, and likely one of the best even side by side with iOS. It maintains image resolution, has numerous layering features, filters, touch up and editing tools. It’s basically a mini-photoshop on your Tab. Easy to use, and once you get the hang of its various tools (especially layering and masking), it becomes a powerful go to app for your work. A must for powerful photo editing.
All in all this is the premier app for professional photo manipulation off the PC. It’s worth the $10 it costs.
This app, created by dev.macgyver, is free, and is likely the best (non-tablet) phone app available for your basic editing of images on phones. Its filters are few, but they are quality filters which do little damage to an image. Resolution is maintained; you can save images at original size in png and jpg file formats. You can resize most images up to 16 megapixels as well. The app has the easy ability to modify pixels per inch/cm/etc as well.
Some of the app’s best features are its color levels, color curves, and image skewing. This is one of the few apps that has an easy to use skew tool, allowing you (with some practice :) to changing a slightly angled building so that it appears flush with the viewer. It’s layering options are quality tools and are only lacking in the ability to selectively edit or remove portions of different layers, like PicSay pro does. Though it begins with a very limited number of text typefaces, there is room to grow by simply downloading TTF fonts. The options for adding text to an image are superior. It’s greatest weakness is the poor quality suite of frames, which a number of other apps can easily outdo.
Stay tuned for upcoming DroidEdit Darkroom tutorials using this app.
This is the newest app to be featured here, developed by Autodesk inc. It saves images at original size and completely replaces its ancestor pixlr-o-matic. All filters of the former pixlr-o-matic version are available in this version, yet opacity can be varied for them all. They can additionally be rotated and flipped, adding extreme variety to these layers and textures.
Unlike Pixlr-o-matic, more than one filter of the same category can be added to an image, without saving the image, and starting from scratch with the new one. The app comes with a complete set of editing tools. In my opinion, the best of these is a feature rare to most Android apps called “denoise”, which reduces noisy pixelation, and is likely only rivaled by PicSay’s “Smooth”. The tilt shift and blur tools are excellent, comparable to some of Awesome Miniature’s tools (see below), yet can save at higher resolution. Only two weeks old, it is an instant best friend for image editing droids. Did I mention it’s both free and advert free?
This is one of my personal favorites, developed by esDot Development Studio. This app has a free or “lite” version, and an inexpensive paid version. It has by far one of the most beautifully design UI’s around. It works on Android 2.2 and up, but is a bit buggy and slow the nearer 2.2 one gets. It flows smoothly on my S3. It has capacity for 8 megapixel saving. The paid version has custom resolution saves and can reach a max of 4000 x 4000 (16 megapixel images, though it warns of the possibility of crashes on some phones). Save at a lower resolution before the attempt!
It has superior editing tools, among them a quality tilt shift and focal (and color) blur tool. It is my go to app for golden ratio cropping, because, well, it’s the only one that has this ratio for cropping. It has excellent filters, though the only one I remain disappointed with is the Sepia filter. It’s vignette filter is the best and, transition-wize, smoothest out there. The frames are limited, and are basic or a bit on the toyish side. The extras (exclusive to the paid version) include the excellent layering features (comparable only to PS Touch), some quality brush tools, and a decent text feature. It is lacking in typefaces, having only 11 of them.
Keep your eyes open for a darkroom later this month where I detail the layering features of this app general, with specific uses for typography. For now, here is an example of some of the layering capabilities of PicShop.
Infinite Design, created by Sean Brakefield, is not originally a photo app, and is therefore fairly unknown. It has a paid and free version. I found it because I was tired of the limitations of photo editing apps, and went looking through drafting and design tools. This app excels in designing vectors, has an infinite canvas size, and can save at 10,000 pixels on the longest side of any image or project (as png). It can save as jpg or png, and can open svg files as well. It is an app based around paths, and so, maintains a high resolution quality no matter what size you save your image at. It has image capabilities, and this, in combination with layers and drawing and eraser tools allows for some extra freedom in image manipulation. It rivals Photo Editor (above) in its ability to skew images or layers. In fact it is better in this regard because one can skew a specific layer, rather than an entire image which is the case with Photo Editor. I use this app specifically for texture layer creation. I also used it to design DroidEdit’s AMPt promo image, by uploading an Android icon, drawing my own vector android on a 75% opacity layer above it, and then erasing the original layer.
Watch this app, for the shear potential it has to become one of the best out there at image manipulation. It isn’t there yet, but the distance isn’t far.
PicSay, developed by Shinycore, is an essential tool in the android creativity palette. It is currently the only app on the market (developers, where are you?!) that can both layer an image over itself in identical position, and then selectively edit one layer away from another. It also allows you to save the cut-outs of these layers should you wish to use them for future projects. Though the app can only save images at a maximum of 3.1 megapixels (2048 x 1536), the ability to selectively edit layers, alter their opacity over one another, and alter the opacity of the brushes that add and remove portions of these layers, more than makes up for the this shortcoming in image resolution (see @derblutenkat Adam Conner’s darkroom tutorial on
“Selective App Stacking” to discover the power of this technique). The app also has a masking tool, which is great for adding effects to specific regions of an image, also at varying degrees of opacity. The masking tool also has the advantage of memory, so that the same selected region can be adjusted over and over again. These two aspects are, however, only available to the pro version. The free version does have the useful “smooth” tool, which eliminates much pixelation and noise in an image. It has a large selection of typefaces, which an extensive amount of variation to these. It has two additional font packs available for purchase, making it a rival to Phonto (below). There will be a DroidEdit Darkroom soon using this app.
A creation of Adva Soft, this app is a must. It doesn’t do much, but what it does is without par in any other app. Perhaps one could achieve its results (at a lower resolution) with layering techniques in PicSay pro, but why waste all that time. The app has simple functions. You can “lasso” an area, or draw a line over a region, and the app, using quality algorithms to copy/paste surrounding regions, fills that area are lined region as if an object was not there. If you get to close to another object and blurs it as a result, just back up and retry it.
The app can handle 8 megapixel images. But never mind the explanation, it’s better to just show what it does. Below is a comparison of a before and after image. In the after image, with one person left after Touch Retouch has had its way, DroidEdit’s very own Pernille (@pernillescheele) has done more than just erase the individuals. They also have shadows that are visible in the slight decrease in brightness on the horizontal lines of the dock. Missing people don’t have shadows. She simply went over these lines as well, to reduce the shadows of those two missing persons as well. The app is has a free and $1 paid version (with a couple extra goodies over the free version).
Fotor, developed by Everimaging., Ltd, is a more recent and healthy addition to the Android market. It has a max image saving resolution at 8 megapixels and has over 50 filters (all adjustable opacity) and texture layers (including a good suite of B&Ws). It has a wide variety of useful blurring tools, both circular and tilt shift. It has a standard suite of editing tools like contrast and brightness. The HDR camera isn’t the best admittedly, and though it has a collage feature (making it one of the highest resolution collage apps), the frames and manipulation of these is quite limited. It still doesn’t rival either PicsArt or PicFrame (paid) for collages. Its text feature is too basic and toy-like, having only one typeface and a number of text bubbles. The app has its own “Photo Box” to act as a central area for sharing photos with text to Flickr, Twitter and Facebook simultaneously.
PicsPlay, developed by JellyBus Inc., doesn’t have the highest resolution save out there (max 5 megapixels, with a warning that this is “experimental and may cause problems on some devices). This 5 megapixel save is part of the paid app, with lower save resolution on the free version. But it makes up for resolution with quality filters. The free version has Scene, Blur, Vintage, Beauty, and Color Splash categories of filters, while the paid version adds HDR, Art, Grunge, Professional and Black & White filters, all worth the app’s price. Perhaps only Vignette for Android and Pixlr express have more filters, though Vignette has quite low saving resolution, unfortunately.
PicsPlay also has a “time matrix” feature unique to apps, which categorizes all of these filters into various years in which they were popular or were developed in traditional camera and photography forms. There are several other aspects to this app that make it unique, such as histogram (which Photo Editor alone now has the feature worthy of the name). The app has curves, vignettes and some unique opacity textures to add variety to any filters one might use. Its border are, like most other apps, primitive and not worth using in my opinion.
JellyBus also has a free and a paid (i.e., 5 megapixel save) app called Awesome Miniature, which has the exact same user interface as PicsPlay, excepting that it lacks the many filters of PicsPlay, and instead has excellent blur tools not found in that app. It has the standard circular focus of many apps, as well as tilt shift, but also has a unique oval focus.
This useful app, created by youthhr, focusses exclusively on typography in images, and is really the only one around that is so exclusively dedicated. The app can save images at original size, but is best on low resolution images (1-3 megapixels or less). It works fine at 5 megapixels, but testing it on an 8 megapixel image required four separate attempts at a save before it would work (and the image didn’t always load in the first place). Despite this, it’s worth using for typography images that will be viewed in smaller formats like Instagram, because of the variety of fonts available. It is rivaled in variation, typefaces, additional font packs, perspective tools and resolution capabilities only by PicSay (pro).
Additional Noteworthy Apps
The above ten are what I (and the DroidEdit members) feel are the best around. The list is not comprehensive however, though it is up to date and as far as professional editing tools, authoritative. This is the best there is currently. But I have not mentioned some good apps that do have high resolution saves, or which have lower resolution saves with fantastic editing tools.
Among these are:
- Pix - This app is simply a bunch of filters, layers, and frames. The app can save at original size, so it is a recommended addition to ones palette. It’s free.
- Aviary - High resolution, some free and many paid filters, otherwise comparable to some apps above.
- Vignette for Android - Low resolution but an excellent selection of filters.
- PicsArt - This is one of the best and largest photo apps on the android market, with its own fairly large social network. The features it has are quality, including a number of very unique filters, and a top notch collage feature. Its more recent update added different kinds of layering, similar to those in PicShop and PS Touch. It’s greatest drawback is its low save resolution as well as a constant reminder to join its social network.
- Camera ZOOM FX - Not the best resolution, but definitely a wide variety of filters. It has several filter packs available, and has a number of mirroring features.
- Auto Focus - A great app for drawing out the specific areas on an image that you want to blur. Great for blurring backgrounds. It can save at 5 megapixels. There is a free and a paid pro version.
- BeFunky - A decent app with your standard editing tools and a number of filters and frames. It saves at around 4.5 megapixels.
- Little Photo - Various filters, a good black and white suite, but low resolution image saves. High resolution of 800 pixels per side warns of not working on some phones, while “super resolution” of 1024 pixels has a crash warning.
- InstaSquare or SquareIt - Those of us who are regulars to Instagram may find cropping images to squares annoying. Trying the low resolution but free app SquareIt, or the higher resolution paid app InstaSquare.
- Native Editing Apps - These vary from phone to phone. My Galaxy S3 native photo editing app - a Samsung app - has a palette of basic editing tools and effects, and tops out at a save resolution of 4.3 megapixels. The S3 takes 8 megapixel images, so the native editing app automatically reduces these.
These apps constitute the core of photo editing on Android phones at this time. It’s clear though that this is not enough. Android cameras are rapidly moving from 5 to 8 megapixels, and in some cases even 12 and 16, while apps in many cases are barely at 3 or 5 megapixels. The discrepancy is painful. Some apps (considered popular) are still at a paltry 1 megapixel save! So this list is designed in some ways to break the habit of other lists out there publishing the same ol’ poor quality apps that are well known but don’t make the cut. These here are the best of the best.
DroidEdit has already assembled and highlighted a number of great android photographers out there over the past months, and we can say without difficulty that the number of individuals to select from to feature is not small. There is a market in us. There is in the crowd creativity enough to demand more and better from developers. There is every incentive to push apps to the level of image resolution that phones are capable of shooting and which social networks like Google+ are capable of presenting.
Stay tuned for more AMPt Darkroom tutorials this month by the @DroidEdit team!
- Jacob Dix @Jacob606
Visit the @DroidEdit Feed on Instagram for more Android Mobile Photography
Check out these other Darkroom mobile photography tutorials:
- How to Create Beautiful Long Exposure Shots: AVGCAMPRO Walkthrough
- Using Light Painting to Create Beautiful Compositions
- How to Use a Vignette to Highlight Your Subject
- Basic Tips for Great Landscape Shots