Review of Meld – a Mobile Photography Layering App
Meld, now over a year old, is a layering app designed from scratch for both Android and iOS which has a wide potential for the creative mobilographer and artist. I had the opportunity to beta test this app and was quite pleased with the speed and ease of editing with this layering tool. It only got better as the Meld Team improved upon image resolution, menu options and overall usability. The app has come a long way from when it started in beta, and later when released for public download.
It has 11 layering design packs for adding variety to your images. Imported images with transparency (in png format) maintain that transparency, adding further to what can be created.
Upon Launching Meld
There are four items visible upon launching Meld. These are the settings button or cog wheel, the library, ideas, and camera.
Settings – The first thing you want to do when launching the app for the first time is to go to settings, and change “export size” to 2048 (the number of pixels wide your exported images will be). This is as high as it goes. Give the capacity of phones these days to handle huge amounts of data, I honestly can’t see any reason to keep the resolution at a lower 1024, 1200 or 1600.
Library – this is where you import your images for editing. Pretty self explanatory.
Ideas – these are featured images selected by the Meld team from Instagram, discovered via the tag #MadeWithMeld among others.
Camera – Use the camera to create an image and start editing it directly. You can use any of your phone’s camera apps.
Imported Images in Meld
Opening an image, we are given the crop options right from the start. I understand this, and it is even convenient in some ways, but it does pose some limitations in my view. Sometimes I want to crop at the end of the process. Filter packs, for instance, are static squares, and do not conform to the shape of the cropped image.
I am able to crop in 1:1 (square), 4:3, 6:4 (really 3:2), and 16:9. In addition you can toggle a “rule of thirds” grid on and off if this helps determine the crop. A missing piece of functionality to the crop tool is a snap to edge function when enlarging an image.
Editing In Meld
The first screen upon opening the image is a refined and basic set of tools for your images. I say refined because it wasn’t always so user friendly as it is now. At top left on the image, you have your layer button, while at middle left you see a convenient number telling you which layer you currently have selected, should you edit something. At bottom left on the image, you have an information “i” symbol, for an overlay of various tips, telling what everything does. You could just stop reading this long piece of text now! At upper right, your export button, and at bottom right, a trash can for starting the whole editing process over. This trash can, as well as the other buttons over the image are not in the way. If you are going to do any masking later, they conveniently disappear.
You cannot make major changes to the base or first layer, and so, the first three editing tools available (opacity), blending mode, and masking mode, aren’t available. What you do have available in this first layer is transform (which allows you to flip and rotate the image), contrast adjustment, saturation, exposure, hue, and finally vignette. I’ll discuss these in more detail below.
On the left are your image layers. You can have a maximum of four, where the bottom layer is always locked and uneditable as mentioned above. It cannot be deleted. You can swipe to the right or left on the left hand side of the app screen to see the layer selector or hide it. You can also use the button at upper left to do so. In this menu, you can add, select, delete, and flatten layers. To add a layer, press the plus button. To delete a layer, press the tiny X in the upper right corner of that particular layer thumbnail. Simply touch a layer thumbnail to select which layer you want to edit. They are numbered (upper left in the thumbnails), and the selected layer is surrounded by the familiar greenish color of the app’s various icons.
Editing additional layers
Directly when you add an additional layer, you are given the option of moving and resizing it, and also of adjusting layer type. Simply resize, move, or rotate the layer by pinching it with two fingers. Like the crop tool upon opening an image, this feature could definitely be improved with a snap to edge tool and possibly a size lock. It gets annoying when you can’t get a layer both the right size and also with parallel lines with the edge of the image.
While the bottom layer is locked, all additional layers are not, which allows you to use the first three editing tools. These can modify layer opacity, layer mode (including additive, multiply, screen, exclusion, lighten, and subtract), and also masking mode which allows you to remove or mask portions of the current layer. You can use the brush tools or certain of the mask shapes available.
Transform is available to all layers and allows you to flip and rotate any given layer, including the base layer. Flipping and rotating gives you eight possible ways to apply a layer (including the base layer), while pinching (additional layers) allows for even more variety.
There are a number of other adjustments, each of which affect only the current layer selected. Contrast, saturation, exposure, and hue are available for adjustment. These are your standard four, and I won’t go into any detail about them except to say that these adjustments work for the colored layer packs, but are largely useless with the black and white graphic layer packs.
The last tool is vignette, which affects the whole image (though it can only be applied when the base layer is selected). This vignette tool isn’t your best bet for creating mood, as there are many other apps out there that could do the job. But Meld is designed to be quick, so it does the job. This is where I would like the cropping option to come later in the process. Either your vignette tool should allow you to move its center around as you like, or you should be able to crop a portion of the vignette off after it is applied. C’est la vie.
When adding a new layer, you can take a photo with any of your phone camera apps, you can upload images from the library (Meld supports transparency in uploaded png format), or you can use the sample layer packs available. The layer packs make this app quite unique. From textured light leaks and clouds to geometric linework and 3D looking patterns, these packs offer a variety of options to add artistic flare and abstractification to your images. The packs are, in fact, what give this app its unique style and results.
The app is strongly tied (for better or worse) to the Instagram community. The layer packs come from Instagram users, are all square (indicating their intended use with primarily square format images), and even the inspiration button when opening the app shows those works of Instagram users with their sensational imagery.
All in all a great layering app with a lot of potential for quick designs. There are still a few kinks to work out to make this a really strong app, but it is worth having in one’s editing bag-o-trix. Download Meld for Android.
While there are numerous layer packs available through Meld (at the time of the writing, there are 16 packs), you might want to add some additional unique elements to your imagery. Download my free backgrounds and png layers for your image editing and layering needs. One of the great aspects of Meld is its support of transparency in png files, so that you can make your own.
Images Made With Meld