Updating the List
It was never my intention to write the definitive list of android photo editing apps only to leave it sitting there a derelict post in desperate need of an update. This, then, is the first update, and from time to time I will return to it with new apps that come to my attention. Please do point me in the direction of well known apps that I have missed, or which are new and not that visible in the market.
Update 01 (you are here)
Update 02 (focusing on blur and unsharp imagery)
Update 03 (focusing to some extent on layering apps)
Update 04 (focusing on Camera Replacement Apps)
This particular update will focus on a few apps for Android that support either RAW file editing or lossless file saving, such as in PNG, will mention a couple apps that should have been on the first list (such as After Focus and Focal), and also highlight some new additions to the market.
The Updated List
GIMP/Inkscape – This is by far the largest app for editing images on Android. It’s gigantic. GIMP and Inkscape all in one program. For those unfamiliar, GIMP is a photo editing program, in many ways similar Photoshop. Inkscape is a vector graphic program comparable in power and capability to Adobe Illustrator. Nothing is left out as the app is simply these programs ported from a PC and combined into one. That might sound like a positive thing as it gives you all the power available from these tools, even on your phone, but the downside is the real problem in user interface.
The programs are identical to the PC version, so that the screen, even if you do follow the installment and setting instructions on Google Play, are a bit of a chore to work your way around. As the description says on Google Play, the app is really meant for a 10 inch screen, such as a Galaxy Tab. I went ahead with the app on my S3, though the UI problems will likely cause me to avoid its use, unless I can’t do something in another program. Having the multiple windows of any tool set open so that you can perform an operation means vital screen real estate is lost from the actual canvas space. If you are a wiz at these programs, that might not pose such a problem. These are, after all, powerful editing tools, rivaling Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator in many ways. To have them on your phone means the world to editing.
Max save resolution: Camera resolution. Presumably, these heavy duty programs can save at any resolution you would like, but my camera is too full of projects (and GIMP itself) to allow the space!
Photo Mate R2 – RAW had to happen. The gap between smartphone photography and DSLR is closing, and fast. Most cameras take raw data, and interpret it into jpg files. jpg images are a lossy file format, meaning that the data is compressed, and with each passage through an app as you edit and save, it loses data, becomes impure. The latest software update to the Nokia line of phones, called Lumia Black, allows certain phones, among the the Lumia 1020, to support RAW files. (There is however, no way to edit these RAW files on the phone itself.) RAW files such as the DNG file format mean you have access to the camera lens data captured as is, previous to any jpg compression. That means lossless file saving. That means much cleaner editing. It has also been confirmed that Android too will be moving into RAW file formats (Stay tuned for developments on Android RAW).
What that means for photo editing is that apps will need to be able to handle RAW files more and more in the future. So I’ve been looking around for a number of apps that do so already. GIMP can’t, but Photo Mate R2 can. It can decode almost any RAW file format, including DNG. The app can edit files nondestructively.
Unlike GIMP/Inkscape, Photo Mate R2 is a fairly easy to use editor, allowing you to do a variety of adjustive edits, such as altering the curves of selected regions of a photo, etc. The UI is straight forward and does not get in the way of the photo you are working on. It has live visualization of the photo, as you edit. It has a beta ability to stack images so that you can create real HDR images from multiple shots. This is likely the pioneer of what future mobile editing apps will be capable of. Keep up to date on things new with this app.
Max save resolution: Camera resolution.
PhotoSuite – Though not a RAW image editor, this app can save photos in PNG, which is a lossless file format. The app has all there is to offer as far as layering tools, gradients, fades, warping of photos, all of which make this a good alternative to PS Touch. It’s a powerful app, worth having if you aren’t so comfortable with the user interface of Photoshop Touch.
Max save resolution: Camera resolution.
Polamatic – Thanks go to Paul “Skip” Brown for pointing the app out to me. Go check out his website. Polamatic is the official app of Polaroid, mimicking many of its retro looking features of actual Polaroid images.
Max save resolution: Approximately 6.3 megapixels. The image that is placed in the Polaroid frame is reduced to a square (without exception) and comes in at 2048 x 2048.
After Focus – This app is a must have for adding DoF lens effects to your images. It doesn’t have many tools, as it is a specialty app, dedicated to one thing – blur. PS Touch and some of the apps mentioned above can do the same affects as this app (and then some), but being specialized, this app does that one thing quickly. So it is well worth having in your camera bag when you need some quick blur. Unlike Snapseed’s own blurring tools (which are also quick and easy), After Focus allows you to draw out where you want your image to remain sharp, where you want slight blur, and where you want strong blur. This allows you to avoid linear blur on, say, a street image. Where Snapseed’s blur tools will make the top of a foreground building blurry along with the distance street, After Focus allows you to decide that just that distant street gets blur. The wall can remain in focus along with other foreground objects. Here is a review and tutorial of AfterFocus.
Max save resolution: 8 megapixels.
Repix – This is my new favorite tool. It is a tool for artists, rather than photographers. Sure, save resolution is a poor 3.1 megapixels. But I can live with that, given the fact that its many brushes have a variety of different results. For instance, the paint splash brush has numerous splash patterns, so that it never feels like you are repeating that same old stencil you’ve seen a dozen times after a few uses. That makes for wide use. The main drawback of the app is that the brushes have no intensity or opacity adjustments, which are much needed. The paid version unlocks a number of good brushes. It has a number of VSCO like presets, comes with a basic suite of photo adjustments like brightness and contrast, cropping tools, and a handful of frames. Overall, a fun new addition to the tools of the creative individual.
Max save resolution: 3.1 megapixels.
Focal – This camera application promises to provide in one app every feature that your particular phone camera is able to achieve. Whether you are on an HTC, Samsung, Nexus, etc, this camera has at its disposal those features of your camera that maybe even your native camera app doesn’t have, but which your camera is capable of. The app adds photosphere to my Samsung galaxy S3 camera, for instance, while the native camera app does not make these tools available. It doesn’t have the lock exposure or lock white balance that Shot Control has, but not a surprise as that is a specialty function of that app. There is a paid version. It does the same as the free version, but is for donating to the developer. Always a kind gesture to those who work hard on providing such quality apps.
Oh, did I mention you can also donate to me at the right? 😉
[Disclaimer: This list isn’t really a list. A list is actually much shorter and concise than this. (Here is a search query of some lists of Android photo apps.) Mine is more of a damn near comprehensive guide for those new to Android or for the seasoned expert looking to try out some fresh tools or get reacquainted with oldies but goodies.]