If you’re an iPad owner you no doubt understand the joy that you get from simply interacting with the device. It’s a fun device to use no matter what you’re doing. While the iPad was pegged early on as purely a consumption device (I won’t dispute it, it’s pretty amazing at that), the touch interaction allows for so much more – there’s a growing crop of applications exploring just that.
A seemingly logical interaction with the iPad is creating art. There has been mixed reception with applications in this category so far. Some work well, but most can agree that while very cool, it isn’t exactly a perfect experience. Mixel carves out a niche in the art application category and allows you to create and share art. It’s intentionally extremely simple. On the surface this seems like a good angle, but let’s see how it actually works.
The iPad lends itself to some pretty fantastic interaction. Artistic applications take full advantage of what the iPad is capable of, but often seem to fall short in the overall experience factor. Mixel takes a different approach and strips out everything except what you need to make a collage. I realize that seems like a fairly strange concept and potentially not all that much fun. I was skeptical myself, but decided to give the application a try.
Mixel is all about creating. There’s no right or wrong way to use the application. That’s what art is all about. Use the tools presented to you and simply create.
Mixel is purposely simple and carries a very limited toolset. These constraints are liberating in a way. With a small set of tools to think about there’s not much debating on what tool to use. The simplicity allows for your creativity to quickly come to the surface and removes any stress of creating something interesting completely out of the picture.
Mixel is all about creating collages. In fact, that is all you can do. You can use the images in your photo library as well as other popular images being used by other Mixel users or even do a search for some images on the Web. A basic toolset allows you to crop the images, shift, move and resize to your hearts content.
Creating a Mixel begins by selecting an image. This can be done a number of was and from a number of different sources. When you start a new Mixel you’ll want to begin by tapping the button to add an image. This brings up a tabbed overlay box allowing you multiple sources to search.
You’re able to select from images that are popular on Mixel, from your iPad photo library, your Facebook photos, or you also have the option to do a Web search. It’s very easy to both be inspired by an image as well as locate something specific you’re looking for.
Once you’ve selected your starting image it will be added to your Mixel canvas. Here is where you’ll start to create. As I mentioned you have a very limited toolset to work from. This includes undo, duplicate, crop, flip, and to back functionality. They are all pretty self-explanatory and perform as advertised. Another important feature that is always available is the possibility of adding more images. It’s fairly obvious I’d say, but this is really where the collage making magic happens.
There really isn’t a whole lot to it to be completely honest. The process simply repeats itself. The key is to be as creative with the limited tools available as you can.
Once you feel like you’ve completed your Mixel it’s time to share it. There’s a large post button at the top of the display.
While creating is the core feature of the application, sharing what you’ve created is also an important function. Mixel does require that you have a Facebook account to use the application. This has garnered plenty of discussion already so we won’t talk much about it here, but I can understand the reasons for including this barrier to entry.
While sharing is important, some control of that sharing was needed and by connecting users to a Facebook account, and thus their name, a little accountability is the end product. I can understand why some people may not like this, but I understand the reasons for it and from what I can tell the developers stressed a lot over this decision. It was not taken lightly and I think so far it has worked.
Once you’ve created your Mixel you’ll be able to simply save it for yourself, share it via email, Twitter, or Tumblr. If you post, your artwork will be tossed into the public Mixel gallery for all other users in the community to view. I had a blast just wandering through other people’s creations. It’s amazing to see how creative people can be even with this limited toolset.
One very interesting piece to these shared images is that their pieces and original images remain intact. By tapping on an image in the gallery you’ll have the option to explore the image. You can pull the pieces away to see how the artist put everything together. It’s cool to check out how others were able to create certain affects and I can see how this feature could help out new users and also just allow the community to learn from itself. It allows everyone to share not only their art, but also their method and and the community can evolve because of that.
The other big part of sharing is that you’re able to use images that others have used already or even remix a piece completely. When exploring another piece you’ll be able to see the full images used. You can choose to use those images in a Mixel of your own. You can also do a remix of a Mixel. When doing this you actually take the work that someone else created and modify it.
When looking through other Mixels you’ll be able to see remixes of any particular piece. Once an image has been remixed you’ll see a thread for that image. You’ll be able to see how others worked with the same images. Here you’re also able to share someone’s work as well as comment on it. It’s also possible to like or love a piece as well.
When a Mixel is loved a heart shows on the thumbnail of the image. Each user only gets five loves to use each week so you can just go around loving every image. There are some pretty cool ones out there, but you’ll have to pace yourself.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical of how I much I would like Mixel. I’m a creative person, but with all the constraints it just didn’t seem all that much fun. I decided to give the application a chance and just spend some time with it.
Two hours later I had to shake myself out of a creative stupor to go meet up with some friends. I honestly got completely lost creating and sharing and exploring and enjoyed every second of it. That’s about the best praise I can think of for an application and especially an application like this. Art is an escape for a lot of people and Mixel is the perfect tool to help make that as easy as possible.