Touching up images is fast becoming a favourite past time. After reaching a peak with the launch of Instagram, image manipulation isn’t a rage anymore, but it is clear that it isn’t a fad either. In the app, image manipulation apps that offer you a ton of creative ways to play with your images are still on the rise.
In the recent past, I had the opportunity to review a few such apps. In my experience, I found the image manipulation apps to be fabulous examples of the power of the iOS ecosystem. The newest edition of the popular Halftone 2 app is the latest to join the list. Turning photographs to professional looking comic pages sounds like a lot of fun. Isn’t it?
An Empty Canvas
The tutorial videos were to the point and it looked like using the new Halftone was going to be a piece of cake. But, when I landed on the canvas, I was a bit lost. I revisited the videos to quickly check the workflow once again. The invisible radial menu has all the power and you’ll have to tap on the canvas to bring it up.
To start with, you might want to pick the layout for your creation. The block like layout choices are “inspired” from Diptic and there are only three such designs to choose from. A lot more designs are available in their store and you’ll have to pay extra to get hold of them.
Again, tap the canvas to load photos to your layout with the help of the radial menu. Fine grained controls like background colour, margin size and blending are great to perfect the look and feel of your layout. Sadly, multiple images can’t be selected in one go though.
To move images around, bring up the radial menu. Unfortunately, the standard up and down, and sideways movement of the image inside the frame are restricted. To neutralise that downside, Halftone 2 lets you go crazy by rotating the image to any angle you please. Use your fingers to align your image to any angle.
The Effects section of the app deserves an A+ rating. Not only are the available designs are awesome, the customisation options available are extensive as well.
You have got two different addon effects – styles and stamps. Stamps are perfect for adding a comic book effect to your images. Wham, bam and sploosh bubbles are bound to make you photographs a laugh riot. When you turn on the shadow effect, you will get a bunch of customisation options to play with. Like earlier, more effects are available for purchase from the store.
Styles are a great way to tell a story. They basically are text boxes with words in them. The design of the strips is what makes them fancy and add effect to the whole set up. There aren’t many styles available for free, but a great collection of fonts helps to negate that.
Much attention has been given to position the styles in a manner that you feel is perfect. Indentations, line spacing, drop cap – you have got it all. With a combination of stamps and styles, you could have your own visual story to tell in a matter of minutes!
Since there are so many elements — images, multiple styles and stamps — one on top of another, it might start to get a bit annoying to keep everything in their place when trying to add new ones. The Lock styles option in the Radial menu is an extremely practical fix for that issue. Multiple undo and redo actions end up saving a ton of your time during creative sessions.
You can create and manage multiple pages/projects with ease. Tap on the add icon to the lower left corner to start working on a new project. A cover flow like layout makes jumping between projects quick and painless.
The one thing that makes Halftone 2 look bad is the huge reliance on in-app purchases. From styles, layouts, fonts to handling multiple projects and downloading in shareable formats like PDF, you’ll have to pay extra.
Frankly, it’s not like everyone needs all the extension packs available as in-app purchases. It’s just that there are way too many items kept behind a paywall, making the free version look like a bait.
Halftone 2 rocks. A major chunk of the fun part of app is available through in-app purchases, but the app is pretty useful for casual users even without them. Frankly though, I somehow can’t shake off the notion that this app is for power users.
For instance, when you open an empty canvas for the first time, you’ll have a hard time figuring out where to start, unless you start exploring by tapping on an icon or two. The tutorial videos displayed at launch are a great instructional resource, however, tooltips inside the app will go a long way in making Halftone 2 a lot more user friendly.
Apps I have tried earlier — Diptic and Over — were extremely intuitive to use. Over in particular was a breeze to use despite sporting a fancy pants interface, with a similar radial menu that controls everything. Halftone 2 lacks that flair and fun quotient. That, and a tonne of in-app purchases that turn the app into more of a lite version keep a well deserving 9/10 unfortunately out of Halftone’s reach.