For the computer artist, pixels are the medium of choice. They provide every simulated brushstroke, every subtlety of shading, and every colour on the digital palette. Yet, in the majority of modern digital art, pixels are barely visible, much in the same way that individual particles of dyed water are imperceptible when spread across a canvas.
This wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, individual pixels played a major role in the overall look of a picture. Initially, this was due to the very limited graphical computing power of which early home computers were capable, particularly when such artworks were used together in games, but it was later adopted as a style of digital art in its own right. It was called pixel art.
To this day, pixel art is popular, both for its bright colour schemes, and for its games-related retro coolness. If you find, as I do, that a 16-pixel Mario or Sonic provides irrational visual appeal, then you’ll be pleased to read about Pixaki, a new pixel art creation studio on iPad, retailing at $6.99. Packing retro console template sizes and PSD output, Pixaki is billed as being a professional-level offering. But can a touchscreen app really improve on the pleasing, inherent simplicity of pixel artistry?
Just look at the iPad. Look at that ever-so-thin, yet robust, metallic body. Look at that expanse of touch-sensitive glass, mounted on top of a bold, bright, high resolution display. You’ll just have to make do with thinking about all the processor power squeezed into the unfathomably small crevice between the two. This, surely, is a product made with the photographer in mind.
As any photographer will know, regardless of what equipment they possess, or the quality of their technique, camera-derived art is as much based on post-capture processing, as it is on the pressing of a shutter button and all that leads up to it. The iPhone was one of the first devices truly to combine these two halves of image-making into one package, and as a result, iOS is blessed with both good variety and good quality in the image editing department.
Sadly, many of these fine apps don’t make it onto the iPad, or at least not in a format optimized for the larger screen. This is, of course, because few iPad owners use their tablets for anything other than posterity snaps. But as a keen photographer myself, I’m often left wishing that I could utilize that large ten-inch expanse for some editing; let us not forget that Apple, themselves, manufacture a Camera Connection Kit to facilitate the uploading of externally-taken images.
So imagine my joy when I discovered recently that Afterlight (formerly Afterglow), the iPhone editor of the discerning applier of filters, had been updated to version 1.9, and optimized for iPad in the process. How well has it made the transition, and can it set a new benchmark for photo fiddling on the biggest brother of the iOS family? I set about finding out…
There was a time, when I considered myself an aspiring graphic designer, that I would fire up Photoshop, create a new canvas, and immediately find myself hating every single aspect of the software. From the laggy controls to the half-assed interface, everything about Photoshop has, from my experience, felt like a letdown.
Still, I found myself downloading Photoshop Touch shortly after it was released. Why did I feel the need to do this to myself? Well, because I had heard good things about the software, and at $10 the touch-optimized version is less than one-thousandth the price of the original desktop version. Is it worth a download, or will you be better off with another tool? Let’s find out.