ColorStrokes HD: Add a Dash of Color to Your Life

Have you ever seen those photos where there is one color highlighted in the scene and the rest of the image is grayscale? That’s a very basic photo editing technique known as “color splashing.” Don’t they look great? How would you like to take any photo you have and achieve the same effect in minutes, right there on your iPad?

ColorStrokes HD not only makes this process possible, but enjoyable, easy and downright great fun. You may enhance the odd photo here and there, or you may go a little bit Color-Crazy and churn out photo after photo as I did in my testing, simply because it is genuinely good fun. Either way, this little gem is sure to add a little more color to your life.

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Opening Strokes

To start with, you’re going to need a photo. The simple front end menu covers three popular options: Take a photo, choose a photo from your photo stream, photo library or camera roll, or simply load one from Facebook.

Let the fun begin! The opening screen.

Let the fun begin! The opening screen.

The basic method of making a color splash photo is to start with a grayscale image, and then unmask the original colors from the scene. ColorStrokes HD automatically converts your image to grayscale, and then you can begin to paint, replace or modify the hues in the image to something more to your liking.

Get Your Background Looking Great

Before getting into the heart of the app’s functionality, it’s worth just quickly mentioning the global changes you can make to prepare the image for color enhancement. Tapping on Adjust takes you to a screen that allows key adjustments for brightness, contrast and vignette. Don’t worry if you ever want to revert back to your original settings — the sliders act like a filter for the image, but the original source is unaltered, so you can simply slide back to your start positions with ease at any time.

Use the sliders to get your image looking superb.

Use the sliders to get your image looking superb.

Tapping on the special FX effects button allows for some dramatic lighting effects using what looks like embossing and histogram equalization techniques. The three options enhance the image’s light and shade areas, but be careful to reset them each time as this choice persists across sessions.

Ready, Set, Color!

Once you are happy with your base image, you can then begin to use the brush and color options to select and highlight or replace the different hues in the picture. Since the image begins life as grayscale, the brush set to grayscale acts like an erase or undo for your colour adjustments. There is also a multi-level undo that remembers many strokes and changes, allowing you to move back and forth through your recent modifications with ease.

Excellent "pinch to zoom" allows close up work.

Excellent “pinch to zoom” allows close up work.

Getting the detail just right is essential to achieve the full effect, and the ability to pinch to zoom in and out makes modifying large images, or intricate areas, a breeze. The app has full resolution support on all IOS devices, ideal if you have a retina display, but still useable with lower resolution images like the one above.

Mask on, Mask Off

Properly understanding the mask function is essential to get the most out of the app. You can select Color, and sketch over areas where you want the color to be preserved. This doesn’t stop your paint or other changes from happening to the masked area (although that would be an excellent addition to “lock” the color in place), but it does bring out the original colors from the photo or image.

Focus on your detailed brush work.

Focus on your detailed brush work.

The Zoom Preview allows you to see an offset view of the image, without having to squint around the image under your finger. A simple addition, but absolutely brilliant and inspired when in use. There is no in-app help that I could find that tutors you in the various options. To the app’s credit, though, it is intuitive enough to just pick up and play and get instant results without this, and there is excellent and responsive help form the developers at any time.

Brush Away the Blues

Selecting Color and a small size brush allows you to stroke the areas you wish to highlight and watch the original color shine through. You can vary the opacity, density and diameter  of the brush for different effects. The opacity setting is intriguing as it allows you to blend colors on the brush with colors in the image, like in this classic painting where the lady’s dress started as a cornflower blue, and adding a light red brush has given a purple hue. Bonus points if you can recognize the masterpiece:

Brush away the blues.

Brush away the blues.

There are many pre-set colors to choose from, or you can move the color selection circles for an infinite variety of shades. Simply press and hold for the options on the menu bar at the bottom. When you are in the middle of making your color changes, it is very pleasing to see the slick toolbar slide off the screen to maximize viewing while you work.

Time to Socialize

So, you have finished your creation and you now want to show it off. No need to start another app to do this, as its all available in ColorStrokes HD:

Uploading to social media is very quick and easy.

Uploading to social media is very quick and easy.

With support for Instagram, Flikr, Facebook and Twitter, this little app is well connected. You can even have your resulting photo sent to you as a photo postcard from Print, e-mail or simply save your work of art back to your photo collection for later viewing — all of the popular bases are covered here.

What’s Missing?

It would be handy to be able to crop and rotate the image once it is in the app. You can make do, of course, by zooming in and taking a photo of your photo. I’d also like the ability to alter black areas in an image, say, to change a black leather jacket to red for instance. There are advanced ways to do this using contrast and brightness, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Overall, this is a mature offering by MacPhun LLC, and is definitely worth the introductory price of $1.99. I wholeheartedly recommend it to you.


An intuitive and fun way to achieve color splash photos on the iPad