The App: Popsicolor
The Device: iPhone
The Price: $0.99
The Basics: Photo filter apps are a dime a dozen in the app store, but Popsicolor attempts to do something new: instead of artificially aging your photos, modifying colors or creating new light sources, it transforms your image into a painting. You can modify the colors and the intensity of the brush strokes, letting you transform any old image into cool watercolor. It’s not necessarily groundbreaking tech (think of it as having a selection of Photoshop filters on your phone), but it’s certainly a cool idea and one that has the potential to get as big as Instagram if word gets out.
The Review: Right now, Popsicolor feels a bit like an incredibly successful proof of concept. The elements are there for a for a terrific app, but it can use a little more polish. It feels a little incomplete, but it’s easy to imagine it becoming a vital app for every smartphone after an update or two.
Like every photo filter app, you get started by selecting a photo from your library or taking a fresh shot. Right after you’ve made this choice, you encounter Popsicolor’s first hiccup: the often unbearable loading times. Unlike Instagram, where filters are added and adjustments are made in a matter of seconds, putting a filter on a picture here can take a long, long time. Granted, this is only about twenty seconds on average, but in the world of instant-gratification that is the mobile app market, it feels sooo much longer. It’s understandable that the process of turning your photos into a painting would require a little more under the hood than a standard filter, but when it takes so long to modify a photo, you stop getting interested in using it on the fly. One of the joys of Instagram is being able to whip it out and use it instantly while on the move. You really can’t do that with Popsicolor.
Still, you can’t argue with the results: once the process is over, your picture will usually look pretty darn cool. The app has problems with dark and/or busy photos, but if your image is brightly lit and focused on a single subject, your finished painting will often look spectacular. You can modify the colors of the image (each of which have fun names like “watermelon” and “cotton candy”), but the really cool feature is being able to adjust the focus. Strangely, this is hidden in a sub menu instead of being readily available, but it’s actually far more important to enjoying Popsicolor than color modification.
There are three levels of focus: minimal, natural and bold. Minimal uses the least “paint” and fills your image with a lot of negative space, natural offers the most natural translation of the original image and bold lays the colors on thick, often transforming your original image into something new altogether. Picking the right focus for your photo is the key to properly using Popsicolor, since some work better than others in some situations. For example, a dimly lit photo with the bold focus won’t look good at all.
I wish Popsicolor was faster and I wish it offered a little more variety in its painting styles, since the watercolors do get a little old after awhile, but there’s no denying the fact that it’s a great idea and a very fun app. I’ll just wait for the inevitable update that’ll make it perfect.
The Final Grade: B