The App: Space Paint
The Device: iPhone 4
The Price: 99 cents
The Basics: Another photo manipulation app? Really? Do we really need another one of these? Didn’t Instagram corner the market already? Nah, apparently not. Although they belong in the same genre, Instagram and Space Paint couldn’t be more different, with the purpose and execution of each being in direct opposition of one another. While Instagram is about subtle manipulation and aging effects, Space Paint is all about going BIG, letting you transform your photos into colorful, strange and often incredible images through manipulation of the world’s most beautiful clip art. Depending on how you look at it, Space Paint is either Photoshop Jr. or Microsfot Paint 3000.
The Review: That last sentence may have sounded condescending, but Space Paint pulls it off. This is a terrific app.
It’s difficult to explain exactly how Space Paint works, but here goes: after you take a picture or upload one of your own from the title page, you are able to add an “effect.” There are tons of these. There are flames of various shapes and sizes. Wisps of smoke. Shooting stars. Lens flares. Paint smears. Random color combinations that are pleasing to the eye. And so on. Once you make a selection, it’s planted on top of your image and you can go about manipulating it.
There are three ways to manipulate your effect. A slider will let you increase or decrease the “intensity” of the effect, allowing you to control how powerful or subtle it is. Another button, once activated, will allow you to manipulate the size and direction of an effect. By pinching and rolling your fingers on the screen, you can make your effect larger, smaller or rotate it any way you desire. The final button lets you “erase” or “draw.” Erase will only work on the effect and draw will fill in areas that have been previously erased. This option lets you remove portions of an effect as you desire. What make this erase function unique is that it leaves room for error. You have to rub the screen repeatedly to get your erasing going, which means that a simple slip of the finger will never ruin your project (this is an especially good thing since the “go back” function that would presumably undo your last action feels buggy).
For example, you can select a picture of a friend and a blue effect. You can resize the blue effect to approximate the size of your friend’s head and then erase anything that spills over, leaving your friend’s head nice and blue. The sheer number of options available in the effects library means that nothing is off limits if you’re clever enough.
And that’s where you arrive at the real brilliance of Space Paint: once you’ve finished with one effect and have locked it down, you can then add another, which will layer on top of the previous one. You can manipulate this effect as you see fit, since nothing you do will have an effect on your previous work. There’s no limit to the number of layers you can place on top of your photo, so Space Paint gives you the opportunity to build some really beautiful and complex pieces.
As impressive as the raw technology is, the best part of Space Paint is how artist-friendly it is. So many photo manipulation apps fall over themselves to make things effortless and beyond simple for non-artists, but Space Paint is content to let itself be a deep and often slightly complicated experience. It’s a toolbox: you have to bring your own skills to make your work look good. It may not offer the same depth of a full design program, but there is no way any iPhone-wielding artists and designers won’t get an absolute kick out of it.
The Final Grade: A-