Photo App Review: Color Thief – A Spiffy Color Transfer Tool


Color Thief
Version reviewed: 1.0
Price: $1.99

Rating 4.5 stars

Bottom Line: I like it a lot! An often amazing tool to transfer colors and tonal qualities from image to image.

color thief for iPhoneNew photo utility Color Thief transfers colors and tones from one photo to the next. This is going to be a fairly short review. Color Thief is an app with a singular purpose and it does that task very, very well.

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Color Thief transfers the tonal and color qualities of one image to another selected image. For instance, if I have a bright image full of warm colors and I want it to look and feel more like an image I have full of dark tones and deep blue hues, Color Thief will intelligently transfer the tones of the source image to the destination image. The filters and algorithms it uses are very impressive. In my tests, most of the time, my test images ended up looking like they were shot with the same app and filters.

The app works great and does what it advertises 100% of the time. Most of the time, my results were amazing and often looked a lot better than I expected.

Any glitches I encountered were the result of two really incompatible images. I tried blending an image with a lot of hot pink saturation over the image of my dad and I in the car which is a very cool, flat image. The app worked great; the results were… interesting.

The interface is very simple. Just import two images into the app and toggle the arrow to set the source and destination images. There are no adjustments, but the app does a great job on its own in mapping tones and colors. You can save each image independently and the app saves images at their original resolution. Color Thief had no problems with my 8MP images. It also preserved any embedded EXIF data including location data. Image size didn’t really matter. You can transfer colors from a 1MP image to an 8MP image with no loss in image quality or resolution.

Color Thief has a ton of uses. It can be used to balance out images used in a multi-pic collage. It can be used to replicate many photo app filters by applying the color and tonal values of the original filtered image. Life In LoFi reader Miki Ballard also suggested “maybe a cheat sheet for photos that you see online but whose filter recipe is a secret.” I’ll be using this app in my graphic design studio to quickly and easily color balance groups of customer-supplied images for ads and other projects. The moves that Color Thief does in seconds would take hundreds of times as long to try and replicate in Photoshop.

I’m excited about Color Thief. It’s an easy to use app that does some powerful color manipulations under the hood. The color moves that it makes are nearly always impressive and amazing. Highly recommended!

Color Thief is $1.99. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 5.1 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

Color Thief - Yellow Cedar Software, Inc.



About Marty Yawnick 1826 Articles
Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.
  • David Hayes

    Great review, Marty! I'm definitely going to get this app for my tool box!

  • Marty, great review…What really caught my interest is when you mentioned using this app in relation to your work. I would love to see a full article on how you use iOS apps in relation to work/graphic design.

  • Larry

    Terrific app. Missing the Insragram Gotham filter? Use an old Gotham photo as a reference (I tried it) and it gets you pretty close! Amazing

    • Miki

      would you mind linking us to an example? I'm really interested in using Color Thief to replicate filters, but not sure how well it actually does it. (i.e., does it replicate the filter well or does it replicate all the colors in the photo, the filter + everything captured within the viewfinder)

  • Geri

    Thanks for the review – I bought it and can see the potential!!!

  • Kaphinga

    I am so glad you reviewed this app because it really deserves the attention. I took a risk last night and bought the app, fearing that i was wasting my money, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it is.

  • blortblort

    I can only echo what others have already said about color thief but I must add- WoW!!!! This is the best ‘one trick’ app I’ve bought in ages!!! Just goes to show you: if the trick is as awesome as this, you only NEED the ‘one trick’

  • Egmont van Dyck

    I like the concept of the application and can see that it would be very useful to have in ones toolbox. I agree with Kaphinga, who wrote on iTunes she wished it was a universal version.
    I would also like to add that in order to have more creative control over the transfer of color from one image to another by the application having a slider. A slider one can move from left to right and so control the transfer amount of color, if one wanted to mix the toes of both images.

  • Meena

    This was informative. I send pictures to my clients with Binfer. It's a neat way to send lots of pics safely. Check it out:

  • Driver

    I find it a great application, thanks for letting suggested.

  • Michael

    Thanks for featuring this app. I bought it and have “wasted” a lot of time already playing with different combinations of photos. Two very positive uses for me are: 1) color uniformity when building a family calendar this year, and 2) replacing the pathetically unupdated Hipstamatch app. I’m more interested in similar colors that the soft focus/borders/grunge of some filters. Plus, I love the new Hipstamatic “tintype” lens/film, but not always wanting the darkness of the final picture.