Paint FX
Version reviewed: 2.1
Price: $1.99

Rating 2.5 stars

Bottom Line: I think Paint FX is okay. It’s unique workflow is offset by several annoying glitches.

Paint FX by Sprite Labs was recently updated to version 2.1. The name suggests that it’s a paint program. It has a few paint-like effects, but it’s really more of a photo effects app that lets you “paint in” effects. Although it has plenty of standard color and overlay effects, the app’s painting and layering workflow is different and and what sets it apart from most photo apps.

While it has a lot of cool features, Paint FX has a few annoyances that keep it from being a great app for me.

More after the jump. >>>

Paint FX app has several little-seen tools and features. You can choose from 69 effects presets — several of them are simply color variations of others. You can easily choose to apply the effect to the entire picture or paint the effect in using brush and erase tools. The “layers” feature of Paint FX also allows you to apply multiple effects on top of each other. The app’s help system guides you through this each step of the way. You can create some rich, textured effects with the app.

There are several good tools to help mask out or mask in effects. The mask and erase tools are straightforward, and easy to figure out and use. The app has a good brush tool with sliders for edge, opacity and size adjustments. The brush was accurate and responsive when I used it. I like how it retained its size regardless of the zoom level of the image, allowing me to more easily mask out finer details. You can get good accurate masks if you spend some time with an image and use the zoom and pan tools. If you’re new to this type of workflow, it can be a little clunky at first. It’s pretty easy to pick up, though. I picked it up quickly.

While Paint FX works great using a finger with the mask tools, I found it much easier to be precise if I used a stylus. I use a Pogo Sketch. It’s inexpensive, lightweight, and pretty accurate.

Overall, the 69 effects are good but not outstanding. Several of them are adjustable, including Paint, Colorize, Hue, and Sketch. The adjustable Threshold filter will be familiar to Photoshop users and creates interesting very high contrast effects.

Many of the rest of the effects are color overlays and can easily be combined with other effects for endless variations. There are several textured overlays, but not a huge selection. One of the issues I have with Paint FX is that I found that some of the textures like the Grunge Glow and Retro Starburst textures looked low res and looked blurry when output at high resolution. Points off there. This kept me from rating the app three stars (a “good” rating). Paint FX could benefit from a larger selection of high resolution overlays and textures.

Paint FX Retro Rays texture detail

Paint FX Grunge Glow effect detail

I like the Halftone filter — you can check out a sample at the end of this post. It’s pretty cool and adds an authentic looking printed halftone to the image. Although I also like the pulpy halftone look that some apps create, I like this subtle dot patterns as well. The Cartoonize filter, however, is not a strong one. It merely applied some non-adjustable posterization. Both filters would benefit greatly if they were adjustable. Both effects probably look better using the lower 1 megapixel import option.

The app’s maximum resolution on an iPhone 4 is 2048×2048, about 4 megapixels on an iPhone 4S. That means that your rectangular format photos will output at 2048×1536 — about the same 3.2 megapixel output of an iPhone 3GS. While this resolution is usable for all purposes and iPhoneographers can get some good enlargements from this app, it’s still a lot of pixels to be losing from an 8 MP iPhone 4S photo.

The in-app live help is great. The online tutorial/guide isn’t really that helpful. It’ll get you started, but I found it lacking in several details when trying to figure the app out. I couldn’t find more detailed help or tutorials on the website, either. For instance, the Layer guide has a sample where Blue is at 50% Opacity. I searched the app for several minutes before I realized that there is no overall adjustment for filter opacity. You have to paint the effect in at 50% opacity. I figured that out so you don’t have to.

The guide for the FX Selection and mask didn’t match the user interface and looked like it hasn’t been updated in a while and was from a much older version of the app. Finding the adjustments for the brightness, contrast and saturation tools that the app is supposed to have wasn’t intuitive and took some more digging. After several minutes of experimenting, I found that the slider adjustment for Brightness and Contrast show up in the Brush tool when those filters are selected. I haven’t found the Saturation adjustment yet.

The app also has a very annoying “Rate This App” alert that popped up every few photos I processed. I’m not sure when or if this goes away, but I’d be less annoyed if it did so after the first time I pressed “No, thanks.”

Paint FX is now a Universal app and works on just about any iDevice out there. It now takes advantage of the larger screen of the iPad. If you’re still using an old iPhone 3G (I suspect it’ll work on a 2G as well), you’re in luck. Paint FX is old iPhone friendly.

Paint FX has a lot of high user reviews in the App Store. These appear to be real user reviews, so it looks like people who use it like it a lot. I think the app has some great, innovative features including its paint and layer workflow, but it also has some problems that keep me from getting very excited about this app.

Paint FX is $1.99 in the App Store. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Paint FX : Photo Effects Editor - Sprite Labs


Paint FX Halftone effect sample. Click to enlarge.