15 Sep Pixlr Express Plus
A new photo editing experience for your iPhone and iPad comes in the shape of Pixlr Express Plus
It’s always an interesting moment when an established name on the app market decides to change or extend what services it’s known for providing, and Autodesk’s Pixlr Express PLUS is the perfect example of this. Until now the Pixlr name has been solely tied to Pixlr-o-matic, the photo editing and sharing app that is more in the Instagram mould of quick-fire filters and effects applying than a serious image editor. This new app though is a much more grown-up experience all round, designed to give the photo fiends of the iOS world something to spend a lot of time with, tweaking every aspect of their photos.
At the same time though, the app is also crammed with the filters and overlays that made Pixlr a popular name in the first place. This then, is an attempt to strike a balance.
From the moment you open the app you are struck with a sense that you’re meant to spend time within this app working with and on your photos. With extended use in mind, the interface has been made suitably fluid and sleek, with a simple bar of options in both the header and footer of the screen, the latter of which opens out with more options as you interact with it. It is in this footer menu that you will spend most of your time, as this is where you will find the various layers of edit that you can make to your photos.
This is where you can, in a sense, make a choice about the type of editing you want to have. The Adjustments section deals very much with actual photo editing, allowing users to adjust contrast and colours, as well as sharpen and blur parts of the image and create a focus point. There are in fact 13 individual edit options within this section alone, which demonstrates just how serious this app is as a photo editor, placing it alongside the likes of Snapseed and iPhoto as opposed to the more social apps like Instagram. Most interestingly though is the way Pixlr has found a way of incorporating such features without making the app feel any less fun or accessible. This is clearly being marketed at their current users, and wants to be seem as more of an upgrade than a complete replacement for Pixlr-o-matic.
This has been achieved by the way in which users can apply the different tools on offer. Nothing is made over complicated or drawn out – the prime example is the Auto-Fix feature, which balances out colour for you in a single tap. Other features like Blur, Contrast and Brightness are controlled by the use of scroll bars. Simple, intuitive devices that allow you to be precise, but without feeling like you’ve used incredible precision in your screen interactions.
It all comes back to the already mentioned idea of balance. Balance in the way the app’s interface has been designed to support and enhance the great depth of features on offer, without ever overwhelming the users. This is why the layering of the menu and indeed the effects you can apply works so well.
Even if this still sounds a bit heavy for the sort of image editing experience you’re looking for, Pixlr Express PLUS can still be of very good use to you. The other three editing sections all deal with more superficial aspect of your photos, from lens filters to dramatic overlays, as well as a range of borders with which to decorate your images.
You will notice that a lot of the different filter packs need to be downloaded, and while this might take you by surprise the first time – it can suddenly seem like an in-app purchase from nowhere – this isn’t the case at all. All filters are available to all users. Having to download them is a space-saving and creating mechanism, and a lovely surprise, if we’re honest.
Having downloaded the filter and effect packs that interest you, users can also take the personalisation of the app a step further by collating together your favourite features within each area of the app. You can do this by tapping the favourite icon when using a filter or editing tool, and a thumbnail marked Favourites will then appear in that sections main tool list.
What Pixlr Express PLUS has managed is to create something that will turn the heads of the dark room-loving photo editors without alienating those who just want to add a filter to their holiday photos. Apps like Snapseed have tried to strike this balance in the past, but this might just be the best attempt yet.