From photos to drawings on iOS

This week's collection of iOS apps consists of an app that adds drawing effects to images, another that turns your photos into comic panels, and a third that creates high-res sketches of your pictures.


Even on the first day the iTunes App Store launched there were photo apps that let you manipulate and edit images on iPhone. The App Store has come a long way since then and, with new iPhones with faster processors and better cameras, the apps have gotten significantly better as well.

This week's collection of apps is all about making your photos look like drawings. The first lets you see selected effects in real time even before you take the shot, so you know what you're going to get. The second takes your photos and turns them into comic book panels with captions. The third is new to the iTunes App Store and turns your images into high-res sketched drawings.

Paper Camera
All the controls are hand-drawn in this app. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Paper Camera (99 cents) offers up a unique photography experience using a cute interface to produce simulated hand-drawn results, but you'll need to select your shots carefully. The interface looks like a camera made from paper (appropriately), with hand-drawn arrow buttons for switching effects; controls for contrast, brightness, and line weight on the right side; and a save button in the lower right. You have the choice of taking shots directly with your iPhone camera (showing the effect in real time) or selecting an image from your photo library.

Paper Camera is a neat concept, but in addition to requiring you to select your shots carefully, the app has some other annoyances. In our tests, taking or using darker shots doesn't really work with Paper Camera. The nature of the effects is that they use line drawings to recreate the image, and once it gets too dark it's hard to make out the subject of your photo. In bright outdoor shots, it does much better. Our other issue might be small, but it has to do with the save button; when you touch save, it automatically sends the image to your photo library, but offers no confirmation that it was sent. Like anyone probably would, we hit the button a few times, not sure if it was working, only to find several copies of the image in our library.

Even with these issues, Paper Camera can produce some pretty cool-looking images as long as you're taking daylight or otherwise well-lit shots. If you like the hand-drawn look, or just want to do something more with your photos, Paper Camera is a pretty good option for under a buck.

Our very own Molly Wood posed for this shot, and we like the comic book-style results. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Halftone (99 cents) turns your photographs into captioned comics with a distinctive worn-paper style. Start by snapping a new photo with your iPhone camera or by selecting an image from your photo library. From there, you can use the buttons on the bottom of the interface to select from 27 different paper styles to give your final product that heavily dog-eared comic look. You also can add customizable speech balloons and choose from a few different layouts, but we think there should be more layout options--especially multipane formats. For a little more excitement, you can pick from 24 exclamation balloons (arrrgh! BLAM!) and random designs, and you can select a color for each.

Halftone creates fun comic book-like images for your photos, but we can't help but think it could have done more. Though the results are solid for single-image projects, it could be even better if you could build three-across comic strips or perhaps a full-page comic.

Even though Halftone leaves us with a few things on our wish list, it does a great job of making cool-looking comic-like pictures with your images. Sending directly to Twitter or Facebook will probably be an appealing option to many users as well. If you want to add fun captions and graphics to your photos and send them to your friends, Halftone is a well-made app for the job.

My Sketch
The high-res sketch produced by My Sketch can be printed out with great results. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

My Sketch makes your photos into hand-sketched artistic drawings in only a few easy steps. Upon launch you get the option to take a new photo or choose one from your iPhone photo library. Once selected, My Sketch immediately has you crop the image to your liking, either in portrait or landscape layouts. The next step is to choose a style, and My Sketch offers 20 different types of sketch styles, from long-line sketches to pastel styles. It takes a couple of moments, but once the high-res sketch is finished, you have a chance to apply some finishing touches with brightness and contrast sliders.

My Sketch is the newest app of this collection and you can tell the developers made sure theirs was something different from others in the photo/art category. The step-by-step process leaves little room for error as the app guides you from start to finish. Like most apps these days, My Sketch comes with a number of sharing options including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr, or you can send the image to a friend via e-mail.

Overall, My Sketch is a very well-polished image manipulation app that produces excellent high-res sketches of your photos. Anyone who likes that sketched look and wants to do something special with photos should definitely grab this app.

Do you have a better photos-to-drawings app? Let us all know about it in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.