Photo collage apps for iOS

This week's collection of iOS apps is about making collages. With features like effects and the ability to share to social sites, we've come a long way from the old glue-sticks-and-poster-board method.


Creating collages with your images is easier than ever on your iPhone, and--with the right app--you can make great looking projects in minutes and share them immediately.

Are you old enough to remember making collages with a glue stick and poster board? These days anyone can create a collage (without all the mess) using digital photos and any photo layout program on a desktop computer. But some recent apps for iPhone make it even easier with intuitive touch-screen controls and other extras that put the old glue-stick-and-photo method to shame.

This week's collection of iOS apps is about making collages. The first lets you choose a layout and add photos for quick collage projects. The second does the same, but adds more features and lets you make sendable postcards. The third adds something a little different, with a multilens feature that produces unique results.

With Diptic, you can tap a photo in the collage and adjust levels and brightness using sliders. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Diptic (99 cents) is a fairly simple app that lets you make cool-looking collages using photos you take with your iPhone camera or what you have stored in your photo library. You start by selecting from 21 different layouts, such as one photo across the top with three smaller ones across the bottom, or one big image on the left with four small shots down the right side, as examples. You can also use frame sliders to adjust the size of any frame, giving you unlimited customization options.

Once you have your layout, you can add images to each frame and move or zoom each one to make it fit just right. From there you can rotate an image 90 degrees within a frame or create a mirror image of the shot using the Transform features. Finally, you can adjust color, brightness, and contrast to bring out certain shots or make them more similar to the others in your project. All these features are self explanatory just by playing with the interface.

Diptic is an easy way to create quick collages, and offers several features for sharing your work with friends. Earlier iterations of the app only offered sharing by e-mail, but now you can share on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr. The app also now supports exporting directly to other apps that support JPEG images like Instagram, Camera+, Dropbox, and many others.

If you want to try something different with your photos, Diptic is a tried-and-true option that has added several useful features and enhancements since its release.

You don't get many options for frame customization, but there's plenty more to like about Frametastic. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Frametastic (Free) lets you create collages with your pictures with several layouts, effects, and sharing options. You start by selecting a frame for your project from 18 different layouts (you also can purchase another 18 layouts for 99 cents). Next, simply tap in a frame to either import a photo from your iPhone library or you can snap a new picture. From there, you can touch a frame to adjust the positioning of a photo or pinch to zoom to make it fit just right.

Frametastic takes it a step further than other apps in this category by letting you add effects to your photo projects. Just double-tap one of the photos to make it full screen. Then use a scrolling wheel at the bottom of the interface to choose effects like Black and White, Sepia, Paint, and many more. You can use a different effect for every photo in your collage if you want or you can select the same effect if you're going for a specific look.

To finish your collage, you can customize the frame itself. You have the option to change the color of the frame or you can use a slider to round the corners of each picture to your liking. There are no custom borders here, but even with simple frame options, Frametastic turns out good-looking results.

When you're satisfied with your work, you can share your collage across all the usual social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, or you can send via e-mail. But what makes this app stand out from the pack is that you turn your work into a postcard by paying a small fee using the Sincerely service (registration required).

Frametastic is an excellent option for creating collages and the added effects and the ability to make sendable postcards might make this your favorite collage maker on the iPhone.

Grid Lens
Tapping on a collage in the gallery lets you choose from several filters to give your project a unique look. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Grid Lens (99 cents) is slightly different than the other two apps in this collection, by letting you make collages of a different type. In this app, the frames of your collage are what you see out of your actual iPhone camera lens in real time. You can also use images from your photo library (by touching and holding a single frame), but the concept behind Grid Lens will enable you to make more than just collages.

To get started, you'll need to choose a layout for your project. Grid Lens offers several premade layouts, but you also can add a new layout and touch and drag to create each frame of your collage. Being able to create new layouts sets Grid Lens apart--you won't ever need to buy new layouts like you would in Frametastic.

Once you've decided on a layout, you can choose either single- or multilens variations for your collage. The single lens shows one image with the frames superimposed over the image. The multilens gives you a separate lens for every frame. But what makes the multilens variation particularly interesting is that you can touch an individual frame to snap a photo. This means that if you were at an event, you could walk around and touch a frame at various locations creating a collage as you go.

Once you've finished taking your shots, you can save your collage to the in-app gallery to add effects and share your project. Simply select your collage to bring it up full screen and choose the spray can icon to browse through six different effects. When you're finished, you can download it to your iPhone library, upload the collage to Flickr, or post your project to Facebook or Twitter.

Grid Lens is a neat idea and it's easy to see how all sorts of cool projects would be possible. With a slick interface, multiple options for creating collages, and the ability to add effects and share, this app is great for someone looking to make something interesting with their images.

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.