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iPhone App Reviews and Critiques - Layers
 

CRITIQUES

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Layers

Seller: J. Benjamin Gotow
Category: Painting/Drawing
© J. Benjamin Gotow
v. 2.4.1
5.4 MB
$4.99
App Description

 

The iPhone and iPad are leaders in the Mobile Art revolution, allowing people a simple and powerful tool to create paintings or photo/painting combinations anywhere they go. These apps are so powerful in fact, they allow people to paint who might not otherwise have thought they could do it. Layers is definitely at the top of its class. An excellent painting app and one of the primary rivals for Brushes, Layers should be commended for being one of the first apps to implement the use of layers.

For those unfamiliar with the basics of Photoshop, layers can be thought of as a series of translucent pages, all stacked on top of each other. In Photoshop as well as in Layers, you have the ability to draw or paint on any of these different layers. Most of the time you are viewing your work as if looking straight down on this stack of translucent pages, so you see them all at the same time, all lined up together. But when you draw and paint on separate layers, it gives you the ability to remove or edit a layer you don't like without disturbing the rest of the image. You also have the ability to merge layers - for example if you are happy with your background and a certain object you have painted on top of it, you can merge these two layers into one, then continue to work on other elements on separate layers until you are satisfied. Separating out fine line work from broad strokes, separating foreground and background elements, gaining control over the opacity of different elements — these are just a few of the many wonderful reasons that layers are a powerful tool in any photo or painting app. 

If you are looking for a terrific painting app with all the best features, I think this would be my top recommendation. These apps are a bit more expensive than many photography apps, running around $4.99 instead of $1.99, so I would read about several of the options before making a decision — but in the end the investment is worth it. 

First of all, Layers is well designed and easy to figure out. When you first turn it on, it provides a very clear screen that tells you how to begin and explains what each icon means. (a nice feature for those less familiar with using apps) At first, your gallery page will be empty, but as you generate images, they will all be stored here for you to go back to and continue working on later. To start a painting, tap the + sign on the top right corner of your screen. You will then be allowed to select a rectangular (320x480) canvas, or a square (512x512) canvas. Make your selection and a blank canvas will fill your screen. Along the bottom are your basic menu icons. Layers, undo, redo, eyedropper, brushes, and color are your basic options. I would suggest starting with brushes.

In the brushes menu, you have the ability to set the size, opacity, and look of your brush. The size and opacity are easy to use sliders, and also offer plus and minus arrows for fine tuning which is so great and sorely missing form most apps. The different brushes are represented by thumbnails much like the brushes menu in Photoshop. At the top of the screen, you can switch to the smudge icon or the erase icon. These represent your "toolbar," and each comes with the same size, brush and opacity controls. 

The color menu allows you to easily select your hue on the color wheel, and your saturation on the right hand slider. Once your color is chosen, it appears in a square along the bottom of the screen. Each time you pick a new color, a new square appears and the old ones slide over to the right. This is a nice feature as it allows you to see how your color choices are relating to each other before you go ahead an use them.

Now you can begin painting on your canvas or you can venture into the layers menu where the real fun begins. Inside the layers menu, you have several options. You can add a layer that is either transparent, filled with your currently selected color — or it can be a photo selected from your Camera Roll or any custom Album you have created. 5 is the maximum number of layers you can have, and the one you are currently "on" is highlighted in blue. To move layers around, simply drag them to where you want them to go. In the right corner there is a "more" button which gives you a new set of options. Here you can easily set the transparency of any selected layer, fill it with a color, merge a layer down to combine it with the layer below it, duplicate, rotate, or reposition a layer.

Given all these controls you can see that Layers is an extremely powerful app modeled after Photoshop with many of the same features. And the best part is that they all work well! It also has some additional features that Brushes does not have that are really great for those less confident in their freehand painting abilities. 

In Layers, if you chose the smudge tool, your brush will smudge the pixels of any layer you are on. This gives you the ability to load a photo onto a layer and use the smudge tool on it to transform it from a photo into a more painterly rendering of the basic image. You can then go back in and paint on top of this, add linework and refine the base image. The benefit is that it gives you a fast and easy foundation to work on which is an amazing tool that will help many people paint who might not have otherwise felt capable. 

Another nice touch is the "brush offset" feature on the top right of your screen. This function allows you to offset the brush away from your finger. So if you are having trouble seeing what your are doing underneath your finger, you can offset the brush and it will appear above, to the left, or wherever you set it, so your finger is no longer in the way. The basic controls of the app are also great and work well. You can zoom in and out with a 2 finger pinch or a double tap, pan around with a 2 finger slide, or tap and hold to bring up the eyedropper and sample your color.

The undo and redo buttons are solid, offering 30 levels of undo — and there is a nice Tips button you can tap that will bring up a lot of the quick points you need to know to help you utilize all the features. 

Finally, when exporting your work, inside the program you have the option of exporting a flat jpeg or layered PSD - but even better, if you download the free Layers Viewer on your Mac, you can sync your app with the Viewer to export high res versions of your painting (up to 4096x4096px) or to save them as quicktime movies which you can then play back and watch an animation of your painting being created stroke by stroke. 

The only thing I would love to see added to this app is more options in the "blending mode" of layers. For example, in Art Studio which has many of the same capabilities, you have the option to chose blending modes such as multiply, screen and overlay. This creates a much more robust compositing tool for blending layers and images together and would be a huge addition to a painting app such as this one. 

That being said, Layers is definitely a winner. Anyone interesting in iPhoneArt should definitely give it a try, upload their work or quicktimes of their paintings and show us all what you can do.

 

To purchase this app at the iTunes store click here:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/layers/id322043687?mt=8

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