Seller: Johan Andersson
Â© Johan Andersson
Image Blender is designed to allow you to merge or blend together two different images that you have stored on your iDevice (its universal). Image Blender is capable of blending either two complete images or by creating a mask, parts of one image with another image.
Once you start getting serious about iPhoneology or image editing in general, one of the first apps that you will look for is something that will allow you to take the best parts of one image or a different exposure and merge it with another image or exposure. Thanks to its relatively easy to use interface, Image Blender is a good choice for anyone new to this area and for those people already familiar with it, it is a solid work-horse for day to day edits of your images.
Blender has three main modes:
- Main blending mode, which allows you to select the strength and type of blends.
- Arrange mode, that allows you to position the foreground image on top of the background image.
- Masking mode, that allows you to select which parts of the foreground image you would like to have blended with the background.
The app has a very simple and uncluttered interface, which from first glance, makes it easy for you understand what you need to do in order to get started with a basic blend. Some of the more advanced options are not immediately apparent from the interface. However, help is at hand (literally) by the presence of a getting started guide being available as part of the app. Tap the centre of the screen to bring up a brief getting started guide.
This is the main working mode for Blender and the mode that the app starts in when you launch it. From here you can select the two images to be merged and from a pop-up menu at the bottom of the screen, choose the blend type. Also at the bottom of the screen you will find two squares with a slider bar in between them. This is how you load your images into the app and get started with blending them together. The squares gently pulse to draw your attention to them, until you load an image.
Tapping on the left-square allows you to choose the base or background image. Tapping on the right square allows you to choose the foreground image that you would like to blend with the background image. Moving the slide bar to the left or to the right increases the bias towards that particular image in the blend. Move it to the left and the background image will have a stronger presence, move it to the right and the foreground image has a stronger presence. At it's most basic, this is what Image Blender (sometimes referred to as just Blender) does.
The simplicity of the interface hides some other options that give the app much more power than initial appearances suggest. For example, you can tap once in anywhere in the image to bring up an edit menu, offering you two choices; to edit the Mask or the position (Arrange) of the foreground image. You can also swipe up (when you're not in Arrange or Mask mode) to reveal the additional Blending modes, such as Multiply, Overlay and Soft Light, to name but a few. Alternatively you can also access this mode by tapping the blend button in the top left corner.
If you hold down on the image (again not in Arrange or Mask mode), a pop-up menu appears that provides you with three options, Copy, Switch and Flatten. Copy, unsurprisingly copies it to the clipboard for re-use. You can then access it later by tapping the right-most square and from the Choose Picture menu that appears selecting Pasteboard. Switch as its name suggests, exchanges the foreground and background images. Finally, flatten permanently merges the foreground image with the background image and clears the right-most square allowing you to add another image to blend over the top of your current image.
Tapping on either left-most square or the right-most square brings up a pop-up menu that offers you three options:
- Camera - so you can take a photo and blend it with your current image.
- Library - to allow you to select something from your Camera Roll.
- Pasteboard - if you have previously copied an image while working in Blender.
Holding down on the right-most square brings up a menu that provides three options:
- Share - to send the image to one of the apps that Blender currently recognises.
- Reset - that restores the image back to the state it was in when you loaded it.
- Remove - clears the image totally and you will need to select a new foreground image in order to continue working.
Holding down on the left-most square only offers Share and Remove, as there is no need to reset the background image.
It should be noted that the resolution of the output image, is dependent on the image that you use as the background image, so if you load a low-res background image and a high-res foreground image, the final result when saved, will have the resolution of the background image. If both images are high-res then the final output will be high-res as well.
Arrange mode is accessed either by tapping the image once and selecting Arrange from the Edit menu or by swiping right to left on the image.
Once in arrange mode, you will see the same slide bar at the bottom of the screen that allows you to affect the transparency of the two images. Moving the bar to the left makes the background more prominent and to the right, the foreground becomes more prominent. Adjusting this slider is essential some times in order to get the image positioned exactly where you need it to be. At the left side of the slide bar, you will see an icon that, if tapped, will lock the size of the foreground image, making it impossible to scale larger or shrink. To the right side of the slide bar, you will see an icon that, if tapped, locks the rotation of the image. The standard pinch gesture to increase or decrease the size of the foreground image and the standard rotate gesture is used to rotate the image.
Since v1.6.5, you can now tap and hold the image in Arrange mode to bring up a new menu, which gives you the option to rotate the image in 90 degree increments or Reset it back to its original position.
When you are ready, just tap the Use button in the top right to get back to Blend mode.
Swiping left to right or selecting Mask from the edit menu will bring you to Mask mode. Here you can decide which parts of the foreground image you would like to keep or have visible on top of the background image.
You do this by using the two buttons visible at the bottom of the screen. Erase deletes part of the foreground image allowing the background to show through and draw restores parts of the foreground image, hiding the background.
Unlike some other apps in this category, there is no option here to highlight the mask in a different colour such as red. What you do instead, is tap the "contrast" looking icon next to the Draw button. This will bring up a new menu containing two slide bars, which allow you to adjust the transparency of the background and foreground images, making the mask more or less visible depending on what you need. Here you can, for example, hide the background image totally by moving it's slider all the way to the left, leaving only the foreground visible so you can work on the mask without the distraction of the background image beneath. Tapping and holding on this icon at this time, does nothing.
To the left of the erase button, you will see a standard brush icon. Tapping on it will switch the brush between two types, a hard brush and a soft brush. The hard brush will leave clearly defined edges on your mask and the soft brush will smooth the edges of your mask, making the blend with the image beneath more seamless. The soft brush is also soft in the sense that you will need to go over the same part of the image many times to remove it but this allows you to create fine and gradual masks.
Creating a mask requires patience and you will find yourself having to zoom into the image a lot using the standard pinch gesture in order to get at the hard to access spots in the image that the brush simply too big to work with otherwise. Zooming the image is something akin to reducing the size of the brush, the more you zoom in, the smaller the brush becomes.
As of v 1.6.5 you can now tap and hold on the brush icon in order to bring up a new menu with a slider on it that allows you to change the size of your brush. I delayed finishing this review until I had some time to play with this new brush setting and in practice, I have to admit that I preferred the way things worked in the previous version. This is because if you resize the soft brush from its initial default size then it no longer tracks your finger smoothly. Instead it starts to stamp as you move it, which makes it stutter which, in turn, makes it difficult to make a proper mask. If you leave it alone at its default setting though, it works fine. My advice at this stage would be to do exactly that; don't play with changing the size of the brushes, rather instead continue to zoom into and out of the image, until the developer gets the bug sorted.
I think it's worth mentioning at this stage, that I emailed the developer about this and he was very friendly and responsive. He told me that he's aware of the problem and working on a fix.
Once you are done creating your mask, tap Use in the top right corner to get back to blend mode.
Finally from Blend mode you can tap save in the top right corner to either save you image to the Camera Roll or send it to another app.
Working with the app
Image Blender is a good base app for working with double exposures or simply blending images together. It offers some solid tools for working with images but lacks the finesse in some areas that other apps in this category have.
You will spend the least amount of time in Arrange mode in most cases, as once you have loaded the foreground image in and positioned it where you need it, there is little reason to go back to Arrange mode, unless you made a mistake in the positioning. One thing that I think the app could benefit from here though, would be a quick way to align the foreground and background images, such as fit to height, to width or to match sizes for example. At the moment, this is an entirely manual process and at times can require a lot of patience to get the images lined up correctly. There is a setting, hidden inside the settings app (Settings -> Blender), called "Fit top inside bottom", which should resize the top image to fit inside the background image if enabled. In practise though I found this to be annoying as sometimes I wanted to match the images sizes. Other times I didn't and having it resize every time I loaded a new image mask in proved to be enough of a nuisance that I put the option back to it's default off setting.
Most of your time will be spent switching between the Mask and Blend modes, editing the foreground image and then switching to see how it looks together with the background image.
There is no undo option when working on the mask. If you make a mistake, then you simply need to switch the brush from Erase to Draw and draw back in the part of the image that you erased by accident. The main issue here is that in order to get a really good mask, you often need to zoom into the image to such an extent that, on an iPhone at least, you can spend a lot of time looking at just pixels, requiring you to zoom out often in order to see the big picture and then back in again to continue working on the mask. There are also no other tools to help you with creating the mask, it is an entirely manual process requiring you to erase or draw in each part of the image that you need yourself. While this can be quite painstaking it does mean that you have a lot of control over how the final mask looks.
There is also an option hidden in the settings for Blender (Settings -> Blender), called Clear mask on new, which is on by default and resets the mask each time you load a new foreground image. If you prefer, you can switch this off and retain your mask when you load additional foreground images. This is useful if you are merging different exposures, but as with the Fit top inside bottom option, I found it more of a nuisance when it was enabled. So I left Clear mask on new switched to On instead, which resets the mask every time you load a new foreground image.
I personally use Blender a lot. Its one of the apps that I am most comfortable with and that I understand the nuances of. That being said, there are a couple of things missing from it that if added I believe would make it one of the more essential blender apps to have as part of your kit.
First of all, it is sorely missing more control during Arrange mode for aligning images. Whether this would be by snapping to a grid, aligning according to width or height or image size, it almost doesn't matter. What does matter is that these tools are missing and so aligning is done manually, which can be a bit of a chore sometimes. Conspicuous in their absence are also the abilities to flip an image either horizontally or vertically, meaning you have to do this in another app before importing the image into Image Blender, which can add an extra step to the process. Admittedly there is a hidden option to do this but having it on all the time or off all the time is not the most practical solution. And having the option hidden outside the app means that most people wont know it exists. Something like this I think would be better being part of the app.
Secondly some more options in Mask mode would be useful as well. For example, the ability to create a mask based on a particular colour would be good, especially for removing background colours from an image if you only wanted to keep part of it, or a magic wand tool to quickly select parts of an image. It would also be good if like some of the other apps out there, you could save your stamp and re-use it, which doesn't exist right now.
This is somewhat balanced out by the level of zoom that Image Blender provides you with. You really can zoom deep down into the pixels, which gives you a lot of precise control over the mask that other apps in this category don't provide as they can't match the zoom level.
Despite the difficulties with arranging the images and creating the mask, Image Blender shines for me with its blend modes and the ability to control the transparency or strength of those blends. Most of the modes that you would find in Photoshop are here, which really provides a good choice of options to adjust how the final image will look. This, coupled with the ability to create really precise masks, means you can create some astonishing end results.
It is a solid app for working with and so far hasn't crashed on me yet, something which has happened already with some of the other apps in this category. Furthermore, the developer is quite active and responds to emails and requests, which is another point in the apps favour.
All in all, Image Blender is a tool that I think anyone serious about working with images should have in their tool-kit. Just be aware that like any tool in a tool-kit, it has its use(s) in certain areas, but in others, you may find yourself needing to reach for another tool sometimes, depending on what you need to do.
SuperImposer - Best for cutting something out of an image and putting it on top of another image, primarily due to its masking tools. You can create masks by using the brush, a magic wand, a lasso or based on colour. It lacks any proper blending though, so best used as a quick way to mask something and add it to an image before taking the resulting image on into another app.
DXP - Offers the same blend modes as Blender, primarily for blending two images together and has a special blend mode called halfmix to do just that. You can load an image in as a mask, but you can't create masks using it. DPX is best used to simply merge two different exposures, or complete images together. Sometimes this app crashes for me.
Juxtaposer - A popular app in the community because of its ability to save sessions (save your work so you can come back to it later) and it's ability to create stamps. This means you can cut out part of a foreground image and then repeatedly use it on the background image, by stamping it down. Juxtaposer offers good masking modes, including a mode to highlight the current mask in red, but like Blender, masks have to be created by hand. No real blending modes, but you can make the top image semi-transparent.
PicMix - I don't use this one that often as it doesn't seem to offer anything that the others don't already do, and it has a clunkier interface as well. But its masking brushes are very responsive and smooth, plus the soft brushes don't create any fringing along the edges of the mask.
Interlacer - Merges two images by creating interlacing lines compromised of both images. Nice only for the effect, otherwise the only thing that it offers is the ability to merge multiple exposures at once (e.g. 3-4 or more at the same time, not just two).
Examples From My Gallery
This app review was written by aproudlove. Check out his blog, and follow him on twitter, Flickr and instagram (@aproudlove). Also be sure to check out his group, Breaking New Ground.
If you would like to submit an app review to be featured in the App Critiques section, email django@iPhoneArt.com.
Published March 22, 2012
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