Developer: Kuanloong Yong
Price: $.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

PicTricks is an image processing app for the iPhone. It can take a portrait photograph and add such items as new hair, a mustache, hat, and glasses to a person. It can also replace the background of a photograph with one of your choosing. Lastly, it can shrink a photograph horizontally, removing unwanted background elements in the process. It claims it can do all this automatically for you, although you can select various options and control aspects of it manually.

With PicTricks you choose one of three starting modes: Instant Makeover, Magic Resize, or Blue/Green Screen. Each of these has their own customizable options. Although you can take photos from within the app, you can also use them from the camera roll, or from the photo library. When done you save the resulting photo to the Saved Photos album on your iPhone. PicTricks never alters your original photographs in any way.

Instant Makeover lets you choose a starting photograph of a person, preferably a straight on head shot. You then either let the app randomly change the hair style, add glasses, facial hair, a hat, and a valentine’s day item, or you select each of those options yourself. You can turn each off if you wish, or select from a small number of available items. You then let the app render a new photograph. Given the right starting photo the result can often be hilarious.

The principle behind Magic Resize is that you might want to condense a scene into its most important elements. For example, maybe that photo you love of your dogs running in the backyard is spoiled by some unsightly mess that lies between them. With Magic Resize you can paint that area so its marked for removal. Once the app has analyzed the photograph, you can resize it horizontally so the elements are moved closer together. In the process of resizing the scene, the element you marked for removal is covered by the rest of the scene, but nothing is distorted. The result can be dramatic, with a scene that appears intact except its missing something you wished wasn’t there anyway.

Lastly, there’s Blue/Green Screen. This is the pickiest of the image processing modes. With this mode you choose a replacement background and the original foreground. It works best with a solid blue background in the original foreground picture but can often produce good results with others. You select the background color you want to replace and let the app do that for you. It can produce dramatic results.

All of these modes can work remarkably well, although they can just as often mangle images in unpleasant ways. While Instant Makeover is really a novelty with too few options (6 hair styles, 5 styles of eyeglasses, 6 types of facial hair, 4 hats/ears, and 4 valentine items), Magic Resize and Blue/Green Screen are truly useful and can produce fairly amazing results considering the low cost of the app.

PicTricks can create funny or interesting pictures as long as the photograph you start with meets the requirements of its internal algorithms. Like any image manipulation app, it requires time and effort to master, and will just as often frustrate as satisfy. It’s definitely worthwhile, although you can’t expect it to magically create great photographs every single time.

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