In the past two years, smartphone apps for image processing have made a huge leap forward. We'll show you our favorites - and of course, you'll also find more classic applications for developing RAW images, adjusting contrast and brightness, or removing annoying objects from photos.
Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all apps listed here can also be used as a free version and offer a real added value. Many applications then rely on paid upgrades, which often hide behind a subscription model. The costs for this are usually between one and three bucks per month. All the photo examples you can see in this article have been created with the free versions.
- Allrounder: The best apps for simple image editing
- Portrait and Retouch: Perfect Selfies and Portraits for Instagram & Co.
- Artistic effects: Turn your photos into works of art
- Collages and FaceSwap: Turn many into one
- Animate images: How easy it is to turn photos into videos
The all-rounders kick us off, concentrating primarily on "classic" image processing. In addition to the usual parameters such as saturation, brightness, etc., the apps usually offer a variety of filters and frames.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: good, but better for Adobe customers
In terms of functionality, the mobile app is very similar to the large Lightroom. Adobe users will quickly find their way around here. There are many features for editing the photos, most of which are also available in the free version. However, if you want to apply effects to limited image areas, import RAW photos or use the retouching stamp, you need at least a Creative Cloud photo subscription (from €11.89 per month).
Snapseed: a chaotic-free jack-of-all-trades
Snapseed from Google is a good tip for anyone looking for a free image editing app. Besides really numerous photo filters there are also tools to adjust portrait features like head position, pupil size, etc. Another positive aspect here is that all filters can be adjusted in terms of intensity.
At least, in the beginning, the app with the little sorted menu and the numerous functions seems a bit confusing. Since the app is completely free of charge, we will gladly ignore it. Demanding users will enjoy RAW support.
Adobe Photoshop Express: a free Lightroom brother
Yes, Adobe and Photoshop again: Photoshop Express is more versatile than Lightroom when it comes to effects - there are countless filters and image overlays that can often be adjusted in their intensity to the respective scene. However, it is not possible to limit the effects to certain image areas.
Finally, Photoshop Express supports numerous frames and brings several text tools with it. Like Snapseed, RAW support is also on board. Another special feature is that the images can be exported in countless different formats, for example as LinkedIn profile images. And, the app is completely free of charge. Yay!
VSCO: image editing with a photo community
The app with the less handy acronym can easily be named in the same breath as the previous apps. There are numerous filters and effects. A special feature here is that settings can be combined and saved in "recipes" - even if only in the Pro version, which is no cheap pleasure at €5.49 per month or €21.99 per year.
Another special feature of VSCO is the affiliated community where pictures are diligently shared. The quality of the photos published here is really impressive and worth a look.
You can download VSCO from the Google Play Store.
Photo Editor: the Encyclopedia of Photo Filters
This is exactly the right app for the filter junkies among you: Photo Editor really does have an incredible number of filters - and much more if you take out the rather expensive subscription. The creator demands here either €3.29 per month or €16.99 per year. It is also worth mentioning the possibility to create photo collages from several pictures.
Find your photo editor in the Google Play Store.
In this area, the focus is entirely on (self)portraits. The applications listed here all offer possibilities to remove skin impurities and the like from pictures. The effects range from subtle (slightly smoother skin) to extreme (digital sex change) - let yourself be surprised.
Adobe Photoshop Fix: Image editing with a focus on portraits
Yes, another app from Adobe. Photoshop Fix offers a variety of ways to edit portraits. This starts with the repair of punctual skin impurities and the softening of entire skin areas up to the changing of the face form. There are also filters to improve detail/structure. Also very nice: most effects can be applied to individual image areas with a configurable brush. In addition, the app is completely free of charge.
Facetune2: More is not possible with Portraits
Facetune2 is probably the most powerful app I've ever seen in the area of portrait retouching. Even the free version has a really good range of functions and allows you to whiten your teeth, smooth out blemishes or apply make-up. Whoever completes the quite expensive subscription model (€3.49 per month, €20.88 per year) can, for example, exchange the sky or completely change the scenery.
Here you can find Facetune2 in the Google Play Store.
FaceApp: everything from beard to sex change is included
For fun effects around portraits, this app is probably unbeaten. In the free version, you can make yourself old and young, and access a small selection of beards, hairstyles, and effects. Those who complete the subscription model can adorn themselves with a wide selection of beards, hairstyles, and accessories or even change their sex. Unfortunately, the subscription model is relatively expensive with €3.99 per month and €20.04 per year.
TouchRetouch: Get rid of it!
As the name suggests, TouchRetouch focuses entirely on removing objects from the image. This works much better than the somewhat disappointing Adobe Photoshop Fix. But TouchRetouch still doesn't reach the level of the Content-Aware-Fill-Tool from the full-grown Desktop-Photoshop. Those who regularly want to retouch disturbing power lines or traffic signs from their photos will receive a good tool for a one-time payment of fair €2.29. There is no free version.
You can download TouchRetouch from the Google Play Store.
A photo filter with some Hollywood teal orange or creepy green is not enough for you? The following apps will transform your recordings into works of art, from Impressionism to anime style.
Prism: the forefather of art filters
Prisma has amazed in 2016 with its effective filters. At that time it was unbelievable how photos could be transformed into paintings at the touch of a finger. The free version offers many filters that can also be applied separately to foreground and background and a community connection. Very annoying is the advertising, besides, the users are pressed into a 3-day test phase for the pro version, which changes itself after expiration into a yearly subscription (€15.99, monthly subscription €1.69).
Varnist: prism, only less annoying
Varnist is very similar to Prisma in terms of structure and functionality: Here, too, there are countless free filters and the possibility to apply them separately to foreground and background. Varnist also has a subscription model (€0.99 per month, €9.99 per year), but doesn't advertise it so aggressively and doesn't annoy much with advertising. If you are looking for an app with art filters, you should first try them out here.
Instasquare: unique effects, but annoying
Instasquare stands out especially for its photo sketch effects. The motif - typically a person - is transformed into its contours and placed over the photo as a luminous frame. There are also numerous art filters such as Prisma and Varnist. As great as the effects are, so annoying is the advertising. No matter what you want to do in the app: You have to watch a commercial first. But the results are worth the wait. There is currently no ad-free paid version.
Photo Lab: Complete Look from the Community
The idea of Photo Lab is that you can turn your photos into a finished work of art with a single tap of your finger. The photo effects used for this are partly user-generated, and accordingly the quality varies greatly. In the feed, you can also find many really great made and partly animated effects. Unfortunately, the app is almost unusable due to the many advertisements. After all, for a single payment of €3.29 the advertisement can be removed.
Pixaloop: Animation from heaven to hell
Pixaloop was the first app of this kind I tried - and it's still my favorite. Even in the free version, there are numerous filters that give the photos an animated sky, add snowfall or rain and even animate the camera perspective. In addition, the app is really easy to use and does without annoying advertising. Unfortunately, the free version of the GIF export is missing - if you don't know what to do with the MP4 video clips, you need an extra app or just have to upgrade (€4.20 per month, €21 per year).
Here you can find Pixaloop in the Google Play Store.
Pixamotion: animates your photos
While Pixaloop can do a lot and inserts a lot of animated things into your pictures, Pixamotion focuses more on animating existing picture elements - and the app can do that really well. The service is really well done. A one-time payment of €4.19 removes the advertising and grants full access to the various rain, snow and spark overlays. In addition, the Pro version offers more options for exporting animations (resolution, length and so on).
Here you can find Pixamotion in the Google Play Store.
Vimage: a lot of potential, a lot of annoyance
Vimage is located between Pixamotion and Pixaloop in terms of functionality. The app forge tries to master the range of functions with different levels. However, the operating concept makes the app more complicated than simpler. We also had to deal with a lot of bugs when trying it out. The potential is great, but at least by December 2019 Vimage is lagging behind the competition - the costs of €2.49 per month or €15 per year are not justified.
Cupace: Your head on Superman's body
Want to portray your friends as superheroes? With Cupace such tricks are no problem. First, you cut out the faces of your friends from existing photos and create a face collection. Afterwards you can insert the faces from this collection into other pictures. There are a few rudimentary ways to adjust brightness, saturation, and contrast. If the skin tones are too different, they cannot be adjusted. Only the penetrating advertising is annoying.
Adobe Photoshop Mix: Clone yourself now!
And once again Adobe: With Photoshop Mix you can assemble a picture from individual photos. If, for example, you have taken several photos from a tripod and positioned yourself at a different position in the frame for each picture, you can clone yourself with Photoshop Mix. Thanks to the supported image area selection, this usually works really well. The app is completely free.
Pixlr: The #1 for photo collages
Double exposures and numerous image effects such as brightening, darkening, and sharpness, which can be limited to individual image areas: Pixlr is very versatile. The app stands out in particular due to the simple possibility of creating collages from several photos. In addition, there are many filters, frames, and overlays.
Do you have any more tips for us?
A hint to the end: Some of the apps considered here are or have been criticized because of data protection. Due to time constraints, it is unfortunately not possible for us to work through all data protection conditions and general terms and conditions of the applications. If this is a sensitive topic for you, I recommend at least a short research on the respective app before you install it.
Which app is your favorite? And have we forgotten a particularly great application? We are looking forward to your comments!
The article has been extensively revised. Old comments may therefore no longer match the current app selection.