AMITIAE - Friday 13 December 2013

Waterlogue: An App for Creating Beautiful Watercolor Images from iOS Photo Output

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By Graham K. Rogers


I regularly scan the new arrivals section of the iTunes App Store on the lookout for interesting apps and each week download a selection. Although most of these end up not in my favourites list, there are a number that are worth a closer examination. I am rather fond of apps that use the iPhone camera output, but there is a degree of saturation in this area. However, once in a while, an app will have something that puts it above others.

An App named Waterlogue caught my attention this week. Initially I saw the unusual icon and then the name; and then the price. As many of the apps I download are free or just a couple of dollars, the slightly higher $3.99 suggested there might be the little extra that makes all the difference.

While I prefer black and white output for photographs, there are a couple of apps that have a good filter selection, such as the excellent Autodesk app, Pixlr-o-matic, and Distressed FX from We Are Here. I also rather like apps that change the photograph to look more like a drawing. Examples of this type of app include Cartoonatic (from MacPhun whose Focus 2 for the Mac I reviewed a couple of days ago), Etchings, from Mindsea Development, and Manga Camera. There are many more.

The screenshots for Waterlogue 1.0 (released 11 December) showed several options for output using watercolor themes. As should be the case, the developer shows images that indicate the potential that a user should be able to produce. The image selection in the iTunes display was intriguing: down it came.

When the app opened, the screen was mercifully uncluttered. A large panel was predominant (for images to be loaded into) and below were options, including 12 filter types. As I scrolled the filters further to the left, so other options were shown: image size from 4 - 10 (Small to Giant); brightness controls (dark to light); as well as border options.

There was also an "About" icon that had a message about the philosophy behind the app from the developers, John Balestrieri and Robert Clair, in which they explain that they were "inspired by the tools that watercolor artists use, including pocket-sized kits of high-quality pigments . . . inside charming tin boxes." This also explains the unusual icon.


Just above the controls are two other icons: a greyed out heart to the right; and a camera icon to the left. Instead of just the usual simple options of Library import or Camera, there are 10 examples of photographs. When one is selected, the user enjoys the experience of seeing it rendered into a fairly impressive watercolor-style image.

Below the examples are three options: Photo Library, Camera and Paste. The last is greyed out. However when I used the Copy function in the Photo Library, this changed and (as an experiment) I created a watercolor of an Apple MagSafe connector. When a photograph is rendered, the Heart icon becomes live and when pressed reveals several export options, as well as Settings.

The default image export size was Medium and JPEG, giving an image of "2048 px on the longest side" (the full image was 1536 x 2048). When I changed the settings to Original (and PNG) images exported at 2448 x 3264 pixels.


When a photograph is selected, it is imported and rendering begins immediately. This may take longer on older devices. A text display of the processes is shown beneath the image along with a progress bar. The iPhone 5s I now use rendered the image in about 8 seconds.

The completed image displays on the screen, but selecting another filter, brings up a thumbnail image of the new effect. Pressing that image, renders the photograph with that new style. It is possible to scroll back to the last image when a new image is created. When the user is satisfied, the image can be exported. this includes saving to the Photo Library.

Other export options are Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and sending a postcard. The user may also save in the Photo Library, Copy, Open in another app, or send by email. The Postcard option turns the image into a 4" x 6" postcard that can be sent anywhere in the world. However this did need me to create an account with the developers, so I skipped that for the time being.


Waterlogue is simple and easy to use, but has enough options. Like the switch to a new filter, size and light/dark settings first display a thumbnail offering that indicate what the new rendering will be like. Pressing that changes the image.

Export options are also enough to satisfy most users, although I was surprised not to see Facebook. If a user needs that, a Facebook export can be done via the Library. Depending on the size of the original image, the photographs ranged in size from 1.49 MB to 1.8 MB. Exported as 8-bit TIFF images, two were shown as 28" x 18" with one at 28" x 21".


The app works full screen on the iPad either in landscape or portrait mode. Filters and other controls are on the bottom of the screen as with the iPhone, but photo access and export panels open slightly differently, in the iPad style. I did find that using the app, on the slightly older iPad I have, that rendering times were a little longer than on the most recent iPhone, but that is to be expected.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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