Bamboo Loop: Elegantly Annotated Photos

Wacom has created some great tools for artists and made it easier to get hand-drawn illustrations into the digital world of vectors and pixels. When I stumbled across Bamboo Loop, I was excited to see what Wacom had to offer iOS.

With a range of templates included and to download and the ability to draw on your images, Bamboo Loop is creating a social sharing platform for photos and the feelings that accompany them. I’m going to take a look at this new image annotation app and see if it’s more tool or toy.

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A Picture Worth 1,000 Words

Tap the plus sign in the lower left to start a new image. Bamboo Loop comes with a couple of style packs included, and you can swipe through the different shapes, cutouts and color palettes to get an idea of what’s available. When you’re ready, tap a template and choose whether to take a new photo, choose a photo from your library or create a new image from scratch.

Choose a template and add a photo.

Choose a template and add a photo.

The next step is to draw something on your image or write a little note. Tap the pen tool to get scribbling. Tap again to change your pen’s color or switch out the tip. You’ll get six colors and two tips to choose from, and the colors available will differ depending on which template you went with at the beginning. A straightforward template is going to deliver the colors you would expect, but a retro template will be equipped with a washed-out palette, the sepia palette is all faded reds and the black-and-white template will limit you to blacks and grays. If you need to fix any mistakes, the eraser tool is located next to the pen.

When you’ve got your image, drawing or message just like you want it, tap the checkmark on the bottom left. Bamboo Loop is a surprisingly social app, and your next move is to send your image to a friend. Tap Choose Friend, and pick out any of your Bamboo Loop contacts. If your contacts list is looking a bit thin, you can add contacts from Facebook, your iOS contacts or directly enter an email address. Any friends not already using Bamboo Loop, and none of mine were, will get an email with an invite to download the app and a thumbnail of your image.

Write a message and undo or erase any mistakes.

Write a message and undo or erase any mistakes.

If that’s not your jam — and I’ll be honest, I was less than thrilled to invite everyone I’ve ever known to another new social sharing network thing — you can instead save your image to a sort of folder in Bamboo Loop called My Stack. Once it’s in there, you can browse through all the other images saved to My Stack and export any of them by tapping the infinity symbol at the bottom. Save an image to your iOS photo album or share it to social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Send your image or save it to your stack.

Send your image or save it to your stack.

Pick a Pack of Templates

There aren’t a ton of templates to work with, but you can download more packs. Each in-app purchase will get you a themed set of templates. There are a bunch to choose from, but you only get four templates in each set. Some of these are pretty neat though, and I really liked the mustaches and eyes set and the yes/no/maybe templates.

Export your image to a bunch of services or save it to your photo library. You can download extra templates, too.

Export your image to a bunch of services or save it to your photo library. You can download extra templates, too.

I felt like I was pretty well set up with templates and themes to begin with in Bamboo Loop though, and it’s not necessary to download any of the extras unless you want to add a little bonus to your images. There are plenty of fun shapes and colors to play with, and I easily created funny thought and speech bubbles with what came in the app.

Final Thoughts

I spend more time than I probably should taking pictures and then writing silly messages on them. I take pictures of my television, make up dialogue for the characters, and post the results to Facebook and Twitter. My cats wake my friends up or send them to sleep at night with well wishes scrawled across their feline faces or even deep confessions drawn into pensive thought balloons below their pink noses. I’m a big fan of apps that let me draw on stuff, and I’ve got a lot of good apps for being silly with photos in my arsenal.

Bamboo Loop has its place among those apps, but it’s limited. There just aren’t a lot of colors to work with, and the watercolor-like pen tips don’t look great when you’re working with a fingertip on an iPhone. There’s an undo hidden under a second tap of the eraser, but it took me so long to find it that I’d already erased a lot of great drawings in an attempt to fix mistakes. There are places that Bamboo Loop gave up function in favor of form; it’s a great looking app, but it’s not always obvious where I’m supposed to go next.

It’s still great for creating cute captioned images, and it’s a lot easier to get a more elegant and finished look out of Bamboo Loop than a lot of other apps. There’s definitely a slot for Bamboo Loop in my crazy photo-editing folder, but I can’t help but wish the developer had built in a bit more versatility.


Summary

It's easy to make elegant, annotated images, but Bamboo Loop lacks substance.

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