Turn Your Photos Into Watercolors with Popsicolor

I love toying around with photos and manipulating different settings. When you walk around with an iPhone in your pocket at all times, you tend to rack up a decent collection of photos. And so it seems like the best companion for a large photo library is a large collection of iOS apps centered around image editing.

Popsicolor is brand new to the App Store having been first published in June 2012. Their branding is fantastic and they’ve already made it into the “What’s Hot” section of the App Store. Let’s find out why after the jump.

Opening Photos

When you first launch the app you’re greeted with a very minimalist interface. There is a small wooden toolbar at the bottom which you interact with to choose new photos and set designs.

Popsicolor opening splash screen with credits

Popsicolor opening splash screen with credits

Tap on the camera icon in the bottom left corner to bring up a custom select menu. If there’s something you want to edit from a website, you can copy the image and paste directly into the artboard. This is some really great functionality that not all image editing apps support! Developers often forget that it’s much easier to copy and paste content within iOS5.

Import image settings from camera roll

Import image settings from camera roll

The other two options allow you to snap a new photo or choose an existing shot from your library. The whole interface is quick and responsive to the touch. I feel like Popsicolor does an amazing job with the initial importing phase.

That said, it can take a bit of time to apply new settings and filters for each watercolor. Yet we’re also talking about a small piece of software running on a mobile phone, so it’s progressive for the current hardware limitations.

Colors and Unique Effects

After the image finishes importing, you’ll be presented with color swatches along the top and bottom of the screen. You can swipe to move down the color line to adjust gradients and shades in the photo.

The watercolor filters are very strict and can sometimes leave areas in a photo overexposed. I try to avoid too much light or direct sunlight in a shot. You can switch between the bottom colors to change the overall theme in the watercolor as well.

Watercolor swatches menu and tools

Watercolor swatches menu and tools

Additionally, there is a small menu of tools which is a key implication to Popsicolor. To the right of the camera icon you’ll see a small paintbrush. Tap this to bring up another menu with Focus, Sizes and Remix Flavors. This last button is just a randomizer as the name would suggest. You can tap the Remix Flavors button which will generate two new random color schemes for your watercolor photo.

Color Focus Options

If you open the paintbrush icon menu again you can select the far left button labelled Focus. This will determine how your photo is recolored and how the effects are displacing color and tone.

Output photo size and focus settings

Output photo size and focus settings

The default option is Bold, which is the most intense. The top and bottom color choices often take over the photograph, which can look good, but not in every situation. Natural is my personal favorite setting which recolors the dark areas and exposes a more rigid edge. There’s also the Minimal option, which imposes the most white space and develops a heavy light/dark divide in colors.

You should play around with all three filters and see which you like best. Of course, the results will vary based on each photo you’re working with, but even just these few options are really cool for such a small watercolor-based photo editing app.

Publishing Photos

In this same Effects menu, the Sizes button sets the output size of your image file. By default, Popsicolor will use the largest original image source when importing. But you can also choose between a predetermined set of resolutions which match the image — just in case you need the file size a bit smaller.

Source is the highest quality but also the slowest to render. If you publish down to the smallest option, you’ll notice Popsicolor can load effects much quicker. This all depends on what you’ll be using the image for, so it’s totally a personal preference. After choosing the output resolution, you should tap the small heart icon in the bottom right corner on the wooden toolbar.

Output photos export to mobile device

Output photos export to mobile device

This gives you three export options for your watercolor: Copy, Email or Save To Photos. It’s a bit disheartening that you have to go through two steps to upload photos into CloudApp or other similar networks(Twitter, Instagram), but considering how minimalist the application was developed, I can see why these publishing options are just enough (and why new features could be added later!).

Some Future Additions

I have to give credit to the developers for building such a pleasant user experience without too much clutter. I have never had the app crash or lose my saved changes at any point.

Although I can’t complain about the current release, I would love to have additional tools to work with. Obviously there are only a couple Focus options to choose from, and it would be fun playing with a few more. But even aside from the default tools, it would be more fun to have panning, zooming, cropping, rotate and other meaningful image functions available.

Custom filters and app settings

Custom filters and app settings

Being honest, I wouldn’t say missing these tools will take away from the experience. It just leaves a lot to be desired where Popsicolor is definitely fun to play with, it’s not something you’ll use every week. There aren’t a whole lot of special features here which you can’t find elsewhere. The simplistic and easy-going interface is what truly gives Popsicolor some recognition. Starting off small and expanding quickly has worked for other mobile apps, and this may be a similar case.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoy Popsicolor for being such an intuitive yet highly entertaining application. The developers frequently publish updates to the company blog regarding app icons, new code snippets and interface changes. Because that such a hard-working team is behind the production phases, I think Popsicolor will only improve with age. Check it out if you have the extra change to spend, and play with some zany photo effects in a clean, refined mobile app UI.


A new image editor which transforms any photos into pastel watercolors.