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Mobile Apps

Artsy photos in only a couple of taps

Make your photos more eye-catching with these unique photography apps for Android and iOS.

Photo art is everywhere these, popping up on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You used to need solid Photoshop skills to add a text overlay or manipulate a background in your photos, but in the smartphone age, there are many apps that can do the hard work for you.

Different from a regular photo editor, photography art apps can turn a humdrum photo into something far more interesting with unique effects and specialty edits. The best part is most apps don't require too much work from you, just a few taps and voila, you have a piece of art worth sharing.

I've rounded up four of the best apps that add a little something extra to your selfies, food pics and holiday shots. If you're looking for more traditional photo editing apps, check out Jason Parker's roundup.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET


$1.99|£0.99|AU$2.23, iOS and Android

Over is one of the easiest and simplest ways to add text and illustrations to your photos. The app lets you simply add a text overlay to your photos and change the font, size, color, placement and even spacing between letters. It's dead-simple to use and gives you a lot of control just by dragging your finger on the screen.

You can also add any number of illustrations to your photos, from small icons to larger designs with text. The artwork comes from artists that Over partners with and the app comes loaded with several illustration packs that include many designs. You can also purchase extra packs of artwork and fonts for a few dollars.

What's great: Over is well-designed and has extra tools for cropping your photos.

What's not: You'll need to spend an extra few dollars for additional fonts and illustrations on top of the app's initial cost.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET


$1.99|£1.20|AU$2.15, iOS and Android

Fragment lets you add geometric prism effects to your photos that completely change the look. The app comes with more than fifty designs, called fragments, that you can add to your photos that create mirror and prism effects.

When you pick a design you like, you can adjust the size and placement, taking up the entire photo or just a small section. You can add color to the full photo or fragment, add blur effects, adjust brightness, contrast and color saturation to create more artistic effects. There's also a shuffle option that picks a random design for you, so you don't have to do any work.

What's great: If you don't have any photos of your own, you can edit pictures from the Fragment community.

What's not: Fragment's minimal controls are confusing at first, so it takes a little time to learn your way around the app.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET


$1.99|£1.49|AU$2.49, iOS only

Union hails from the same company as Fragment, but it does something completely different. Using the app, you can create double exposure photos, where one image is overlaid on top of another, creating a neat silhouette effects.

You choose two photos from your phone's gallery, one preferably with an interesting or colorful background and the other of someone's profile or body. Then you can superimpose the background over the person. Union also lets you simply blend two images together, controlling the transparency of both photos.

What's great: Union includes extra tools for precise edits.

What's not: There's no in-app camera.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET


Free, iOS and Android

Repix has several tools to tweak your photos, but the star feature is the set of brushes that let you add effects onto your photos, such as rain drops, lens flares and posterization. You can control where the effect appears on the photo by using your finger to "paint" it on. You can layer effects on top of each other and even erase effects as you go.

The app comes with 13 brushes to start and you can purchase extra brushes that adjust color, add realistic paint strokes or add aging and lighting effects. The app also includes photo filters and other editing tools to change brightness, contrast and more.

What's great: It's really easy to use your finger to paint, and you can zoom in on a photo to make precise edits

What's not: For more sophisticated effects, you'll need to purchase additional brushes and filters.