How to get started with Paint FX

Paint FX is a universal iOS photo-editing app that is particularly powerful and fun to use on an iPad, where you are able to adjust an entire photo or just portions of it.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
2 min read

Yesterday, I wrote about Luminance, a streamlined-yet-versatile photo editor that I think iPad users in particular will like. Paint FX ($1.99) is a bit more complicated, but for the slightly steeper learning curve, you gain the ability to edit only select areas of a photo.

To get started, tap the load/share button in the upper-left corner to load a photo from your Camera Roll, Photo Stream, or iPhoto (if you have your iDevice set up to sync some portion of your iPhoto library). You can also grab a photo from Facebook. This button also lets you save photos to your Camera Roll or share them via Facebook, e-mail, or the Paint FX community page.

Tap the FX button (the one with the magic wand icon) to select from dozens of effects. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

When you have loaded a photo in Paint FX, tap the FX button to select an effect. By my count, there are 69 filters or effects. By tapping the small Paint FX or Fill FX buttons below the belt of effects, you can choose to apply an effect to a portion of the photo or the entire photo. If you choose Paint FX, you will then paint with your fingertip to apply the effect. You can undo and redo changes using the back or forward arrow buttons in the upper-left corner. You can also tap the Erase button among the row of buttons in the upper-right to erase an errant edit.

You can edit the size of your brush and other attributes of a chosen filter by tapping the brush-edit button, which is located in the middle of the row of buttons in the upper-left corner. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

The middle button in the row of buttons in the upper-right corner lets you edit your brush; you can adjust the sharpness of your edge, the opacity, size, and other attributes of your chosen effect. Each effect has its own set of attributes. To make fine edits, you can pinch to zoom and then reposition the photo by dragging with two fingers to zero in on an area of a photo.

You can add multiple effects to a photo by tapping the Layer button in the upper-right corner. This keeps you current effect and lets you layer another on top. If you don't select a new layer, then you'll just replace your current edit with a new one.

By tapping the Mask button from the row in the upper-right corner, you can highlight an area of a photo instead of directly painting an effect. The highlighted area shows up as red. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

The Mask button is also very useful. It lets you try out different effects to find the one you like best. Instead of painting an effect on your photo, you can tap the Mask button, which lets you use your fingertip to highlight an area of the photo. After you have highlighted an area, you can then tap the FX button and select one effect after, saving you from having to redraw the area you'd like to edit each time.

I selected the Black & White filter for my mask, but if I didn't like its look, I could change it to another effect without needing to highlight the background around my subject. Screenshot by Matt Elliott
After changing the background to black and white, I created a layer and then highlighted the subject to apply another effect. I call this photo: "Bitter Blueberry." Screenshot by Matt Elliott

If this sounds a bit confusing, there are two helpful videos located in the Learn More section of the Paint FX app. Tap the question-mark icon in the upper-right corner and select Videos.