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How to use Pixlr-o-matic

Autodesk's retro photo-processing app is free and easy to use, though the sharing feature occasionally limits you to sharing a small image. Take a spin through Pixlr-o-matic on the iPad 2.

Start by taking a snapshot or uploading a photo. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Pixlr-o-matic is a retro photo-processing application for the iPhone and iPad. It's free, ad-free, and easy to use. It's a useful app for older iOS devices without cameras as well as the iPad 2, since iPad-specific versions don't exist for retro-photo iPhone apps Hipstamatic and Instagram. With Pixlr-o-matic you can take a photo or upload one from your photo library; apply a filter, an effect, and a frame; and then save or share the photo. Here's how the app works on an iPad 2.

Launch the app and you'll be greeted with the options to take a snapshot or upload a photo. Pixlr-o-matic gives you three samples to experiment with, and it also provides a thumbnail of the last photo you worked with, which you can tap to adjust the filters and effects.

After you take a photo or upload a shot, the app displays the photo with a ruler below it. The ruler contains the filters, lighting effects, and frames. There are 25 film filters, 30 lighting effects, and 31 frames to choose from. If my math is correct, that's a lot of options. Many of the same types of effects that you'll find in Hipstamatic and Instagram are here, from faded and warm film filters to light leaks, sparkles, and rainbows. You can apply only one filter of each type, but as you do, your photo changes almost instantly, showing you its effect. Unfortunately, you can't adjust the intensity of the effects, nor can you crop or rotate an image.

Using the ruler below the image, you can preview the various effects. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

The ruler has five buttons. From left to right they are: return to home screen, film filters, lighting effects, frames, and save/share. After you apply the effects and get your photo looking the way you want it, hit the save/share button, and you'll see a slightly larger version of your photo along with three buttons below it. The arrows button on the left takes you back to the last filter you applied, the middle button returns you to the home screen, and the button on the right brings up seven options for saving or sharing your photo: Photo Library, iTunes, Facebook, Flickr, (Pixlr's photo-sharing site), Dropbox, and e-mail. Twitter, unfortunately, is not one of them.

Within each of these categories you get the option to save or share various sizes of your photo. For a high-resolution image, my options were small, medium, large, or original. For a shot taken with my iPad 2's camera, the options were small or original. Despite the multiple size options, I found that many times the only size that I could save or share was the small version.

There are many sharing options, but Twitter is not one of them. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Despite the fact that you're occasionally prevented from sharing a large or medium-size file and you can't crop an image before applying Pixlr-o-matic's numerous effects, the app is still a fun and easy way to add effects to photos. The interface is slick, particularly for a free app. And if you are an Android user, there is now a Pixlr-o-matic app for you. There are also desktop apps that provide similar filters and effects, though they'll cost you.