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Offbeat photo apps to make something unique on your iPhone

Instead of making your images look retro, this collection of apps let you do something a little different with your photos.


Photo taking apps are a dime a dozen in the App Store, but if you look a little deeper, you can make some really cool projects as long as you use some creativity.

Instead of simply giving your photos a retro look like many of the popular camera apps, there are a number of options that turn your images into a creative project in which you can use your imagination to come up with something unique.

This week's collection of apps are all about doing something different with your images on your iPhone. The first quickly turns your photos into realistic drawings. The second lets you make collages with your images and offers tons of customization options. The third lets you make old-school vinyl record covers, with really neat results.

Though there aren't a lot of features in this app, it produces cool looking drawings. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Etchings (99 cents) turns your photos into drawings, but rather than giving you an insane amount of options, the app keeps it simple. Though the lack of features and tools makes this app a sort of one-trick pony, the results are very realistic looking and you can produce good looking etchings very quickly.

The interface couldn't be more simple. On the bottom you have two buttons -- one for effects and the other for line width. Effects range from simple etchings or color changes to more themed type of effects, such as one that turns your photo into a realistic looking postage stamp. From there you can switch to line width settings, to choose from ultra light settings to dark heavy lines. Even with only a handful of effects and line widths to choose from, you'll be surprised at the results.

When you're finished with your etching, you can simply touch the check mark at the top to save to camera roll, share on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, send via e-mail, or open the drawing in a supported app on your iPhone. There's not much more to it, but I think that is part of this app's charm.

Overall, Etchings is not a complex app with tons of features, but it does what it does well without a lot of hassle. If you want a simple cool way to turn your photos into line drawings, Etchings is good choice.

Fuzel Pro
With this robust photo collage maker, you can add effects for each photo in the collage. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Fuzel Pro ($1.99) is a photo collage maker that has more ways to play with your images than most apps I've seen from this genre. You start by selecting from an enormous amount of layouts, but keep in mind you'll be able to customize them to your heart's content later in the process.

Once you have your template up on screen, you can touch a panel to start loading the collage with pictures. The app has a unique and intuitive way of doing this by showing you a smaller diagram of the collage layout, and highlighting the panel that you are currently choosing a photo for. When you're finished choosing photos, you can start customizing by selecting from several different effects for each photo of the collage, but there's much more in Fuzel Pro to make the collage your own.

Buttons across the bottom of the interface let you cut new lines into your collage, reselect your layout, adjust inner and outer collage borders, change the color of your basic frame, or add an additional frame. Simply touch each of the buttons for more customization options, each with intuitive controls. With the Borders option, for example, you can swipe to make corners more rounded. The cutting tool lets you add more photos into your collage in any shape you want. What I like about these tools is that they don't force you into one look giving you the option to create whatever you want.

There are a lot of collage makers in the App Store, but Fuzel Pro offers an exhaustive list of tools to make cool-looking custom photo projects. If you're looking to do something a little different with your photos, check out this app.

Once your design is ready, the Wear and Tear button is where you'll add a touch of realism. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

VinylizeMe ($1.99) is an interesting new app that lets you create classic vinyl record covers using your photos and tools that make them look authentic. It produces cool-looking results, but I wonder how many times any user will actually use the app.

You start by selecting a retro-looking album template from a variety of layout options. From there you can touch elements of the cover to edit them including the capability to change the text, add photos (either by taking a new one or picking from your library), and colorizing your images to match the overall theme. Depending on the layout of your particular album cover, you'll be able to add up to three photos, and with the colorizing tools, you can make just about any combination of images look great.

When you're finished editing the text and adding your photos, you have a couple more options that really make your album cover look authentic. You can create your own record label and the app automatically creates stylized retro-looking options you'll be able to choose from for each specific cover. You also can add Wear and Tear effects, which make the cover look like it's gotten a lot of use, and some that even look like you can see the outline of the record inside.

VinylizeMe is pretty fun to play around with and makes cool results, but I'm not sure how much time I would actually spend making record covers. The usefulness of this app relies on your own creativity, like making covers for party invites, or commemorating a vacation you took with friends. The app simply doesn't have a lot of practical uses, and the price of $1.99 (at the time of this review) seems a little steep for what you get.

Still, if you can think of some good ideas for how to use the app beforehand, VinylizeMe offers an easy process to take you through creating really cool looking covers. There's no doubt the app is fun, but I just wonder how much use people will get out of it.