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A Beautiful Mess review: Cute and crafty, but not much else

If you are part of the target audience for the A Beautiful Mess Web site, this app might appeal to you, but if you're looking for a strong photo editor, you should look elsewhere.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
2 min read

A Beautiful Mess is a photo editor that lets you choose from a few effects, add overlays and borders, then share your work with social networks. But before you download the app because it's currently high on the most-popular list in the photography category, be aware that it's not for everybody.


A Beautiful Mess

The Good

<b>A Beautiful Mess</b> has an intuitive interface for adding stylized text, borders, and doodles on your photos. You can quickly share your work with social networks.

The Bad

As a photo editor, the tool set is lacking with only a few filters. In-app purchases add up to $10 more after your initial 99-cent purchase.

The Bottom Line

If you are part of the target audience for the A Beautiful Mess Web site, this app might appeal to you, but if you're looking for a strong photo editor, you should look elsewhere.

A Beautiful Mess is also a Web site where bloggers Elsie and Emma write about crafts, photography, recipes, decor, fashion, and beauty. The app, unsurprisingly, will likely appeal to people who share these types of interests. Though I wouldn't classify myself as part of the target audience, I can always appreciate a good photo-editing app. With that said, there are much more feature-rich photo-editors available.

An intuitive interface for editing photos (pictures)

See all photos

The app, like the Web site, follows a specific aesthetic (dare I say "girly"?) and -- from that perspective -- A Beautiful Mess does what it was designed to do pretty well. It lets you take a picture and add frilly stylistic borders; write text in any of four different fonts; choose from a limited number of photo effects; add clip-art such as overlays called Doodles; and then add prewritten phrases like "OMG!" and "thankful." You also can choose from a few different colors for the text, borders, and phrases. When you're finished you can save your creation to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

One pretty big annoyance with A Beautiful Mess is that it has several in-app purchases for additional packs of borders, fonts, phrases, and doodles. If you're already spending 99 cents for the app, it's pretty annoying to find out you're going to have to shell out more money just for a few more options. I think it would have been better to charge a bit more up front and keep the in-app purchases to a minimum. As is, the app offers 10 different add-on packs for 99 cents each, bringing you to a total of almost $11 to buy the app and unlock all the features.

Also, when compared with other photo editors like Camera+, KitCam, or PhotoToaster, A Beautiful Mess cannot compete with the enormous number of effects and other extras -- even if you buy all the add-on packs. Over might be a better comparison feature-wise (because it lets you do text overlays on images), but A Beautiful Mess is for a much more specific target audience.

Overall, if you need an app that lets you overlay stylized text, borders, and drawings on your photos, A Beautiful Mess is easy to use and fits in with the aesthetic from the Web site. But if it's filters and effects you're looking for, or you're put off by an enormous number of in-app purchases, don't bother with this app.


A Beautiful Mess

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 6Interface 8Performance 8