Turn Pics into Illustrations with Etchings

With social media and compact cameras both integrated into most mobile devices, users have gained regular exposure to a flurry of photographs courtesy of social networks, text messages and email.

But how does your pic stand out among the crowded social scrapbook? Instagram made its mark with photo-editing flare that jazzed up ordinary pics. Looking to capitalize on the popularity of those techniques — with a twist — is the newbie, Etchings. Get a snapshot of what it has to offer after the jump.

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What the Heck is an Etch?

You’ve likely heard of the term “etch,” but the word alone may not bring about visions of the art form. You newshounds out there ever read the Wall Street Journal? Those portraits of politicians and billionaires are examples of etching.

Hearing “etch” probably took you back to your childhood. Think of the crisscross line doodles that you created on an Etch A Sketch as another example.

a5ecd  Portrait copy Turn Pics into Illustrations with Etchings

Change a picture into a black-and-white, 19th century portrait.

Something we all wish we had more of is the Almighty Dollar, whose dead presidents (and Benjamin Franklin) have received tribute via etching illustrations. Those are exactly the kinds of images you can create with this app. The old-time effect adds a touch of class and nostalgia to current photos you just took on your phone or others saved in your photo stream.

The eight picture styles featured in Etchings include: Raven, Classic, Beatrix, Spectrum, Air Mail, Chinotto, 1854 and Franklin.

Pic and Choose

As mentioned earlier, pictures can be sourced instantly from your iPhone’s camera roll, which means you can start tweaking right away. Got an older photo you’d like to experiment with on Etchings? This step is a bit more involved, but still pretty easy. Simply add your chosen photo to your photo stream or email the image to yourself, then download it to your camera roll. Either way, you’ll probably have to hop on a computer to initiate access.

0be4c  Frame Pic copy Turn Pics into Illustrations with Etchings

Crop your image before adding effects.

After choosing the source of your photo and choosing the one you want to work with, you’ll be taken to a screen where you can move and scale it. Drag it around and expand or shrink it to fit within the border provided. This allows for a quick crop of your image, as well as centering of your subjects — something that’s particularly helpful for the “framed” picture styles of Air Mail, 1854 and Franklin.

Going with the Grain

The fun part about Etchings is picking a style for your pic. For simple black-and-white-etching interpretations of portraits, stick with Raven or Classic. Beatrix and Chinotto feature subtle tones of your subject’s color scheme, while Spectrum exaggerates them for brighter depictions.

0be4c  Spectrum Turn Pics into Illustrations with Etchings

Etchings need not always be in black-and-white. Spectrum is one of the color options.

Air Mail transforms your photo into a stamp, complete with a price, postmark and a jagged, uneven border. 1854 is reminiscent of 19th century photography, the authentic kicker here being the faded upper-left corner. It’s all about the Benjamins with the Franklin design, which features your picture prominently, albeit on a dollar bill instead of its hundred-dollar counterpart.

Continue altering the look by changing the line thickness. Seven options span from thin to heavy that will accentuate your subject or blend it into the background. The best line thickness will vary from photo to photo, but the range from thin to regular is perfect for most types of portraits. The bold to heavy lines tend to make images look messy and busy.

Share and Share Alike

The M.O. for most mobile sharers is that if something is photographed but isn’t shared online, then it didn’t really happen. Luckily, Etchings makes sure that’s not a problem.

After you’ve edited a photo to your satisfaction, a green checkmark takes you to the sharing options. You can Save to Camera Roll; Share on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or via email, or Open In … [on the reviewer’s iPhone, the only option that appears is Dropbox, though it’s likely other upload sites are able to store your pics]. Choose one and the image will get posted or inserted. For social sites and email, a standard note, which you can change to better explain details about the photo, will accompany the picture.

f1265  Benjamin Turn Pics into Illustrations with Etchings

Is the ability to make Etchings dollars (in ultra thin at left, bold at right) worth your dollar?

Now, if you’re unhappy with your pic, next to the green checkmark is a red X. Click that to delete your creation, and feel safe knowing that doing so won’t delete the original image from your phone or photo stream.

Etched in Your iPhone?

Etchings is simple to use and adds a new palate of design to your point-and-shoot projects, but its simplicity will likely make users hungry for more and hoping that upgrades include more features. This concern with Etchings is one that is prevalent with many photo apps. They tend to be one-trick ponies, capable of doing one thing and doing them well, but not offering much else in the way of true photo manipulation.

That’s the potential of Etchings. Yes, it is fun and is a great way to convert photos to something more than just a simple snap. But after some time, will the concept wear thin? Will users go to another app? Will something come along that’s all encompassing of its features and those of other picture editors?

It was also surprising that Etchings photos can’t be sent via text message. Perhaps this is not a concern in the smartphone age, when so many other avenues for access are present, but it is a noticeable anomaly. Still, Etchings does give some artistic credibility to photos, making them look at once old-fashioned and usable in circumstances beyond just sharing with friends.

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