Pixel Blend: Great Tool For Photo Impressionists

I got a chance to play with Pixel Blend HD on my iPad a bit during the past week (there is a separate app for the iPhone). As the description says, you can “transform your photos into impressionist art. Scratch, smudge, and smear your photographs in new ways to give them a painterly look with Pixel Blend.”

The interface for this app is rather simple, although the combination of textures, fluidity, and the assortment of tools provides a lot of power to edit your photos. There are a lot of apps out there that will simply run a filter on your photo to create the impressionist look, but this app is for the artist. It lets you choose your tools, do the work, and create a unique work of art.

Pixel Blend Tools
Pixel Blend Tools

The toolbar is shown above. Once you open an image you can select a texture, adjust the fluidity, and your tool of choice. For each tool you adjust the size. Each tool has specific properties ranging from creating white or black scratches with the dental tool, subpixel tweaks with the toothpick, or large splotches of smeared paint with the chopstick. It can take a lot of experimentation to learn what each of these can do.

Pixel Blend: Textures Screen
Pixel Blend: Textures Screen

While using the tools you also control the level of fluidity (called cold, warm, and hot). This represents how easily the “paint” can be moved around. When the fluidity is hot you will get a long stroke of paint as you drag your finger. When fluidity is cold the pixels won’t get pushed very far. There are four different textures you can use (and no texture). For whatever texture you choose, you will get different effects as you use the various tools and varied fluidity.

The eraser tool is somewhat unique. It will erase anything all paint under the tool, but not the original photo. This lets you cover a region with broad strokes, and then erase in a smaller area so you can further work on that. Very useful.

Cup of Joe
Created using Pixel Blend

Overall the app seems well made. The GUI is straightforward and there are numerous help screens to get you started. During several hours of use the app never crashed or locked up. It does seem to get a bit sluggish when editing one image for a long time (probably related to how many strokes you do). As the help screen says, it’s good to save often. I’m not sure how many undos you can do, but on a few occasions I did a lot of them. There is also the undo all button to reset your photo.

At this time the output resolution of this app is a maximum of 2048 pixels on the long side of photo (iPhone 4S shots are 3264 pixels on the long side). One thing I noticed is that the tool size seems to be fixed pixels. If you have the maximum size set for a tool and are working on a high resolution photo, the brush would be a certain size. If you open a low resolution shot (such as 800×1200), the largest size of the brush will now be noticeably larger as you are painting on the photo.

For a future version I’d like to the option to save a state of the artwork so you wouldn’t have to use 30 undos or start from scratch. When working on a high res photo I’d also like the maximum size of the tools to be increased.

If you have a bit of artist inside you and enjoy creating unique impressionist art I’d highly recommend this app. The iPhone version was very similar to the iPad, but since the screen is smaller I found it much more enjoyable on the iPad.

Drop by the Pixel Blend Group on Flickr to see some creative work.

Pixel Blend HD for iPad is currently $1.99 on iTunes.
Pixel Blend Pro for iPhone is currently $1.99 on iTunes.

And the description from iTunes:

Transform your photos into impressionist art. Scratch, smudge, and smear your photographs in new ways to give them a painterly look with Pixel Blend.

“The coolest app for painting your photos into impressionist works” – Lynette Sheppard, iPhone Diva

” Want to get away from the sameness of your photographs…this is really a unique app…thumbs up” – Suzé Gilbert, mymac.com

Choose from unique tools – such as knitting needles, crochet hooks, chopsticks, and more – to easily manipulate your photos in subtle or dramatic ways. Pixel Blend adds many new features including saving photos at full resolution, changing tool sizes, applying new textures, and an eraser tool.


Pixel Blend can help you find your inner artist by creating original photo art. The app creates impressionistic effects by manipulating the pixels of your images.

Pixel Blend was inspired by Polaroid SX-70 time zero film manipulation, a process that used unexpected tools such as paperclips to distort the film’s soft emulsion into a beautiful new look.

You can choose any image on your iPhone or iPod touch or take a new picture to manipulate. Then get your fingers or stylus ready to try the many unique tools:

* Ceramic tool
* Knitting needle
* Crochet hook
* Dental tool
* Wooden knife
* Chopstick
* Eraser

Use the slider to increase or decrease the size of your brush. You can also apply a sandpaper texture to your photos, or choose from 3 new textures.

Changing the temperature of your photos will affect how each tool works so you can achieve the effect you’re looking for. Hot temperatures allow for maximum movement of the photo’s pixels while cold temperatures are used for less movement.

Experiment with something new to achieve unexpected effects (you can always hit “undo”)! When you’re finished, you can save your images at full resolution and easily share your creations with friends by email, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Flickr.


Features of the Pixel Blend app include:

* Create impressionist images – Transform your photos in beautiful new ways, giving them a painterly look

* Unique tools – Scratch, smudge, and smear your photographs or try the new eraser tool

* 3 new textures – Add a dramatic “real world” look to your digital images

* Use any of your photos – Take a new photo or use any image on your iPhone or iPod touch

* Share your photo art – Send to friends by email, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Flickr
What’s new

– the ability to adjust tool/brush size
– eraser tool
– undo/redo
– three additional textures
– black scratch tool

4 Replies to “Pixel Blend: Great Tool For Photo Impressionists”

  1. Can you tell me what’s the difference between the tools? I’d try every one of them but didn’t notice any change except the size of the brush and the strength of the smudge or texture-effect.

    1. Hi. After a bit more use of the tools I’m also not entirely sure about their behavior, and maybe size is the biggest difference. The speed of your finger can make a really big difference in the amount of smudge, and replicating the exactness of a finger swipe is difficult!

      The first four tools are round, the dental tool is the one that sketches black or white (also round), and the wooden tools (knife and chopstick) are both square in shape.

      It is so hard to do the exact same thing with the different tools to see an exact comparison. I tried this time with a black and white simple image and I agree with you – size seems to be the only difference among the tools of the same shape.

  2. Well I did contact the developers and everything is like it is supposed to be. As they told me Pixel Blend (HD) is based on the Polaroid SX-70 time zero film manipulation, as mentioned in the description (obviously I read this over). And this video made a lot of things clear to me: http://youtu.be/NSAXit7rWjQ?t=38s

    So I think that this app does what it should do.

    I just wanted to let you know that.

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