An illustration of a notebook, pens and a tomato. The app icon for Artomaton.

Although Artomaton for iOS might appear at first to be a simple photo painter, look beneath the surface, and you’ll find a wealth of options enabling you to customise the final result. As well as being able to intelligently convert your photos and videos into realistic looking oil and watercolour paintings, Artomaton has some fun, but gimmicky, tools to ‘paint’ your images, such as ghost and cube brushes.

The app is free (with ads), but in-app purchases are required to unlock some of the tools and paper options. Even after buying the extra papers, the results in this aspect of the app are limited. With this in mind, it might be better to save a few pennies and add your textures after the fact in an app like iColorama, which has many more options included in the price.

I’m using screenshots from an iPad in the article, so expect a few differences in the layout on the smaller screens of the iPhone range.

The Artomaton interface

When you first launch Artomaton, the app splash screen appears, a photo of tomatoes (Artomaton). A different version of the image follows, rendered in a pencil sketch effect to demonstrate the app’s capabilities. Icons on either side of the image give you the option to open either an image or a video file. As I mentioned before, Artomaton can work with both still images and video. I haven’t included working with videos here, but it’s worth mentioning that rendering video can take a long time, even on newer devices, as the app ‘paints’ your videos, frame by frame.

The basic tool options in Artomaton

Getting started

When you first load an image into Artomaton, you are taken to the screen above. At first glance, Artomoton’s options and menus can appear a little confusing. Experimentation is the key here, and you’ll soon discover some interesting settings to enable you to individualise your work. Let’s have a look at the Artomaton workflow. Your original image displays in the top left, with the edit result underneath. There are four icons at the bottom of the left panel. The first is for importing a new image, next is the option to record the steps taken by the app when it paints your picture. The next icon takes you to a larger screen that allows you to paint the image using the brush strokes in the current style. Finally, there’s a button to save and share your artwork.

Sketch & Water effect
The Sketch & Water effect.

Plenty of tools

The right-hand panel is the toolbox. The options here change, depending on the currently selected tool in the toolbar on the far right. I have the painting and drawing tools selected. The panel scrolls horizontally to display the available mediums, with a choice of the following in the free version: Oil, Sketch, Colour Pencil, Charcoal and Marker. Additional mediums can be unlocked individually, or as a package with in-app purchases: Spray, Watercolour, Sketch & Water, Pastel, Crayon, Pintail, Cubic, Ghosts and Snowflakes. Some of the mediums are more convincing than others, and different input images suit different styles, so it pays to experiment. My personal favourites are Oil and Sketch & Water.

Painting with the full-screen mode in Artomaton
Painting with the full-screen mode in Artomaton

Painting manually

Pressing the Full-screen icon (third option on the bar at the bottom of the screen) presents you with this editing space. Again, you will see your original image on the top left, and the rest of the screen shows a blank canvas where you can manually place brushstrokes using the currently selected medium with your finger or stylus. This feature is one of the best in the app, as it allows you to create a unique image that is more interactive than the automatic painting option. You can, if you wish, let the app take over by pressing the play button on the bottom left. Once you’re happy with the result, you can save it using the button on the bottom right.

The different paper style options

Choosing paper textures

Selecting the Paper icon allows you to choose different paper texture options, but as mentioned before, the effects are of limited use, and it may be better to add your texture after the fact in another app.

Adjusting the lighting

Lighting adjustments

Selecting the Lightbulb icon allows you to adjust the direction, temperature, brightness and strength of the lighting of your image. The effects aren’t always evident until you ramp up the strength significantly.

The colour adjustments panel

Playing with colour

The Palette icon takes you to the screen shown here. You can play about with the brightness and contrast and colour of your image. It’s difficult to explain how the editing wheel at the top works, and there doesn’t appear to be any in-app help, so again it’s best to just experiment to achieve a look that you like. You can compare the image on this screenshot with those above to see how the settings change the colour and lighting of the photo.

The layout screen

Borders and vignettes

The Layout icon enables you to distort your image, add a border or vignette, and play with the scale of your image. You can achieve a more abstracted conversion by playing with these options.

Adjusting the paint and pen strokes in Artomaton

Different strokes

The Strokes icon gives you options to control the fineness (the image detail), the direction and the density of the paint or strokes. The direction slider controls how each painted stroke behaves and is indicated by the splayed lines in the centre of the circle at the top. The further to the right the slider is, the more directions each stroke is painted. You can also add crosshatching to your image. Rotating and extending the arrow in the wheel at the top determines both the initial direction and length of the strokes. Different mediums will give different results here.

Image output settings in Artomaton

Output and app settings

The last icon in the toolbar gives you control over the output settings. Here you can upscale the completed image, which is useful if you want to convert a low-resolution image and output it at a higher quality than the source. You can also change the frame rate of the video output and adjust the automatic drawing speed.

In conclusion

You can get some excellent results from this app. It has plenty of options to play about with from a simple conversion to more advanced editing. 

PROS 

  • High quality auto-painting
  • Ability to upscale results from a lower resolution source
  • Option to manually apply brushstrokes for a more unique result
  • Plenty of editing options to play with colouring and lighting
  • Can convert videos as well as still images

CONS

  • Confusing interface with no inapp help
  • Video conversion is slow
  • Some of the brush options are quite gimmicky (ghosts and snowflakes)
  • Paper options are not worth the in-app purchase price

Words and pictures: Graeme Heddle.

Where to get Artomaton

Artomaton is available for the iPhone and iPad.

A button link to the Apple app store
Buy Artomaton from the app store.

Price: Free (ad-supported)
In-App Purchases: Yes. Buy individual add-ons at $0.99/£0.99 each, or everything as a package for $2.99/£2.99, which also removes the ads.


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