App Spotlight: Visionn

Portrait processed by Visionn app

It’s easy to go overboard with photo filters, but the right filter can kick an image up a notch or take it in a new creative direction. There’s a ton of photo filter apps available and one we’ve been playing with recently, Visionn for iPhone and iPad, allows you to give your photos a painterly or graphic novel style. It’s a great choice for projects where you want the look of a hand-drawn illustration rather than a straight photo.

Before and after with Visionn’s Sellwood filter, one of our favorites for portraits.

One of the things we like most about Visionn is that it’s very focused. It’s not trying to do everything, which results in a fun, easy-to-use app. There are 12 filters to choose from, and it’s priced accordingly at $1.99. Seven of the filters are color, and five are black-and-white.

The filters can be applied to any photo on your device, and can also be applied “live” when shooting both photos and video—although in most cases, we’d recommend you shoot a straight photo and apply the filter later, to give you more flexibility in the long run. When you arrive at a look that you like, you can choose to save the version to your Camera Roll or share through one of the many options built-in to iOS.

The Burnside filter works well for nature shots.

The user interface is really straightforward. As you swipe left or right, Visionn cycles through the filters, each of which are named to help you remember which you like. (Fun fact: The filters are named after places in Portland, Oregon.)

Visionn’s user interface is super simple, and that’s part of the appeal. Just swipe left or right to preview each of the 12 filters.

A couple of the filters—Creston and Laurelhurst—have limited utility in our opinion. These only worked on images with minimal texture and detail. “Busier” images just looked messy with these. Our favorite for portraits is Sellwood, and several worked well for nature shots. Some filters render high-contrast edges with very thick lines, while others are more subtle. Of course, this is all personal preference, and your end-use for the image will also influence which filter looks best for a given photo.

The Pearl filter was one of our favorite black-and-white options.

The friend who suggested this app to us liked it for creating comic-book style selfies, and it’s certainly a quirky app for uses like that, but we can also see how this could be a handy tool for designers and illustrators who want a quick way to transform a photo into something with a hand-drawn feel. Contact: BeFunky, befunky.com.

The Tabor filter produces a desaturated prismatic effect.

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