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New Challenge: #pixlr #wordpeek

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We’ve been running photo challenges for a long time, but we haven’t done a lot with words. So this week, we want you to use the text features of Pixlr apps and add some words to your photos. But here’s the catch: We want you to experiment with the Eraser to give the illusion that your words blend in with the photo in some way. Then, tag your photos with hashtags #pixlr #wordpeek on Instagram so we can find and feature them on Instagram and our Made with Pixlr feeds.

What do we mean by this? Well, you can add any word or words to your photo and then use the Eraser (formerly known as the History Brush before the Pixlr 3.0 launch) to wipe away parts of your letters. Like we did with this Russian language photo that’s all about winter:

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One suggestion for this kind of photo is to use an inspirational quote but have a bit of the text peek behind an element in your photo. It’s a neat trick that’s easy to do:

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Another neat trick is to take a photo of a sunset (or any landscape with the sky visible) and lay a snippet of text (or just a big word) on top but cut off the bottom of the text at the horizon line, like we did with this photo of an island in the distance after we added some space effects:

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Another idea to consider: song lyrics. You can add big blocks of text if you want — although you may want to find that online and copy and paste it unless you really love typing out all those lyrics. We did that with this text from that old Roy Rogers tune Happy Trails:

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Holiday 2015 Packs: Motes, Wrapd, Ornament

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year time — again! Just as we do each year, we’ve added new packs of overlays, borders, and stickers to help you celebrate the holiday season. This time around, we’ve assembled a pack called Motes   that is all about adding bokeh and snow to your photos. We added some snow to this photo of skates hanging up to dry and dialed down the opacity to about 80%:

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The Wrapd borders pack focuses on wreaths and icy frames and some hanging decorations. Notice how we added this string of lights border but then used the History Brush to make it appear to sit behind the figure. It’s a neat effect we think you should try:

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The sticker pack called Ornaments has stickers that focus on both the Christmas season and the New Year. We did this cup of cocoa up with some of that and a bunch more to go full-on festive:

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It’s become a warm-feeling tradition for us to give you something to make holiday cards with, and we hope you find something fun to play with in these packs.

If you weren’t aware, we also have a few holiday packs from last year that we left in the app by popular request: the Frostlicious HD overlay pack, Icebaby HD silhouette borders, and the Snowkiss HD stickers, which are still pretty phenomenal even looking at them a year later. We would strongly encourage you to mix and match all 6 of these packs; a little bit of old and a little bit of new.

 

 

New Challenge: #pixlr #onthetable

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In our neck of the woods a lot of people will be going over the hills and through the woods to Grandma’s house this week. It’s Thanksgiving in America. For our challenge this week, we wanted to indulge our love of carb-based side dishes and deep-fried turkey, but we also wanted to make a photo challenge that anyone can participate in. Seeing as how eating is something everyone on this planet does on a daily basis, we thought we’d ask you to share photos of what you’re eating this week. What’s #onthetable for you?

Your photos can be of anything on your table, but preferably food. Here’s a few tips for taking good food photos:

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Lighting: Lighting is the single most important detail for taking food photos, particularly when you’re taking them with your phone. NEVER use the flash for your photos, even if you’re in a dark restaurant. Besides the fact that a big flash will annoy other diners, in almost all circumstances you won’t end up with a good photo. Check your phone to see if there are any controls to control exposure, and of course you can rely on Autofix, Autocontrast, or lighting adjustments after the fact to fix some bad exposures. Natural lighting is always going to be your best bet, so if you’ve made something that looks delicious but isn’t photographing delicious, think about moving it over to the window. The photo above, which we took in our Pier 9 kitchen, has some lovely San Francisco Autumn light coming in through some big windows. And it makes a huge difference.

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Framing and composition: Get up in there. Don’t be shy about taking close-up photos, but be aware that your phone probably has limited options when it comes to depth of field. You can probably focus your phone’s camera by pressing your finger on the spot on the screen where you want the camera to focus, but you won’t be able to take close-up macro shots. Because of these limitations, how you choose to frame and compose your shot makes a huge difference with your phone. You’ll want to experiment with framing and composition manually, so take a lot of shots!

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Shoot from above: One of the simplest and most reliable techniques for getting a good photo of food on the table is to carefully compose your subject, moving the tableware, dishes, and accoutrements around until they’re just the way you like them. Then, rise above the table — stand on your chair if it helps — and bring your phone down toward the table until you’ve framed the photo the way you like it. In this kind of photo people are usually absent, but if you can do this above someone else, even better. See how well @saologic does this in the above photo we featured about two years ago? Of course, standing on a chair above someone is not recommended if you’re at an actual restaurant.

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Consider ingredients: Food prep can make for some great photos, so think about that angle. The ingredients of food are sometimes more beautiful than the finished product, even if they’re half-peeled. We took the photo above in our kitchen at Pier 9, and it ended up being a better shot than the final dish.

Tag your photos with both hashtags #pixlr #onthetable on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Flickr. We’ll find and feature the most creative. Follow us on Instagram and watch what other people make. You can get some great ideas from the community of people who join us every week in our photo challenges.

Photography Trends: Tips for Taking Photos of Dead & Dying Flowers

Depending on where you live, the Fall season might be full of rich colors — followed by the faded, dead, and dying aftermath, which holds a certain skeletal beauty of its own. While the landscapes start turning from a rich set of painted gold and ruby to muted tallow and burlap hues, we tend to disregard what fantastic visions one can procure from the seemingly lifeless scenery. Look down at the ground, and you might just find a subject worthy of closer inspection.

What I love about the artistry of dead flowers is that there seems to be a broad spectrum of what you can do with them beyond what you might initially think. Between using creative lighting — harsh or muted — to toying with texture overlays, the options are endless. The lifeless, non-reflective surfaces allow a lot of play with contrast, saturation, and dramatics that you simply won’t see in succulent, fresh flowers. I’ll show you some of my favorite images of flowers and show you how I take my own photos of dying foliage by setting up a makeshift mobile indoor studio.

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Sources: All of these images and more can be found at this Pinterest link, although some of the original sources are null and void.

Setting Up Your Space

I took some quick, uncomplicated shots of sunflowers (below). You don’t need any crazy setup to do this. I took these with my iPhone 6s+, and they’ll be terrific to edit in Pixlr.

Note the first shot is lower than the light source and further away. I feel while I’m still able to get great light and dark contrasts, I can retain all the fine details (wrinkles, color, etc.). The second shot (top right) I placed more level and closer to the light source; as you can see, it contains blown out details. How it works for you all depends on the light coming from your window. Different weather, time of day, angle of the sun all make a difference. Just test out positioning and take multiple shots of the same composition at different variables. Pro tip: Never use your flash. That’s just wrong.

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Free Images You Can Edit and Use

These are some shots of a sunflower I left in a vase, which continued to dry out as I neglected it. It simply went limp with gravity naturally pulling the petals downward over time. I took a black slab of foam board and shot these near an open window (some were shot using the desk as a backdrop). I find that photographing flowers indoors, utilizing the darker side of the house and some non-direct sunlight (overcast light usually these days) really does a nice job with the effect of the dead flower compositions. I really love the black matte finish of the foam board. You can enhance the darks up all the way to a rich black or soften it up and add some texture overlays to make it more interesting. I like both!

Editing Tips:

Feel free to Right Click + Save Image (or Press and Save to Camera Roll on your device) and create your own artwork with them. When you first begin to edit always start with your exposure and contrast. Then take the highlights down if needed and balance your shadows. After that, play around with some sharpening and clarity for depth and smoothing to take out the low-light grain (if desired), then get creative with it! 

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About the author: Molly Bermea is an Autoimmune-Paleo food creator, urban gardener, photographer, iPhoneographer, artist, blog writer, wife and mom of two little beasties (humanoid children)… oh, and she likes to run, swim and bike. She lives in the fabulous, all-season, Southern Oregon area and works from home. Find her on Facebook, Instagram and over at her new blogsite, ChronicFrenzy.com (Autoimmune Paleo & Lifestyle).

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New Challenge: #pixelate

Tag photos #pixelate so we can find them on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Facebook!

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A week ago we released Pixlr 3.0 for iOS and Android, which sports a brand-new user interface. Almost all of the tools in the app are the same, although a few have been moved around or grouped into new toolsets. The one big change in the app is the new brush system. It adds History Brush functionality that’s always available — now called the Eraser — but you may or may not have noticed a few new brushes. One of our favorites is the Pixelate brush. It lets you transform your photo into a pixelated representation that can make your photo look like Windows 95-era pixel art. You can control how big you make the pixels and you an even selectively paint them on or erase them in key areas. We’ve been watching how people use the new Pixelate brush, and we thought it would be a good time for the community to try their hand at this new option. This week, let’s #pixelate, y’all!

What might you make with the Pixelate brush? Well, we’ve already seen some power users of our app make some neat stuff by isolating an object like his photo of a leaf by Alexander Znavsky (@znavsky on Instagram): 

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One thing the Pixelate brush provides — which a lot of people have asked for over time — is the ability to anonymize people in photos. If you want to share a photo to Instagram but want to blur out a child’s face, this is one way to do it. Or, you can make something a little more mischievous (and silly) by blurring out something in a photo with some unnecessary censorship:

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Or, instead of making fun of blessed icons with the Pixelate brush, why not lift up an iconic painting everyone is familiar with by turning it into a new kind of contemporary digital art:

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When you turn all — or part — of an iconic image like this into pixels, it almost imparts some new kind of meaning to it:

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We’ll leave it up to you to decide if this pixel treatment adds new meaning to the Statue of Liberty. Of course, you don’t have to use images of icons. Even a selfie can be pixelated, but the best ones seem to have started out as well-balanced photos.

Can you think up something new to do with the Pixelate brush? We’re betting you can. When you do, tag you photo #pixelate so we can find it on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Facebook. We’re happy to accept both the silly and possibly shocking news photos grabbed from the Internet right alongside sublimely beautiful pixel art taken and edited lovingly on your phone. What really matters in these challenges is creativity.

 

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New Challenge to Celebrate Pixlr 3.0: #pixlrbrush

Tag photos #pixlrbrush so we can find them on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Facebook!

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One of the big changes in our Pixlr 3.0 update (released earlier today) is that the History Brush is now everywhere. Over the past year or two, we’ve seen that our savviest users are those who use the History Brush extensively. They understand that the History Brush provides layer-like functionality — and that kind of option gives you a whole lot more control over effects. Knowing this, we wanted to find a way to make the History Brush much more accessible. Previously, this option was buried in a menu along with other editing tools. Most people didn’t know it was there, and unless they gave it a shot they never may have figured out just how powerful it can be. So we changed it’s location. Now, it’s part of our new brush system, and you’ll find the History Brush on the left-hand side after you add any effect, overlay, border, or sticker. It’s omnipresent.

We thought it would be appropriate to center this week’s challenge around the History Brush to 1) give talented old-timers an opportunity to show off what they can do with the History Brush, and 2) encourage people new to this tool to experiment and see how much of a difference it can make. You can make anything you like using the History Brush. Just tag your photos #pixlrbrush so we can find them. As usual, we’ll accept photos tagged on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Facebook. Those who are featured get a whole lot of recognition and community love — and a hefty amount of praise and emojis from us.

Unsure how the History Brush works? Check out this super short video that shows how we made our own #pixlrbrush image:

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Pixlr 3.0: New Interface, New Brush System, New Packs

Today we release a big update for Pixlr iOS and Android users. It’s our jump to the next generation — to Pixlr 3.0. What’s new? A lot. You’ll notice the difference right away with this app. We’ve completely redesigned the way it looks, but the functionality is for the most part the same as it always was. You’ll find all the same effects, overlays, borders, fonts, and stickers — but we’ve added a few new things that we think you’ll love. (Check out the above video for a quick look at the new interface.)

A whole new brush system

If you’re a power user of our app, you probably know how useful the History Brush is. It lets you add or wipe away effects anywhere you’ve just added. This layer-like functionality both gives you more control over the effects you use, and we’ve now made it available whenever you add an effect. These always-accessible History Brush and Eraser tools are part of new brush technology we’ve implemented from other successful Autodesk apps like Sketchbook. This new system gives us plenty of room to add new brush functionality down the road, and we’ve added a few brushes to begin with: Brighten, Darken, Pixelate, Doodle. Doodle has been a favorite for Android users for a long time, and it’s now available on iOS. Pixelate is an all-new tool that will help fulfill a long-standing request from some users who want to anonymize people’s faces in photos. It also lets you make some really neat art. These new brush tools have options to help you get very detailed with size, feathering, and intensity options. In the example below, we used the Brighten option to spot edit the rocks and a few other details in the foreground to brighten them up a bit.

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Comprehensive photo Adjustments tool

We’ve always had a lot of options for improving your photos by adjusting various details, but they were scattered among many different tools. We’ve consolidated those into the “Adjustment” tool so you can now make all of your color, exposure, and light options in one fell swoop. Just head to Tools > Adjustment and you’ll find Exposure, Temperature, Contrast, Brightness, Vibrance, Highlights, Shadows, Saturation, Lightness, and Hue all together. Whew. That’s a lot of tools that were previously split up. This is sure to save you tons of clicks and make basic editing a lot easier. In the example below, we wanted our early morning Golden Gate Park sunlight to be a bit more sky blue, so we adjusted the temperature.

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 Made with Pixlr feed now in-app

Our community of photo takers has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past year, and with this release we’re happy to be adding the Made with Pixlr stream of user photos in the app. The hashtag-based photo challenges we run every week are now available from the home screen, which means this is a chance for you to have your photo seen not just on the pixlr.com home page, on our Made with Pixlr page, and to our 200K+ Instagram following. Now, your work can be seen by literally millions of people who use our app each week. These challenges aren’t really a competition, but boy it sure feels good when you get featured! Click on each photo to see the story behind the photo. And grab a photo and join in.

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Now supporting 10 additional languages

We’ve always had a strong international following, and now we’re able to offer the app to huge groups of people who have been using the English version but hoping for a localized version just for them. We’ve added 10 new languages: German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Russian, and Portuguese. We know that a lot of people will be very happy to hear this.

4 new sticker packs for everyone

If none of those features appeal to you, we know something that will: new packs. Everyone loves new packs of content, and we’ve added four brand-new sticker packs with this update:

  • Abstract: Similar to the popular Cosmic Geometry effects, these Abstract stickers can be used as interesting backgrounds. Size them up and dial down the opacity to add geometric interestingness.
  • Tattitude: We’ve long had a Tattoo pack, but we made a new one with some pretty artistic tats.
  • Amore: Finding it hard to say I Love You to someone? Amore stickers to the rescue.
  • Inspiration: Quotes to live by. Like this one!…

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No ads for Pro users

You can pay to remove ads from Pixlr for iOS and Android, but we wanted to make sure we added a way to remove those ads for Pro users. Our yearly Pro subscribers deserve that (for sure!), and we’re happy to report that if you sign in with your Pro subscription, you’ll no longer see ads.

Those are the major details of the update. What’s that you say? You want MORE content packs? Well stay tuned for our next update. We’ve got a lot more planned. We hope you enjoy the new Pixlr 3.0! Let us know what you think of the update by shooting us a message @pixlr on Twitter.

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Last Week’s Challenge Results + This Week’s #pixlr #halloween Challenge

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Last week, we asked people to show us their favorite effect from Effects > Default. A little known fact: Each of those options was named for (or by) a Pixlr user who came up with the idea for the effect back when we first developed the app. We wanted to know which ones our community of users liked the best, and we were curious if our own 3 favorites lined up. We also have data from our mobile app that shows which of these options are the most used generally, so we thought why not do a semi-unscientific experiment — just for fun.

Firs things first: The photos people shared last week were really great. Like, extra great. As for the data itself, we’re happy to report that our users overwhelmingly love one effect in particular: Hagrid. We’re also happy to report that Hagrid is also our favorite! But beyond that, our favorites didn’t completely line up with your most used effects last week. Here’s a chart that shows you how it breaks down.

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  • The chart overall shows which options our Instagram community chose the most: Hagrid, Anne, Antonio.
  • The pink pieces of the pie represent our personal favorites: Hagrid, Sophia, Tony.
  • The grey options are the ones users have chosen over the years the most: Anne, Antonio, Bob.

What did we learn from this? 

  1. The generic app data seems to establish that people choose the things they see first the most. All of these effects are listed in alphabetical order, and people choose the ones near the top of the list more often. That makes sense. Casual users probably don’t spend time digging into every option, especially when doing that requires you to scroll further.
  2. Our community of users on Instagram (and on other social sites) really dig in and acquaint themselves with all of the options. Our generic app data doesn’t pick as many strong favorites, but our power users have very clear favorites, which was what we expected. Beyond the data, we saw it in the detailed descriptions people wrote. It was really rewarding to read why people liked their favorite!
  3. Our own 3 favorites were as subjective as we thought they would be. Our community had similar tastes to our own, but they didn’t fully line up. Except for Hagrid. We both love Hagrid the most.
  4. One thing feels indisputable: Hagrid is pretty great. Although casual users don’t choose it the most (probably because it’s not named with an A, B, or C), it’s clearly one of the best options in the pack.

We declare the winner of this challenge to be Hagrid. It wasn’t really any kind of competition, but it just feels like Hagrid rules.


This week’s challenge: #pixlr #halloween

 

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That’s the breakdown of our unscientific experiment. This week, we aren’t going to collect any data. We just want to see #pixlr #halloween pics. We added 3 new packs for Halloween photo festooning, and we simply want to see what you make with these. Even better, show us your Halloween costume! We want to find and feature the best photos that scream Halloween, whether they use our seasonal effects or not. Tag images with both hashtags #pixlr #halloween, and we’ll scare up our favorites and post them on Instagram, on our Made with Pixlr feed, and even on our home page.

 

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3 Halloween Packs for Pixlr Mobile & Web

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Tis the season for blood, guts, and gore. And cute pumpkins!

Yes, it’s that time of year again: Time for us to give our users a grab bag of Halloween photo bling to help celebrate the long, dark, candy-filled night of the soul. As in past years, we have three packs to get you in the mood for Halloween.  The Veils pack has some dark and moody overlays that will work well with portraits. Adjust the opacity and flip or rotate them to make them work with your photo. Spooked is a set of borders. Many of them — like the house silhouette scene above — would work great as the backdrop for a Halloween-style card. Pox is a set of stickers with traditional Halloween slogans, stitches, blood stains, and even some flying bat silhouettes that will work great on just about any photo.

If you’re a fan of seasonal packs, we hope you dig this Halloween set. It’s got a few fan favorites from past years tucked in there among the new ones. Creep out!

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Hooking Up Pixlr Editor and Pixlr Express to Google Drive and Gmail

Just about everyone loves Google, including us. About two  years ago, we built a way for Pixlr Editor and Pixlr Express users to hook up our apps to Gmail and Google Drive, making it a breeze to open, edit, and save your images. Unfortunately, we had an issue recently with these connections that were failing for users (thank you for the reports!), but we’re happy to report that both Google Drive and Gmail integrations are back up and running. If you hooked up our apps to Google Drive and Gmail, you don’t need to do anything special. Your old connection will work just fine. You can get back to editing and saving your images in the same way you always have.

Never tried this before? It’s easy to set up.

If you’ve never taken advantage of this option, we thought this would be a great time to show you how to do it and what it looks like. If you’re a dedicated Google user, this will save you some serious clicks — especially if you use Google Drive as a repository or backup for all of your photos.

When you receive an email with attachments, clicking on the image preview in the Gmail interface expands the preview into an overlay with a black background. You’ll see an “Open with” drop-down menu. Clicking on that will offer up some suggested apps from Google. If you see ours as an option, you can simply click on it to open your image in either Pixlr Editor or Pixlr Express.

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If you don’t see that option automatically presented, it’s easy to add us. Click on “Connect more apps” and search for “pixlr” and you can connect one or both of the apps.

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From then on, you can open up images in our apps from both Gmail and Google Drive at will. The real beauty of this integration is in its ability to save back your images to Google Drive. For example, we opened up this image we took while on an early morning jog in Golden Gate Park and made a quick edit in Pixlr Editor. When we save, we’re shown the usual Pixlr Library options, but now you’ll notice that Google Drive is shown as your save location. You can either save over your image or save a copy if you want to add a little bit of version control.

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As you can see, it’s pretty easy to set up and offers a quick, no-hassle way to edit photos on the fly that you receive as attachments or deposit in your Google Drive. Here’s hoping the time you save will be better spent making your photos look that much better.