The best free photo and video editing apps for iPad
Our favorite free iPad apps for editing photos, working with filters, adding text to photos and editing video.
Darkroom is a premium photo editing experience for iPad, but one that bafflingly lacks a price tag. On launch, it immediately invites you to open one of your pictures. Do so and you gain access to a wealth of options, including superb cropping tools, a range of adjustment sliders, frames, and one-tap filters.
The app feels sleek and professional, but also immediate and usable. On first use, tools briefly explain what they’re for. The built-in help center provides added assistance for newcomers to editing.
Should you want to take things further, a one-off $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 IAP unlocks curves and color tools, along with many more filters. But even in its free incarnation, Darkroom is a no-brainer install if you want to make your digital snaps sing.
sok-edit is a collage app with a decidedly old-school and scrappy outlook. Whereas the likes of (the admittedly excellent) Pic Collage are all about clean lines and grids, sok-edit invites you to roughly cut out bits of photos and stick them to other photos.
It’s a fun app, with a gleefully tactile interface packed full of chunky buttons. Items can quickly be cut, flipped, and cloned, sound effects playing as you do so. Individual elements can be further reworked, rotated, and resized, and you can then slap text all over everything.
The free version limits you to three images/text layers, although you can view an ad for more. Alternatively, the pro IAP is a mere $0.99/99p/AU$1.49 – ideal if you go a bit collage crazy.
Visionist echoes Prisma in having you load a photo that’s then transformed into something resembling a painting. However, you get more control in this app.
There are 10 free styles to choose from (a one-off $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP unlocks 60 more), but Visionist doesn’t stop the second you select one. Along with adjusting the effect’s strength, you can define how abstract it is, adjust the manner in which it interacts with the original image, and mix styles together.
Some labels on the styles would be useful, not least those based on real-world artists; also, the end results do look rather digital in nature, rather than like they’ve appeared from the hands of an actual painter. But the important thing is they’re arresting, adding interest to even the most mundane of snaps.
Infltr stands for ‘infinite filters’. The app isn’t quite packed with endless options (there are ‘only’ around seven million), but feels limitless as you drag a finger across a photo and watch it change.
But this is only one tool packed into a versatile, usable editor. You can crop, make adjustments to temperature and hue, fix perspective, mess around with blurs, and more.
Edits are non-destructive, so you can always update or remove a setting. You can save up to three favorites for one-tap application as well.
That limitation goes away if you pay for the subscription IAP - which also gives you HD export and additional tools, including color shift and selective HSL - but as a freebie, Infltr ably does the business. A no-brainer download for iPad users keen on fixing their snaps.
Enlight Pixaloop wants photographs to get animated – in a literal sense. Load one up and you can draw paths to denote the direction of your flowing, looping animation, and use anchors and masks to make everything else stay put. The effect is like a cinemagraph, but you only need a single still, rather than a sequence of shots or a video.
On iPad, Pixaloop benefits from the larger screen, and the accuracy an Apple Pencil affords. You can create some seriously intricate and eye-dazzling effects, even from fairly mundane source material.
If you’re short on snaps, the app enables you to grab something from Pixabay. And when you’re done, you can export your work to video (although, alas, not animated GIF). It’s smart, sleek, and even though optional IAPs lurk, offers plenty of functionality for zero outlay.
Pic Collage is a powerful app for creating photo collages. You can start with a freeform canvas or a card template, but the pre-defined grids are better. Select some photos and a grid, and the app will automatically arrange everything.
Many apps stop there, but Pic Collage goes much further. You can tweak the frames, and perform adjustments on individual images. Movement can be added through importing up to three videos and later exporting your creation as a GIF. And if you’re feeling arty, you can scribble all over your grid-based masterpiece.
Pic Collage hits that sweet spot of unlocking creativity in an immediate, usable manner. You get results fast. The only real negative is exports have a watermark, but if that bugs you, they can be gone forever with a one-off US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP.
Plotaverse is an image editor and social network very much of the opinion that photographs are a bit rubbish unless they move.
The meat of the app is Plotagraph+, which provides tools for animating your pics. The process is simple: mask parts you want to remain static, and then drag arrows to denote movement. Plotagraph+ then does its thing, resulting in an endlessly looping animation.
Naturally, there are limitations. The system tends to work well with flowing subjects (such as water or clouds) and geometric patterns. Still, you can create amazing videos with a minimum of effort.
The social networking bit is less impressive, as are cheesy effects overlays (free and paid) that are available for download. But in bringing a touch of Harry Potter to even the most mundane of snaps, Plotaverse feels like a little piece of magic on your iPad.
Clips is a video editor designed for people who don’t want to spend a great deal of time editing – or even shooting. Unlike Apple’s iMovie, Clips is intended for impulsive shoots, and super-fast clip arrangement – a video editor for the social media generation.
On iPad, you might question its relevance. After all, you’re not going to whip out an iPad Pro to quickly shoot someone larking about on a skateboard. But the iPad’s larger screen is superb for editing, making it easy to rearrange clips on the timeline and get a proper eye for the many included filters.
There’s more lurking here too, including automatic animated subtitles, posters with customizable text and iCloud sync. Clips won’t make you a Hollywood legend, but it might just propel you towards Instagram stardom.
It's become apparent that Adobe - creators of photography and graphic design powerhouses Photoshop and Illustrator - don't see mobile devices as suitable for full projects. However, the company's been hard at work on a range of satellite apps, of which Photoshop Fix is perhaps the most impressive.
Built on Photoshop technology, this retouching tool boasts a number of high-end features for making considered edits to photographs. The Liquify tool in particular is terrific, enabling you to mangle images like clay, or more subtly adjust facial features using bespoke tools for manipulating mouths and eyes.
Elsewhere, you can smooth, heal, color and defocus a photo to your heart's content, before sending it to Photoshop on the desktop for further work, or flattening it for export to your Camera Roll. It's particularly good when used with the Apple Pencil (still a funny name) and the iPad Pro, such is the power and speed of that device and input method.
The App Store's awash with alternate cameras with editing smarts, but MuseCam warrants a place on your iPad's home screen nonetheless. As a camera, it's fine, with an on-screen grid and plenty of manual settings. But on Apple's tablet, it's in editing that MuseCam excels.
Load a photo and you can apply a film-inspired filter preset (based on insight from pro photographers), or fiddle around with tone curves, color tools, and other adjustment settings.
The interface is bold, efficient, and usable, making it accessible to relative newcomers; but there's also enough depth here to please those wanting a bit more control, including the option to save tweaks as custom presets.
IAP comes in the form of additional filters, but what you get for free is generous and of a very high quality, making MuseCam a no-brainer download.
Formerly known as Replay, Quik is a video editor primarily designed for people who can't be bothered doing the editing bit. You select photos and videos, pick a theme, and sit back as Quik pieces together a masterpiece that can subsequently be saved and shared.
For tinkerers, there are styles and settings to tweak. Post-Replay, the app offers its 28 varied styles for free, and you can delve into the edit itself, trimming clips, reordering media, adjusting focal points, and adding titles.
Alternatively, the really lazy can do nothing at all and still get results - every week, Quik will serve up highlights videos, enabling you to relive favorite moments. These videos are quite random in nature, but are nonetheless often a nice surprise. Still, anyone willing to put in the slightest additional effort will find Quik rewards any minutes invested many times over.
Apple's Photos app has editing capabilities, but they're not terribly exciting — especially when compared to Snapseed. Here, you select from a number of from a number of tools and filters, and proceed to pinch and swipe your way to a transformed image. You get all the basics — cropping, rotation, healing brushes, and the like — but the filters are where you can get really creative.
There are blurs, photographic effects, and more extreme options like 'grunge' and 'grainy film', which can add plenty of atmosphere to your photographs. The vast majority of effects are tweakable, mostly by dragging up and down on the canvas to select a parameter and then horizontally to adjust its strength.
Brilliantly, the app also records applied effects as separate layers, each of which remains fully editable until you decide to save your image and work on something else.
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