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The best iPad apps of 2019

The best iPad photo and video editing apps

Our favorite iPad apps for shooting and editing photos and videos and adding filters.

(Image credit: Bergen Co.)

Darkroom (free or $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99)

Darkroom is a photo editor for iPad. On a device that’s not exactly short of photo editors, that might not excite you, but Darkroom differentiates itself from the crowd.

Open the app and it immediately presents your existing images. Tap one and you’re ready to edit. Tap a tool and a sidebar slides in, providing fast access to a superb range of tools for cropping and making adjustments. Throw some IAP at Darkroom, and these expand into even more professional territory by way of curves and color-correction tools.

None of that probably sounds all that different, but Darkroom’s no-nonsense approach, sleek interface and deep integration with iOS/iPadOS set it apart. It’s user-friendly and straightforward, yet powerful, and feels like something Apple at its very best might have created itself.

Pixelmator Photo ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Pixelmator Photo wants your photos to be better. If you’re in a hurry, the app’s AI smarts (trained on 20 million professional photos) will correct lighting, exposure and shadows with a single tap. Unlike many rival apps, the results are natural and pleasing rather than over-saturated and fake-looking.

If you’ve a more creative or experimental bent, you can revel in film-like filters, or delve into a sidebar packed with buttons and sliders. The latter includes everything from curves to selective color tools, of a kind more befitting expensive desktop-grade software.

Given the low cost of Pixelmator Photo, about the only reason you shouldn’t buy a copy is if you don’t like the idea of making your photos look better with little effort – which would be a very odd position to take!

Glitch Art Studio (free + $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 IAP)

Glitch Art Studio is an effects app that aims to make even dull photos and videos look interesting. The filters are based around glitches and animated distortion, and can be edited to the point you can barely tell what the subject was.

Depending on whether you’re in it for speed or control, you can delve into presets or a bunch of individual menus respectively. Either way, you’ll end up concocting something resembling the display of a barely working old television, or some kind of deranged hallucinogenic episode.

On iPad, the larger canvas lets you fully appreciate the effects on offer – which are deeply impressive. If you’re fed up with filters that ape old paintings, use Glitch Studio to bring your creative photographic endeavors kicking and screaming into the (relatively) modern era.

VideoGrade (US$5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99)

VideoGrade is a color-grading app for video, giving you a taste of Hollywood on your iPad.

It’s a powerful app, but one that’s nonetheless straightforward to use. On launch, it finds all your videos. Select one and tools are displayed at the right-hand side of the screen. Open a menu, drag a slider, and changes are made instantly. Any tool used gets a handy green dot next to its name, helping you keep track of complex adjustments.

Filters (color changes, levels, pixelation and so on) are applied live, and a single tap fires up a full preview. Combinations of settings can be saved for later reuse. Also, the app’s various presets are available as a Photos extension. That means you needn’t even delve headlong into VideoGrade itself to apply some of its magic to your favorite videos.

Retrospecs (free or US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Retrospecs is a photo filter app that revels in the history of computing and gaming. Rather than turning any photo or image into a tiny Picasso with a tap, it instead reimagines whatever you load as if it was on the screen of a Game Boy, Apple Mac or C64.

In fact, over 40 systems exist once you pay for the IAP (you can test Retrospecs for free with a small selection), and if that’s not enough, you can fashion your own custom emulations. For properly authentic retro output, you can edit dither modes, add glitch animations, tweak CRT effects and more.

Full support for video combined with some bonkers filters (PETSCII! Teletext!) adds scope for YouTube weirdness. But even if you only grab Retrospecs because you’ve always wondered what your face would look like on a NES, it’s worth the outlay.

Typorama (free + IAP)

Typorama is about adding text to your photos – or creating typographic designs from scratch – with a minimum of effort. Select a photo, flat color, or a stock image background, choose an output size, and you’re ready to get started.

Other apps in this space let you select fonts, but Typorama has you select designs. Enter some text, tap a design style, and what you typed is instantly transformed. If you’re not keen on what you see, tap the style again for variations.

You can add multiple type layers, and apply shadows and gradient effects to each one. There’s also a 3D rotation/perspective tool, and a selective eraser. Some features are locked in the free version and you must put up with watermarks, but there are various IAP available, including the ability to unlock everything for $5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99.

Affinity Photo ($19.99/£19.99/AU$30.99)

Affinity Photo extinguishes any lingering doubt regarding the iPad’s suitability for creative professionals. In short, it’s Serif’s impressive Mac/PC Photoshop rival, carefully reimagined for the touchscreen.

This is pro-level photo/image-editing fare, and you need the hardware to match – at least an iPad Air 2, but preferably an iPad Pro – but with the right kit, you get a huge range of features for image editing, creation and retouching.

The live filters and liquify tools are particularly impressive, responding to edits in real time. Working with a finger or Pencil is pleasingly tactile in a manner desktop equivalents can’t match.

RAW shooting/processing support, the ability to add fonts, layer isolation, and robust Files integration all cement Affinity Photo’s place among the iPad app greats. And if you become an expert, there’s even a ‘Show Touches’ option for making tutorials that other users can follow.

Artomaton - The Motion Painter (free + $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP)

Artomaton - The Motion Painter is an ‘artificial intelligence artist’ – recreating photos as sketches and paintings. For free, you get a small selection of media, but pay a $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP and you unlock the full range, including the arresting ‘Pointil’ (as in ‘lism’), scribbly crayons, and a lovely sketch/watercolor combo.

Unlike most competing apps, this one has many settings for adjusting properties, such as vignettes, stroke width, hatching angle, and color saturation.

It even works with video, and although it takes some time for Artomaton to draw all of the individual frames (just a 20-second clip will need close to 200), output with ‘Sketch&Water’ has a gorgeous scratchy hand-drawn quality.

For free, then, this is a great download; but grab that paid IAP for something really special.

Mextures ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

The iPad may not be an ideal device for shooting photos, but its large screen makes it pretty great for editing them. And Mextures is perhaps the finest app around for anyone wanting to infuse their digital snaps with character by way of textures, grunge, and gradients.

The editing process is entirely non-destructive, with you building up effects by adding layers. In each case, textures, blend modes and rotation of scanned objects can be adjusted to suit, and you can experiment without fear of edits being ‘burned in’.

Particularly interesting combinations can be saved as ‘formulas’ and shared with the Mextures community – or you can speed along your own editing by downloading one of the many formulas that already exist.

LumaFusion ($19.99/£19.99/AU$30.99)

If you find iMovie isn’t quite doing it for you from a video editing standpoint, take a look at LumaFusion. This multitrack editor is designed with the more demanding user in mind, and is packed full of features to keep you editing at your iPad rather than nipping to a Mac or PC.

The main timeline provides you with three tracks for photos, videos, titles and graphics, and you get another three audio tracks for complex audio mixes involving narration and sound effects. Should you wish to take things further, LumaFusion includes a slew of effects and clip manipulation tools seemingly brought over from the developer’s own – and similarly impressive – LumaFX.

Occasionally, the app perhaps lacks some of the elegance iMovie enjoys, and LumaFusion is certainly a more involved product than Apple’s. But if you want fully-fledged video editing on your iPad, it’s hard to think of a better option.

Hipstamatic ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

On iPhone, Hipstamatic lets you switch between a virtual retro camera and a sleek modern camera app. On iPad, it all goes a bit weird, with the former option giving you a camera floating in space, and the latter making you wonder why you’d use a tablet for taking snaps.

But Hipstamatic nonetheless gets a recommendation on the basis of other things it does. Load an image from your Camera Roll, and you can delve into Hipstamatic’s editor. If you’re in a hurry, select a predefined style – Vintage; Cinematic; Blogger – and export.

Should you fancy a bit more fine-tuning, you can experiment with lenses, film, and flashes. And plenty of other adjustments are available, too, such as cropping, vignettes, curves, and a really nice depth of field effect.

VideoGrade ($5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99)

iPad video editors tend to have a bunch of effects and filters lurking within, but with VideoGrade you can go full-on Hollywood. On launch, the app helpfully rifles through your albums, making it easy to find your videos. Load one and you get access to a whopping 13 colour-grading and repair tools.

Despite the evident power VideoGrade offers, the interface is remarkably straightforward. Select a tool (such as Vibrance, Brightness or Tint), choose a setting, and drag to make a change. Drag up before moving your finger left or right to make subtler adjustments.

Smartly, any tool already used gets a little green dash beneath, and you can go back and change or remove edits at any point.

All filters are applied live to the currently shown frame, and you can also tap a button to view a preview of how your entire exported video will look. Want to compare your edit with the original video? Horizontal and vertical split-views are available at the tap of a button. Usefully, favorite filter combinations can be stored and reused, and videos can be queued rather than laboriously rendered individually.

Snapseed (free)

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 records applied effects as separate layers, and each remains editable until you decide to save your image and work on something else. Combinations of edits can be saved as custom filters you can subsequently apply to more images with a tap.