Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

MakerSpace: Rhonna Designs Photo and Collage App Review

makerspacelogo1

Behold, I have found a new photo app! As I mentioned last week, a friend fell into a button maker group and they talk a lot about two things:

1) The Canon Selphy printer, which I reviewed last week and

2) The Rhonna Designs app, which a lot of people in the button making community use to design their buttons.

rhonna1For more information about Rhonna Designs, visit their homepage

Rhonna App information at the iTunes stores

Here’s a look at some photos created by the Rhonna Design app from the Rhonna Designs homepage.

rhonna2

And, since you know I love a good photo app, I decided to try it out. For you. I’m a giver.

As you can see, the Rhonna Designs app specializes in making Instagram ready pics and memes by layering photos, backgrounds, texts and graphics. There is a pretty steep learning curve for this app, but once I figured it out I was able to make some quick and easy graphics for this post in literally one minute.

The Basics

Technically, there are 3 Rhonna Design apps: Rhonna, RhonnaCollage and Rhonna Magic. You can buy one for $1.99 or buy all three in a bundle for $4.99. I made the mistake of buying just one and realized it is better to have all three. Each app in the package does a very specific thing and then you can open your photo in the next app to do that specific thing.

Let me try and clarify, it’s kind of confusing.

rhonna10

App descriptions screen cap from Rhonna Designs home page

Rhonna Designs has a collection of backgrounds which you can use or you can use your own photo. You can then add text or a variety of stickers. In this app you also have some filters, frames and a mask feature. If you buy only one of the apps, this is probably the one you want to buy.

Rhonna Collage allows you to make a collage, just like the name says. You can pick a layout or begin with a blank page and create your layout. I have tried a lot of collage apps and this one is probably my favorite in terms of how it lets you choose a background and layer pictures over the top of it.

Photo made using Rhonna Collage

Photo made using Rhonna Collage

Rhonna Designs Magic uses layers and allows you to use a variety of filters and effects to enhance your photo. For example, you can use Bokeh lighting, light leaks and blur effects. It also has a “candy” feature which allows you to color your photos. One of my favorite features in Instagram in the title shift, which allows you to blur edges and pull the focus on a specific part of a photo. Blur effects allows you to do that same thing here. Bokeh lighting allows you to add light flares allows you to play with the lighting on your photo. If you don’t like an effect, you can just go in and delete the layer.

Photo then opened in RD Magic and transformed using the candy function

Photo then opened in RD Magic and transformed using the candy function

This is a photo I transformed using something from all three of the apps:

rhonna7

And here is a photo I created using Rhonna Designs made into a button. The background is a background provided in the app, I then just layered stickers and texts using this years Teen Summer Reading theme.

rhonna6 rhonna4

I spend a lot of time using photo apps, and overall I liked this one. I still don’t think it does everything I would like one app to do and I kind of hate having to open it in another app to do some of the magic effects. I do, however, really like many aspects of the collage app. In fact, I like everything it does, I just wish it did them all in one place and for one lower price. And like many apps, there are additional in app purchases for things like more text fonts and sticker options, so it can get pricey if you let it.

I do have a digital media lab in our Teen MakerSpace which consists of a bank of iPads with pre-loaded apps, and I would definitely consider adding these. Though you can do a lot of these same things with a free Canva account, which has a lot more versatility when using a tablet. Though it works very quickly and pretty easily for a smart phone app. So if you’re using a smart phone, definitely check out this app. If you’re using a tablet or a PC, I also recommend researching Canva before making any purchasing decisions. It’s also important to note that although a basic Canva account is free, there can be some additional purchases in using that as well.

I would recommend this app, depending on what you want to use it for. If you are looking for quick, mobile and something to use on your smartphone, it definitely has a lot more options in one place, especially if you are primarily going to be making Instagram pics and memes. Many photo apps do one or a few specific things, and all together this app bundle does a lot of things in one place.

There is also a PC version of Rhonna Designs that you can use, which I have not tried.

More Digital Media/Photo App Reviews at TLT

How Did You Do That? Photo Apps Version – Teen Librarian Toolbox

Fused (with an assist from the Silhouette app) – Teen Librarian Toolbox

Aviary – Teen Librarian Toolbox

App Review: FotoRus

App Review: Candy Camera

App Review: Enlight

App Review: Prisma

App Review: A Beautiful Mess

App Review & Blended Pic Tutorial: Fused (with an assist from the Silhouette app)

Monday my co-blogger Heather Booth sent me a text that said,” you might really like this app called Fused.” She had no idea what she was starting as I quickly became obsessed, for the MakerSpace and my teens of course! Using the app I was able to create these images:

fused7

The “Love You” overlay in this picture is from Aviary.

fused3

I used a silhouette of Thing 2 and blended it with a great pic of her.

fused5

I used a silhouette of The Teen doing The Dumplin’ Pose with a picture of crowns to create this ode to Dumplin’.

fused10

A picture of stairs overlaid with a silhouette that comes stock with the Fused app.

This pic was further enhanced using an effect in Space Effects and adding Text in Aviary. It took 4 apps to make this picture. I'm probably doing it wrong.

This pic was further enhanced using an effect in Space Effects and adding text in Aviary. It took 4 apps to make this picture. I’m probably doing it wrong.

Now I have been seeing images like this online for years and coveted knowing how to make them. And I’m not going to lie, there was a bit of a learning curve. Here’s how it works, you select a background image and a foreground image and the Fused app blends the two images together. It sounds simple, but there are a few key tricks that improve your outcome.

Tricks and Tips To Keep in Mind

1. It is helpful, though not necessary depending on what you hope to create, if your background image is a black and white silhouette. I found an app called Silhouette to help create this image, more on this in a minute.

2. A big key to your success if having 2 images that are both well taken photographs and that line up well together. For example, I tried to combine a baby silhouette picture of my girls with a current picture of them to show how they have grown and it was hard finding two pictures that lined up well so there faces weren’t being obscured in weird ways. Like, in one attempt you could only see Thing 2’s chin, which didn’t create a very successful end product.

3. Having a nature picture or just a cool colored photo works well, too. Try taking a picture of a neon sign, a sunset, or clouds. These images blend well with others and you don’t have to worry as much about the ways the pictures line up. This image uses a picture of the moon a friend of mine took (used with permission) and a silhouette provided in the Fused app.

fused8

fused14

A silhouette of Thing 2 blended with a picture of the cloudy sky that I took.

First Step: Create Your Background Silhouette Using the Silhouette App

As I mentioned, I used an app called Silhouette to create the background silhouette for blending purposes. Here you need to start with a picture that has a stark contrast to begin with. If you can, pose yourself or your subject in front of a white or a dark wall and take your photo in black and white. Here’s my initial photo that I used:

fused2

I then used the Silhouette app to make it into the black and white silhouette I needed for the Fused app:

fused6

A picture with a darker background and a lighter focal point, say a person, will create a white or negative space silhouette.

Darker background with a lighter focal point=white (negative space) silhouette

Darker background with a lighter focal point = white (negative space) silhouette

A picture with a lighter background and a darker focal point will create a black silhouette.

A lighter background with a darker focal point=a black silhouette

A lighter background with a darker focal point = a darker silhouette

Either one works, they just work differently as the Fused app will color in the white space – the negative space – with your other photo. Of course black and white are relative terms, I should probably say negative and positive space The Mr. would say, because you can use an RGB slide bar to colorize your silhouette.

Left: A silhouette of Thing 2 colorized blue Right: Same silhouette blended with a pic of the sky after being spiffed up with the Space Effects app

Left: A silhouette of Thing 2 colorized blue
Right: Same silhouette blended with a pic of the sky after being spiffed up with the Space Effects app

There is also an Invert option that can be used to toggle between a colored or a white silhouette:

The same silhouette from directly above using the Invert option.

The same silhouette from directly above using the Invert option.

It is also helpful to have as little in the background as possible to create your silhouette. Ideally, you would pose your subject in front of a blank wall in a contrasting color.

The above silhouette examples were made using this initial picture, taken at night and lightened. It would have worked better without the dark edges near the top of the frame.

The above silhouette examples were made using this initial picture, taken at night and lightened. It would have worked better without the dark edges near the top of the frame.

And as I mentioned, you do not have to use a black and white silhouette, I just found that Fused app worked better if I did. Insructables has some more information on how to create a photo silhouette. Digital photography school also has some information about photographing silhouettes.

Don’t want to use an app? Here’s a tutorial for creating a silhouette using iPiccy.com

Second Step: Using the Fused App

After saving this to my camera roll, I uploaded it as my background picture in Fused. As my foreground I used this picture:

fused1

The Fused app gives you several blending options and you just kind of play around with them to find an option that you like best. Within each option it also has a slide bar which allows you to increase the contrast and blend. I used the “screen” option with the two pictures above to create this:

fused4

Please note, Fused does not actually have an add text option. I added the text using the Aviary app that I reviewed last week.

I love and highly recommend both of these apps. It takes a little bit of time and trial and error, and some attention to details, to get a good end product; however, as I learned more what worked and what didn’t it became easier to use. The key is having good pictures to start with and it probably won’t surprise you to know that I have tons of those to experiment with.

If you want to get highly sophisticated and have access to Photoshop, here’s a tutorial for creating the same types of effects using that program.

And here is a free online program you can use to create a double exposure effect.

I made this really quickly with the free online double exposure program.

I made this really quickly with the free online double exposure program.

About Fused

BlendPic and InstantBlend are apps similar to Fused that you can also try. I was not able to use InstandBlend as successfully as I was Fused and I have not tried BlendPic. All of them have additional in app purchases. I paid for the upgrade for the Fused app after deciding I really liked it to remove the watermark from my images. In future upgrades of the app I hope that they consider better undo options.

About Silhouette

It’s free and does cool things so no harm, no foul.

Fused also can be used to make videos, but I have no idea how to do that part yet.

Now I’m sure there will be someone out there who will tell me there is a much easier way to do this. :)

App Review: Aviary (The quest for the perfect photo app continues)

Last week we got the final approval to make some big changes at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) where I am working as the YA Services Coordinator. Namely, my proposal to move the YA fiction collection out of an enclosed space to a new location and to turn that enclosed space into a MakerSpace was approved (I’ll be writing more about that soon). I am beyond excited because I think it is a great use of the space for our patrons current needs. And in anticipation of this change we (the Assistant Director and I) have been investigating some tech for the space. And since one of my programming goals is to help teens use our technology to make their own memes and artwork, I have been investigating photo apps. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for my teens.

So in the course of my investigation I found multiple references and recommendations for a photo app called Aviary. Here are the basics:

aviarylogo

  • It’s for the iPhone or an iPad
  • You must have IOS7 or later
  • It is basically free but there are in app purchases (more about this in a moment)
  • It combines a wide variety of features that I have been using multiple apps to perform

Overall, I really like this app and can see why it has gotten all the accolades. As I mentioned, it combines a lot of great features into one app where in the past I have used multiple apps.

aviary7

Here’s a picture I manipulated of Thing 2 in the Aviary app. It allowed me to use a vignette and to resize it so I could cut out the outside stuff and focus the attention on her face. Then I was able to use a simple sticker that said “This is Love” to put on the bottom. I printed it out and it looks great.

aviary5

This is a picture I took of a bunch of crowns at the DUMPLIN’ (by Julie Murphy) release party at the Irving Public Library. I was able to use a vibrant filter and add this text and create a great pic that pays homage to the book.

aviary6

This photo is a Star Wars Lego Minifigure posed in front of a piece of scrapbooking paper that has like a galaxy theme on it. I then ran it through some filters and added the text.

aviary3

In addition to the various stickers and frames, Aviary also has some overlays you can use. here is a picture of the moon a friend took (used with permission) and I added the whimsical overlay border you see at the top and bottom of the picture. Normally, I would have used something like this in the A Beautiful Mess app and then used another app to finish my picture. I was able to do this all in one place.

aviary4

And here’s a picture of The Teen and The Bestie from a recent trip ice skating. Simple filters and a “Friends” sticker made it a great photo.

So, here’s what I like:

In addition to the normal photo manipulating techniques in most photo apps like crop, brighten, sharpen, etc., Aviary has a variety of filters (also called effects), frames, overlays and stickers you can use to enhance your photo.

You can easily add text to your photo where before I would use an app and then save the photo and use the Over app to add text. Having everything I want and need available in one app is definitely a bonus.

It has a “Meme” feature that easily lets you add text to the bottom and top of your photo to create a meme. It has less functionality then the text feature but it is quicker if this is your end goal.

It has a “Draw” feature that allows you to free hand draw or write onto your photos. It also has an erase in case you make a mistake. I don’t have the skills to successfully use this feature, but it is cool that it exists in the app.

What I Don’t Like:

Although the app is technically free, you only get a handful of filters (effects), frames, overlays and stickers with the initial download. After that, you have to buy additional packages at 99 cents each. And there are a lot of additional packages to buy organized by themes. In the end, the app could end up costing you a lot of money depending on how happy you are with the standard components. For example, I wasn’t super excited about the filters/effects which are included. Though for that additional 99 cents you can get some cool ones like fireworks, fade, etc. I counted 48 effects packages, so you would have to pay over $40.00 to get all the effects for this app. And then you would have to do the same for the frames, stickers and overlays. You’ll also want to be careful because not all packages are created equal. The censored sticker pack, which would be cool for Banned Books Week, has 17 stickers while the fashion sticker pack has 38 stickers.

Although you can add text to your picture, there are only 10 font options and as far as I can tell you can not purchase additional font packages. I would like to see more font options available and don’t understand why they don’t sell these packages since they sell so many other packages.

In addition, there are only 22 color choices for your text where some other apps have more.

Bottom Line:

It’s definitely a great app and I highly recommend it with caution: it’s kinda free but not really and be careful or you can spend a lot of money. In future upgrades I would like to see them add more functionality to the text feature. Overall, Aviary is definitely a great one stop place for most of your photo manipulation needs.

How about you, what photo editing apps and online programs do you like? Let me know in the comments. For more app reviews check out Tech Talk.

TPiB: How to Make a Photo Meme

memes7 The Teen, The Bestie, some neighborhood kids and I spent the weekend perfecting our Meme process so that I could add a new station to my Maker Mondays. Our goal was to combine using technology with something artistic to create a great STEAM project that allowed teens to learn some new skills, explore some photography basics, and have a chance at self-expression. After creating our memes we then used this TPiB to turn our Memes into Magnetic Duct Tape Locker Frames.

The Urban Dictionary defines a Meme as “1 : an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media) ” (Source) So what the teens were trying to do was create their own meme ideas that may or may not of course go viral. But that really wasn’t the point, the point was to learn the creation process.

Step 1: Take Your Picture

meme4

We used smart phones and a variety of apps for this activity, though tablets or even a digital camera and a laptop with some photo editing software would do. Here we talked about composition, lighting and basic layout. The A Beautiful Mess blog has some great photography tutorials. For the purposes of our activity we took a regular picture using the basic camera so that we would have a natural image that we could try various ways of manipulating to see what we liked best. That way, if we ended up going a step too far we had a clean image to start over with.

We also talked about how you could create a basic image and make it artistic. With the right lighting and quote, even a park bench can make for an amazing picture.

Also, this is a really great time to talk about copyright. We made sure that all images were created by us in order to avoid any copyright issues. We discussed why it was important that the original image be created by you and how you couldn’t just download other images from the web or Instagram.

Step 2: Manipulate Your Image

message1

We then ran our images through a variety of apps to see what we could do. We played around with filters, borders, overlays, vignettes, contrast and more.

Some of the apps we used included:

  • Be Funky: our hands down favorite for filters and adding text all in one
  • Photo Candy: great for overlays and warping images
  • Diptic: creates multiple panel creations
  • PhotoShake: creates grid photos, which proved very popular
  • A Beautiful Mess: has some fun whimsical elements

Some of the apps we tried and were less enthusiastic about include Candy Cam, Font Killer, Space Effects and Insta Blend. These apps either proved too limited in what they could do or were so complicated we couldn’t figure out how to use them well. Please note, some of these apps cost a fee.

Step 3: Add Your Text

meme3

Part of the fun was in creating text to go with our images. We used things like:

  • Reading or book related themes (see Fall Into Reading above)
  • Our favorite book, tv and movie quotes
  • And we made a lot – and I do mean A LOT – of Doctor Who themed ones.

To create the Doctor Who themed ones I took a picture of some canvas art made by The Mr:

meme1

And then we ran them through the Be Funky app and added text:

meme2

They look amazing printed out!

You can easily add text in many of the apps above, like the Be Funky app, which is the app we used to make the Doctor Who pics above. But if you don’t mind multiple steps and the app you are using doesn’t have a font you like you can always use the Over app to add text to a picture. This is my favorite app for adding text.

Step 4: Share Your Photo/Meme

Because we created our Photos/Memes on a smart phone, they were really easy for the teens to just upload and share on their social media. Some of the things you can do with your photos/memes include:

For my Maker Mondays (which I hope to turn into a MakerSpace soon), my ideal would be to have at least one iPad with all the above apps loaded so that teens can come in and play around with the images on their own as well as in programs. We would of course provide some directions and examples, but I think it would be a great way to get teens hands on tech while encouraging them to explore creative design and engage in self expression.

For more on Makerspaces and reviews of some of the apps mentioned above, go here.

You can see a gallery of some of our photo memes here.