In the last few months, many (not all) of the images I have posted on Instagram or here on the blog have carried a typography program watermark. Of course, it’s an obvious sign that I haven’t paid for the app Embarrassing? A bit. It makes me cringe (a bit) to leave those marketing tags (program names).
But there are a number of typography apps. I would really like to settle on the end-all typography app that really fits my need. So I have been diligently experimenting and exploring a range of apps in this image creation space.
When I first realized that I could easily and quickly make show announcement images using typography apps on my phone rather than creating the show images on my computer in Photoshop, I ran into two big and popular apps in this space: Typorama and Wordswag.
I immediately installed Typorama. Wordswag was the one (at first) that I most wanted to try, but Wordswag doesn’t have a free to use version. I read countless articles about these two apps, looked at comparisons, watched videos, and scoured examples at Instagram.
Ultimately, although I really wanted to try Wordswag, I couldn’t tell enough about what makes it different to warrant paying for it outright. (As I discovered in trying all these apps, little features really make a huge difference in these apps. This is definitely not a situation where all apps are created equal, so trying before you buy is really helpful to find the right mix of features and control.)
So, I kept exploring.
Typorama Comes Close
I like Typorama. Initially, I thought it might really be the best of the choices. It was definitely better than many of the apps I tried when I first started poking around to see what was available. On the surface, many of these apps claim to offer the same features. They do all, in general, offer the ability to add text on top of an image. But the similarities are typically skin deep. I found major difference in how apps worked and what level of control was available.
Typorama has some font faces that I really like, and I like the mix of layouts it offers when you continue to click the same face. (It can be hard to get back to the one you want, but I prefer this see-it-immediately system to scrolling through a list of fonts.) What I don’t like is the inability to add a second/separate section of text without closing and reopening the image. (Doing that works around the problem, but then the first bit of text is no longer editable. Anyone really working with these images and attuned to layout and composition is going to want more control and the ability to edit “any” of the layers, not just a single open layer.)
After using Typorama for a bit, I started really digging in. About the same time, I finally caved and bought an on-sale replacement for my phone. (After months of trying to keep my falling-apart iPhone 5 together with duct tape, even the duct tape wasn’t holding anymore. The seam of the screen continued to split open all the way around, and the glow from the inside of my phone was both frightening and disconcerting. Plus, the phone was super hot always.) I couldn’t afford the phone (with its drop-dead awesome portrait mode camera) I really wanted. But getting a new-to-me phone (a 5SE) did give me more storage space than I had before. (In the past, I was constantly having to delete photos and apps.) More space gave me the luxury of installing a few more apps at the same time.
With a new phone in hand, I approached the typography challenge with new zest.
I still haven’t found the “perfect” app for me. Today, I am using a combination of apps, and I still haven’t found exactly what I need, can’t always quite control things the way I want, and always feel like it takes longer than it should to get things positioned precisely the way I want (if it is even possible). For someone coming from desktop design and tools like Photoshop, there is a level of precision that you may “want” when opening up a typography app but won’t find. I know my own standards have slid, out of necessity, in recent weeks because getting things exactly the way I want simply isn’t possible in these apps.
On the flip side, typography apps make it infinitely easier to experiment with text fonts, size, color, placement. The ability to cycle through options or even click on an option to randomly change it over and over is amazing, and being able to add a layer of color under the text and change that on the fly is great. Similarly, scaling or resizing a text block in these apps automatically changes it, scales it, repositions it, and redistributes the words. In an instant, you can see something treated differently, evaluate larger text or altered spacing, try a different font or color or opacity. It’s a mesmerizing creative process, and it makes creating these kinds of word-enhanced images so much easier and more effective than doing it by hand. Even so…
I really want the perfect typography app.
I keep looking.
Last month, I needed to make at least one typography-enhanced image a day for the CMP List Challenge. It takes time to decide on a photograph and then create each of these images, and I was often scrambling to get the images ready for posting. (Running a daily challenge is a lot of work!) The process gave me good opportunity to work with these apps. I can’t even imagine, now, doing these List Challenge images by hand at my computer. It is so much easier with an app.
What I discovered is that I came back, time and again, to the same “go to” apps. Early on, I would pull up different apps to see what might work best for each day, with the day’s specific source image, or with the text I needed. Even on days where I started out in another app, I ended up aborting my efforts and went back to the same programs again and again.
Leading the Way
Right now, the two apps I use most often (in combination) are Snapseed (a first step for basic image correction and cropping) and Adobe Spark Post (for the typography). I keep trying to see if other apps will give me what I want in a more flexible and nuanced way, but I haven’t found a better app yet. Although I had felt loyal to Typorama initially, Spark Post really has taken the lead for me and has edged out all the other apps I have tried. It may be the best of the crop right now. It has a few quirky things I don’t like or find cumbersome, and I am constantly frustrated trying to line multiple elements up nicely/properly. But, overall, it is a really solid app.
One of the things I am not finding in any of these apps is a really robust system of filters (a la Instagram). Many times, I wish that I could apply a filter (often to sublimate the image a bit more, but sometimes to colorize it in some way) to the background image before I start working with text. None of these apps is giving me the kind of filtering I want. (Many of these apps have some filters — just not the range of filters I would like.)
I am still experimenting and trying to find the best app for that part of my process. (Filtering at the point of posting to Instagram filters the final image – including the text – which is not always desirable — although I often end up doing this anyway. Instagram has great filters!)
Here are a few of the apps I have tried so far (in alphabetical order):
- Aviary (another cleanup app)
- ColorStory (another cleanup app)
- Font Candy
- Snapseed (this free Google app has become my go-to app for cropping/basic cleanup)
- Spark Post (currently my pick of the crop)
- Word Swag
Articles on Typography Apps
When I explore tools like this, I often scour online posts, roundups, collections, and lists to see what apps crop up. Here are a few articles to check as you consider which tool works best for you:
- The 28 best typography apps (2017; this has a number of web-based apps)
- 20 Awesome Typography Apps You Need For Really Beautiful Fonts (not an “add text to your image” roundup but interesting list)
- 7 Best Typography Apps for Android, iPhone
My use of these apps is not commercial. But when I first was trying to decide between Wordswag and Typorama (keeping in mind that I can’t just pay $5 for every app I want to try), I read this article and found it to be really important. These are issues about which I am always concerned: 3 Graphic Design Apps You Need to Stop Using Right Now [And What to Use Instead].
What photo processing and/or typography apps do you use and love on your phone?