Saturday, January 29, 2011

How to Cheat with ToonPAINT

After seeing quite a few ToonPAINT pictures posted to Instagram, recently, I knew I had to add it to my vast collection of photography apps on my iPhone. I was a little disappointed to find out that ToonPAINT does not retain the color from your original photo, but instead produces a black-and-white cartoonized picture which you must then manually fill in with color if you so choose. The controls for doing this are actually pretty good: you can select four custom colors for your pallet, adjust brush size, zoom in for detail work, and undo as far back as you'd like. But this process can be painstaking unless your original photo is very limited in the number of different colors it contains. The first ToonPAINT I colored by hand was the famous clownfish wallpaper included with Mac OS X, cropped to iPhone screen dimensions:

While the original contained various shades of greens, blues, and oranges, I could boil it down to two basic colors for the purposes of coloring the ToonPAINT version. When it comes to the kinds of photos most of us take of our every-day lives, however, this approach doesn't work as well. But what if you could somehow blend the cartoony look that ToonPAINT produces with the actual colors from the original photo? I already had a photo in mind to try this with: one I had taken of Connor in Sabbath School. I turned to my three folders of photo apps on my iPhone to see if I could find a solution. My first thought was to try using one of the HDR (High Dynamic Range) apps: Pro HDR or True HDR. Both apps gave me the same error message, though: the two photos I wanted to merge had different dimensions. At that point I figured it simply wouldn't be possible to do what I wanted to do without having to figure out how to resize one of the images to match the other, and that sounded like too much mental gymnastics. Then I remembered seeing layering options in the Iris Photo Suite app. I started with the original photo and set that as my base layer:

Then I imported the black-and-white ToonPAINT version:

When I told Iris to blend this layer with the base layer it was smart enough to realize that the two images had different dimensions and then ask me which image's dimensions to use for the blended image. Brilliant! After playing around with different types of blending and different levels of opacity for the ToonPAINT layer, I settled on the combination I liked best. Here's the finished product:

I don't remember which blending method I settled on, but I set the opacity at around 40% for the ToonPAINT layer. And voilá! You get the colors and subtle shading of the real world and the cartoon-drawing look of ToonPAINT.

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