5 Painterly Apps To Turn Your iPhone Photos Into Paintings

“Painterly” is a term used to describe an iPhone photography editing style that makes your photos appear as if they were painted instead of photographed. This style of photo editing opens up doors of creativity and can give your photos an entirely new look. Painting your photos can also cover up mistakes like blurry photos as well as add vibrance to mundane scenes. This tutorial introduces you to five apps that easily convert your iPhone photos into beautiful and artistic paintings.

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1. Brushstroke App

The Brushstroke app ($2.99) converts your photo into a painting with just one tap. It’s had a recent upgrade and now offers more than 50 different presets in a wide variety of paint and painting styles including watercolor, acrylic, oil, lead pencil and gloss, to name a few.

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Let’s take a look at how simple it is to use. After opening your image in the Brushstroke app, you’ll see five icons across the bottom for paint, color, canvas, edits, and signature. The app opens in the Paint setting so you will select your paint style first.

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Since I wanted to capture the detail of the image in bold brushstrokes, I selected the Bold 1 style. You can adjust the Paint intensity (see the top of the screen) from 0 to 100. I’ve left it at the default setting of 50.

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Here you can see the original (left) and painted (right) versions of the photo. After painting the photo, you can edit settings such as contrast, saturation, exposure and sharpness. You can also adjust the color palette which alters the colors of your image, or you can select a new canvas which changes the background texture.

One of the most original features is the signature, which allows you to sign your image to personalize it. I think this is a great pride-booster, giving you the feeling that you’ve created a real work of art.

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If you wish to see your masterpiece framed and on your wall, Brushstroke has taken care of that too. They’ve teamed up with CanvasPop to print, frame and ship it right to your doorstep.

2. Glaze App

Glaze is a free app that converts your photos into textured paintings. It’s best for photos of flowers, landscapes and still life.

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Because of the strongly textured effect, you will not get the most out of this app if using very detailed photographs. However, many of the preset styles can be used to create beautiful abstract images.

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With the free version of Glaze, you have 36 painting styles to choose from. With the paid version, you can unlock an additional 24 styles. The app also allows you to create your own presets by stacking different styles together.

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To use the app, first open an image from your gallery and select a style. Unfortunately, there are no names listed for each style so you must choose based on the thumbnail image. For these flowers, I chose the last Sunset style.

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After glazing, you can save your final image in a variety of image sizes including high resolution.

3. Portrait Painter App

The Portrait Painter app ($0.99) by Jixi Pix turns your photo into a gallery-style painting. Jixi Pix also sells other painterly style apps including Aquarella, PhotoArtista Oil, PhotoArtista Haiku and Moku Hanga.

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Portrait Painter is designed for portraits but it’s ideal for any type of photo since it does a terrific job of bringing out color and contrast, as you can see in this photo of flowers.

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Once you’ve opened your image from the gallery or used the app to take a photo, select a painting style. There are over 25 different painting styles to choose from, divided into two categories.

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Portrait Paint styles present a classic portrait retaining the image’s natural colors, while Bright & Colorful styles paint bold, colorful brushstrokes. If you can’t decide which style to choose, use the randomize feature. Here I’ve chosen the Portrait 1 style which applies crisp, clean brushstrokes on a canvas textured background.

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Above you can see the original (left) and painted (right) versions of the photo. You can adjust the brush size, canvas, vibrancy, stroke length, smoothness, and bristle strength, and save your adjustments as a customized preset. This app also saves in high resolution.

4. Tangled FX App

Tangled FX ($1.99) uses tangles of light and shadow to create a truly distinctive look that is hard to match. There are 16 style presets that convert photos into paintings resembling fibers, swirls, webs and etching. You can fine tune each style and save your customization as a new preset.

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To create a painterly image in this app, open your photo in Tangled FX, then choose from a variety of presets at the bottom right corner to “tangle” your photo.

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For the photo above, I chose the Swirls preset. Once you’ve selected your preset you can fine tune it. If you like the preset but think it’s too intense, simply scale down the effect with the first slider. If you want to alter the colors and brightness, use the additional sliders.

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Here you can see the orginal (left) and painted (right) versions of the image. The app operates in preview mode which processes the image using a lower resolution so that you can see your results quicker.

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Once you’re ready to save it, click preview to change to full size to save in high resolution. This app will also upscale your low resolution photos to a higher resolution.

5. Waterlogue App

The Waterlogue app ($1.99) does one thing – it creates luminous watercolor sketches from your photos. This app does its best work on landscapes, street scenes and still life. The app produces highly saturated colors so it will make any colors in your image much deeper and bolder.

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Waterlogue offers 14 watercolor styles varying in wetness, outline and color. Currently, there are no settings permitting control over the individual styles but the company plans to offer this feature in a future release. However, there are settings allowing you to make the image lighter or darker, and, if you choose, you can add a white border.

Painted in Waterlogue

Waterlogue is incredibly simple to use. After you open the image from your gallery, the app will automatically begin painting your image in one of the 14 styles. If you select another style, a preview window will appear.

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To use the preview style, swipe to drag it to the main image and it will create a new painting using the style. Click on the heart icon to save your work. You can select from one of three image sizes and export your photo in high resolution.

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The 100 Best iPhone Photography Apps

If you’d like to learn about more iPhone photography apps, we’ve created a free report in which we review the 100 best iPhone photography apps.

100 Best iPhone Photo Apps

What To Do With Your Painting

Sometimes a painted photo is just the first step in your photo editing process. Many iPhone photographers who use a painterly approach will take their image and blend it back with the original photo to create a more subtle effect. Others blend several painterly effects together to create a signature look.

As iPhone photographers, we’re always sharing our images via mobile devices and social media, but have you ever thought of taking your photo out of the digital landscape?

Consider printing and framing your painted photos. Seeing a tangible copy of your creation is a very rewarding experience, and painted photos make great artwork for your home because they reflect your unique personal style.

It's easy to take a quick snapshot with iPhone, but most people don't know how to take full control of their iPhone's camera. That's why we created a free video revealing 7 hidden iPhone camera features that every photographer should use.

  • Prakash Gandhi Natarajan

    Thank you so much for all the great app suggestions. I downloaded half of them already 🙂
    Also I use the below apps for painting/Cartoon. Check them out. Some of them are really good.
    1) Toon Camera
    2) Gloomlogue
    3) PaperCamera

    • The Creative i

      You’re welcome Prakash. I’m sure you’ll be able to put those apps to good use. And thanks for sharing additional apps. They are great for painterly styles.
      ~ Kristen

  • Thanks for showing us these great apps Kristen. Really beautiful painterly effects 🙂

    • The Creative i

      Thank you Kate. And these are just my favorites. There are many more out there.
      ~ Kristen

  • Wayne Greer

    I would like to respectfully disagree with your definition of “painterly”. Many of the most beautiful and soulful mobile photos , that I would call “painterly ” do not rely on apps that produce artificial brush strokes and similar effects. They are directly influenced by great artists in their subjects , composition , tone and atmosphere , not by making your photo look like a watercolor. Much can be learned by the study of renowed artists in your field of interest ( in my case , landscape). Let them inform and inspire you. Too much reliance on apps that “make your photos look like a painting ” will , I believe, stunt you. Most of the best artists in mobile photography , who are directly influenced by great painters , take this approach.

    • The Creative i

      Thanks for sharing your perspective on this Wayne. What I love about this medium is that there are so many ways to experiment and express our creativity through the photo taking process as well as the photo editing process.
      ~ Kristen

  • philip

    Can this also be used on the imac? Is it $ 2.99 for each one of the apps shown?

  • philip

    Do you download each one separately I assume?

    • Yes they are all separate apps to download.

    • Allen Lee

      What app is used to create the tractor picture at the top?

  • Phillipa Frederiksen

    Thank you so much for these Apps. I wasn’t going to enter the competition because I didn’t like the apps that I had. These are really exciting!

  • ebw

    Thanks for the article! What app did you use for the tractor?