How To Use Snapseed’s Advanced Photo Editing Tools

Snapseed is a favorite editing app amongst iPhone photographers, but many people don’t realize how powerful it is. If you want to take your photo editing to the next level, you need to explore the advanced editing tools in Snapseed. They allow you to make selective adjustments, correct perspective problems, remove unwanted objects and apply subtle vignettes. In this article you’ll discover how to use these advanced Snapseed tools to improve your photo editing and give you options that you never realized were possible!

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If you’re new to Snapseed, we’d recommend reading our tutorial on using Snapseed’s essential iPhone photo editing tools. This article covers the use everyday editing tools such as Tune Image for adjusting color and exposure, Details for sharpening images, as well the crop, rotate and straighten options.

If you don’t already have the Snapseed app on your iPhone, you can download it for FREE on the App store. The app is available for both the iPhone and the iPad.

This article is the second in a series of Snapseed tutorials that we’ll be publishing over several weeks. The final article that will be posted next week covers the use of the Snapseed Filters for applying creative and dramatic effects to your images.

In this article we’ll be looking at the following editing tools: Transform, Brush, Selective, Spot Repair and Vignette.

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To access these tools, open the image you want to edit, then tap the Edit button (pencil icon at the bottom right of the screen.

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Transform Tool

The Transform tool is used to change the perspective in your image. It’s particularly useful if you shoot architectural subjects.

This is because photos of tall buildings often suffer with perspective distortion, where the structure appears to get narrower nearer the top. Or if you don’t shoot a building straight on, it will appear distorted or skewed to one side.

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This photo of the Eiffel Tower in Paris ended up looking more like the Leaning Tower of Eiffel due to the angle from which it was taken. But with the Transform tool, I can easily correct these perspective problems and straighten up this famous landmark.

There are three types of adjustments that you can make with the Transform tool. You can adjust the perspective along the vertical axis or the horizontal axis, and you can also rotate the image.

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As with other Snapseed tools, you swipe up and down the screen to access the different adjustment options. Once you’ve picked the one you wish to use, just swipe left or right to alter the perspective.

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Using a combination of the three adjustments, you should be able to straighten up any building or correct perspective problems in other types of image.

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Brush Tool

The Brush is a very powerful tool that can be used to subtly or dramatically alter the look of your image. Using this tool you can brush over a particular area of an image to apply the desired effect to just certain areas of the photo.

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There a number of icons along the bottom of the screen that you can use to customize the effect you’re going to apply. Tapping the brush icon at the bottom left gives you access to the different brush effects available.

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The Dodge and Burn brush is for subtly darkening or brightening certain areas of your photo. Exposure also affects brightness but the effects can be stronger depending on the strength that you use.

The Temperature brush allows you to warm up or cool down the colors, and the Saturation brush lets you increase or decrease the color saturation of the areas you brush over.

Once you’ve selected the brush type, use the up and down arrows at the bottom of the screen to select the strength of the adjustment, e.g. minus 5, plus 10, etc. Now simply use your finger to “brush” over the areas you want to alter.

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Instead of a zero setting, you’ll see the word “Eraser” appear between the arrows when the strength is set to neutral. This allows you to easily erase any effects that you’ve applied by simply brushing over those areas again.

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Finally there’s an eye icon on the right. Selecting this allows you to see more clearly where you’ve applied the chosen brush effect. The red area shows where you’ve applied the effect. Tap the eye icon again to hide the red highlight.

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The brush size isn’t adjustable, but if you want to apply the effect to a smaller area of the image you can zoom in with a pinch gesture to do more detailed adjustments.

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Above is an example showing how you can easily apply certain color and exposure adjustments to just certain parts of an image using the Brush tools.

Selective Tool

The Selective tool is used for very specific, selective editing using brightness, contrast and color saturation adjustments.

It works by making adjustments selectively, based on the color that you tap on in your image. For example if you tap on an area of blue sky, the adjustments will only be made to other blue areas in the image.

To start, make sure the plus icon (+) at the bottom of the screen is blue (if it isn’t, tap the plus icon to activate it), then tap the color in your image that you wish to adjust.

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Once you’ve selected the color you want to alter, pinch your fingers to change the size of the area that will be affected. You’ll see a circle on the screen which indicates the selected area, and the red highlight shows you which parts of the image will be affected by the adjustments.

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Once you’ve selected the area you want to alter, swipe up or down to select the adjustment you want to apply to the selected color, e.g. Brightness, Contrast or Saturation. Now swipe left or right to increase or decrease the effect.

To make more selective adjustments, tap the plus icon, then tap on the color in the image that you want to adjust and repeat the above steps.

Once you’ve added an adjustment, you’ll notice a small circle on that area with a letter to indicate which adjustment you made: B (Brightness), C (Contrast) or S (Saturation).

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Tapping on an adjustment indicator circle in your image will display a set of options as shown above. Reset sets the adjustment strength back to zero. Delete deletes the adjustment completely.

Cut lets you move the adjustment to another area of the image, and Copy duplicates the adjustment. After tapping Cut or Copy, tap where you want to apply the duplicated adjustment, then tap Paste.

Spot Repair Tool

The Spot Repair tool is for removing distractions from your photo. For example, there might some rubbish on the ground, a dirty mark on a wall, or a blemish on someone’s face.

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I used the Spot Repair tool to remove this person from scene. Simply tap on the object, and when you release your finger that area (indicated by a circle) will be replaced with pixels from the surrounding area. You can zoom in to do more detailed work if necessary.

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This tool works best when the object you’re removing is surrounded by fairly empty space, such as sky, sea, skin, etc. If you try to use it on a busy scene, the objects from the surrounding area will be copied into the circle.

Note that there are better apps for removing unwanted objects, such as TouchRetouch. But if you just want to remove a distraction quickly and the scene is fairly simple, Snapseed’s Spot Repair tool is definitely a good option.

Vignette Tool

The final editing tool that we’re going to look at is the Vignette Tool. Adding a soft vignette around the edge of the image can help to draw attention to the main subject. Just make sure you keep it subtle as heavy vignettes can be distracting.

As with all of the tools in Snapseed, it looks deceptively simple when you first open it up. But when you start playing around you’ll realize how much control you have over the end result.

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Usually with a vignetting tool, all you can do is darken or brighten the edge of your photo to focus the eye on the middle of the scene. But in Snapseed, swiping up or down gives you the option to adjust the inner brightness as well.

Once you’ve selected the option you want, just swipe left or right to adjust the intensity. To get the hang of the difference between outer and inner brightness, just try them out and you’ll see the effects.

But it doesn’t end there! If you hold your finger on the blue dot you can move the center point of the inner area around the screen. This can be useful if you want to draw the eye to a particular area of an image.

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And finally you can adjust the size of the inner area of the vignette by pinching two fingers on the screen. A circle will appear to show the boundary between the inner and outer areas of the vignette. This can be increased or decreased in size by pinching in or out with your fingers.


As you’ve seen in this article, Snapseed is no ordinary photo editor. It contains a powerful set of tools that let you make selective exposure and color adjustments to certain parts of your image. This gives you a huge amount of control over the final edit.

In addition to these selective adjustment tools, you can correct perspective problems, remove unwanted objects, and apply subtle vignettes to finish off your edit.

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While this might seem like a lot to take in, just take a little time to experiment with each tool and you’ll soon find yourself wondering how you every managed to edit your iPhone photos without them!

Don’t forget to come back next week when we’ll be publishing a tutorial about using Snapseed’s amazing collection of Filters.

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  • Thanks Paul – another great tutorial in our Snapseed photo editing series! I look forward to the next one about using Filters 🙂

    • Paul Moore

      Thanks very much Kate. I am looking forward to writing it 🙂

  • tracymg

    Great tutorial Paul

    • Paul Moore

      Thanks Tracy. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Lucas Franck

    amazing tutorial!

    • Paul Moore

      Thanks very much Lucas. Delighted you enjoyed it.

  • Thank you Paul. Wonderful tutorial on an amazing app. Look forward to your next on Snapseed’s filters.

    • Paul Moore

      Thanks Rosa. I have just started the filters article. Is there anything in particular you would like to see covered.

    • Tonal Contrast. I think images can be greatly enhanced by using tonal contrast. Are there any horrors or things to be aware of when using tonal contrast?

  • Patrick Mc Donnell

    Although I have used Snapseed before I now realise that I was not making use of 80% of its abilities – thanks Paul for a great tutorial!

    • Paul Moore

      You’re more than welcome Patrick. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Phillip Burdine

    I really enjoy these tutorials, without them I would probably lose my enthusiasm for editing.
    I have one question, where do I find the spot repair tool?

  • Sherrie Bodenham-Hirst

    I have ‘fat finger’ syndrome, can you recommend a suitable stylus or tool to use?

  • Tony

    How do I delete?

    • Laine Rudolfa

      Hi Tony! Do you mean deleting selective adjustment tool? Tap on the adjustments indicator circle and then tap on the delete option.

  • Erin

    I want to put text behind the object of a picture but I can’t find the invert icon. Where is it?

  • Patrick Chung

    I am using Snapseed already, this tutorial certainly show up a lot more features using Snapseed . Thanks Paul

    • Great to hear you learnt some new features of Snapseed 🙂

  • Raj Photo Editing Tutorials

    How to go one step back in snapseed

    • Tap the curved arrow at the top right of the screen, then tap Undo.

  • Mika

    Great article! i’d like to know if it is possible to blur an image wherever i want, using my finger. to give a portrait mode effect. the circle or linear options leave small areas around the subject unblurred

    • The portrait mode effect is achieved with dual lens. I doubt if you can get that much of an effect using software.

  • anna

    How do I get one photo off Snapseed so I can get another one on. Is there not a delete

  • rosemary

    What app gives you the option to create a swirl effect with your photo?

  • rosemary

    What app for the I phone gives you the option for the “swirl” effect on your photo? Thanks!