A photo-lettering app allows you to combine type and photos—generally in the form of type over photos. Yes, it’s how your friends are adding words like “keep calm” or “live, love, learn” or whatever the most popular pseudo-inspirational quote happens to be dropped over that beach scene.
Most recently, one of the trendiest type foundries, House Industries released their own photo-lettering app. An earlier app called Over playfully calls the images that are generated in the app “Overgrams.”
Placing type over photos is nothing new—you’ve seen it on magazine covers, in books, in advertisements and in so many other forms of message-driven content. But what was previously reserved for those with expensive design software, is now available with the tap of a finger on a phone or tablet screen.
In a sense, it’s giving people the ability to learn about type and its interaction with images who might not be familiar with design. The result could be just another inspirational quote slapped over a pretentious landscape image, or amateurs could bring a fresh set ideas and plenty of surprises—I’m personally interested in seeing the results.
Disclaimer: As Paste’s designer, I’m pretty picky about typefaces and design-related technology in general.
1. Over by Potluck
While it’s definitely not as user-friendly of some of the other apps, Over, at a mere 1.99 has most of the trendy Lost Type Co-Op typefaces. The confusing menu bars and counterintuitive type manipulation make it a difficult sell though.
User Interface: ??
The user interface for this app is just flat out confusing. There are two menu bars, one is a cumbersome wheel that expands from a small triangle on the right side, and one is a semi-transparent floating menu bar when you double click on the type. It’s pretty frustrating to use when you’re trying to change multiple things.
Typeface Choices: ????
There are about 30 typefaces that come with the 1.99 expanded version of the app, most of which are the most popular free typefaces on the web right now.
$1.99 for the expanded version of the app with about 30 typefaces. The entire stock adobe typefaces are also available for 99 cents each.
Extra Features: ???
Over is pretty minimal with the bells and whistles. Users can manipulate the type color, size, opacity and alignment along with the tint and crop of the photo.
2. Photolettering by House Industries
This is by far the sleekest of all the photo-lettering apps, and that’s to be expected from a House Industries project. The app is really fun to use with just the right amount of options. It’s also the most attractive of all the apps with a simplistic and nicely designed interface. The problem is that there is a definite break in the market for this app. While some might be outraged at the price for the entire collection of typefaces, others might think the price is fair, but want more ability to manipulate the type in an advanced way—which leaves the target market somewhere in the middle of those two groups.
User Interface: ?????
This app has more than just a few options, while still maintaining ease of navigation. One of the nicest elements is the camera and type options are integrated on one screen with an expandable menu bar that collapses when the user is done choosing how the type will appear. It’s clean, and the user isn’t prone to fumbling through lists of options trying to figure out how to change the color or allignment of the type.
Typeface Choices: ????
The entire collection is wonderful—but definitely comes at a price that is far higher than any of the apps in the same family. The options that come with the free app are very limited, and definitely not the best of the collection.
To the amateur, asking for 99 cents per extra typeface and 9.99 for the entire collection of typefaces seems like some sort of in-app robbery. To the experienced designer, 9.99 for an entire collection of House Industries typefaces seems like a steal (trust me, I’ve bought a few of their typefaces). It definitely depends on who’s purchasing the app. It’s possible to get an entire collection of stock adobe typefaces in other apps that are 99 cents—or free, but that’s not possible for unique typefaces from a great foundry.
Extra Features: ???
The ability to change the color, size, typeface and type alignment is integrated into one menu bar that allows you to see the changes as you make them. There’s also four photo filter options. The features aren’t excessive, but they are enough to let the user have some control over the type and photo.
3. Phonto by youthhr
Don’t let the gaudy image examples on the description page take away from this app—it’s actually pretty user friendly and has a large collection of typefaces. Yes, the “image pack” heart appliques and thought bubbles are a bit gaudy, but if used correctly, this app has all the functionality of the others at the best price.
User Interface: ????
The app is relatively easy to navigate. The user simply taps on their selected photo to add text. One more tap reveals a menu with all the options to manipulate the text. The one thing the app is definitely missing is the pinch function to change the size of the type without having to go into the menu functions.
Typeface Choices: ?????
Along with a ton of the pre-loaded adobe typefaces, this app also combines all the fun and trendy typefaces that Over has. The user can easily use a standard typeface for the largest word and then a more decorative typeface for another.
1.99 gets the app and all the typefaces. Users can pay 99 cents for an ad-free experience or $1.99 for the extra image pack that includes various filters, patterns and shapes (but please don’t use the heart or thought bubble).
Extra Features: ??
The extra image pack doesn’t feature much that’s actually useful. Some of the photo filters are unique and interesting, but overall the extras that the user has to pay for aren’t really worth the price.
4. TypoInsta by Kousuke Araki
If you’re looking for the whole package, this is the photo-lettering app. The capabilities are enough to raise the eyebrow of a well-versed Photoshopper. From some basic photo-editing tools including brightness, saturation and contrast to colors, filters, patterns duplication, texture…. well, you get the picture, the list is pretty extensive.
User Interface: ???
The menu bar is well done, but there are too many options to have a menu that isn’t mildly confusing and overwhelming.
Typeface Choices: ??
The app has an extensive set of type, but none of them are very unique. It includes all the standards, but the decorative typefaces aren’t the kind that people who know a thing or two about typography would want to use.
The trending price point for the majority of these apps? You guessed it, $1.99. But here the price includes all the filters and extras (and there are a lot). You can also download high-res frames and stickers at no extra cost.
Extra Features: ?????
The menu speaks for itself. Crammed with options and extra, TypoInsta is like a basic version of Photoshop. It’s well worth it for the person interested in having a lot more control over the process.
5. Ransom Letters By More Blu Sky
This is definitely not a photo-lettering app for the self-proclaimed design snob. At first glance this app was something I felt should repulse me. Letters hand-cut from magazines and placed haphazardly atop a photo with no regard to typeface integrity, leading or kerning is the designer’s nightmare. But something kept my attention. It’s quirky, and just flat out fun. It’s reminiscent of those homemade middle school crafts. No, it’s not high-end, but there’s a sort of glee that comes from seeing the letters spell out “I have your gnome!” over a photo of a lawn gnome (see below). Overall, there are some amateur elements (pixelation of the words when you scale them too large, and some pixelation of the menu in the new retina display), but it’s a fun and simple app.
User Interface: ?????
The app itself is pretty self explanatory, and has some guidance along the way. The pinch function allows the user to make the type larger by using two fingers to scale. Shaking the device changes the letters at random to reveal different characters.
Typeface Choices: ?
The app doesn’t allow you to pick how each of your individual characters will appear, you can shake to reveal different characters, but it’s a crap shoot.
99 cents gets you all the functions of the app with no hidden in-app purchases for extras.
Extra Features: ?
The beauty of this app is it’s simplicity. It’s just a fun app that doesn’t need any extra frills. It does what it says it will do, but it definitely lacks more advanced type manipulation and extra user control—that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this case.