Doing new things with digital photos never seems to get old. Instagram hit on the combination of effect filters and mobile social networking to build a hit app, Hipstamatic had its day, as did Repix and AntiCrop moment there was and I get pitches for some sort of new photo manipulating or sharing app nearly every day. Pic Stitch isn’t probably going to overtake Instagram as the best-loved photo app around, but it fills a different niche: creating appealing presentations of your photos. There are actually several other collage makers in the Windows Store, but they’re either (like Volet) not as polished as Pic Stitch or (like Collage Maker RT) more expensive.
As with all modern Windows 8.1 apps, you get Pic Stitch from the Windows Store. It’s a $1.99 purchase, but you can install a free trail—but note that that’s only good for one day. (Funny how that sounds expensive for an app that you’ll have forever, but not for a latte you’ll have for a half hour.) Pic Stitch runs on both x86 and ARM devices—read Windows RT tablets as well as full PCs. I tested the app on a Microsoft Surface 2 (an RT device).
You start off in Pic Stitch looking at a seemingly endless array of photo mosaic layouts, starting with 1 to 4 frames, moving through sections for collages containing higher numbers of photos. You can also draw your own custom layout if none of these myriad options suits you. After tapping on one of the layouts, you’ll see the app page where you add photos—these can come not only from your local camera roll, but from other apps, and even more appealingly, from Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or Flickr. You can also shoot on the spot with the Windows device’s webcam. Once you’ve navigated to the photo folder you want, you’ll see a 3×3 grid of thumbnails. Note that you can’t change your layout choice later in the process.
Connecting to Facebook involves the same OK button you get with any app that wants to use your account on the social network. Once the account was connected, I could browse all my Facebook photos in the 3×3 grid just as though they were local. The same held true for my Flickr, but note that you can’t get access to photos in galleries that you’ve marked private.
You can drag the image around in the grid spot where you inserted it, since its aspect ratio may not match the target spot. You can also pinch and unpinch to zoom in and out. If you have more than one spot in the layout selected (as indicated by dotted lines around its border), the picture in the selection grid you tap will populate all of those that are so highlighted.
If your photos themselves have image issues, Pic Stitch lets you edit them for lighting, color, cropping, and more with the excellent and powerful Aviary photo editor (a favorite of ours), which is integrated into the stitching app and accessible from an Edit button.
Once you’ve got all your images inserted in the proper layout positions and possibly spruced up with Aviary, you can further customize your creation with borders, textures, and colors. You can also choose a different aspect ratio, with a dozen commonly needed options like square, 4×6, 8×10, or Facebook Cover image. The Texture option affects the border, and there’s abundant choice, from animal skins to wood to multicolored polka dots. If you don’t want a patter, the Color button lets you choose any hue on the spectrum. The Radius option offers rounded corners for the images, a mod and appealing effect.
Sharing and Printing
When your layout is customized just how you want it, you can simply save it to a local photo album on the PC or tablet, or get started sharing and producing end products. Export options include Facebook, Tumblr, and Flickr. You can share simultaneously to any combination of these services with toggle switches.
I couldn’t choose a destination for Facebook, though; the photo just appeared on my wall with my default sharing privacy setting. You can also use the Windows 8 Share charm to send the picture in an email, but unfortunately, the app can’t print to a local printer directly. You could do this from the Windows Photos app, though after exporting there.
Perhaps one of the most appealing output options is the Print at Walgreens button. The app uses your location (with your permission) to determine the nearest pharmacy in the Walgreens network (other store brands are included). Then you choose a photo size, starting at 6×9 for 39 cents up to 8×8 for $4.49. That’s a lot more than Costco’s 13 cents for 4×6, but much cheaper than FinePrint Imaging’s $10 for 8×8. I’ve ordered Walgreens prints from other apps, and was amazed at how quickly the prints were ready—in less than 15 minutes. The quality was quite good, too, though we’re not talking museum archival quality printing, of course.
I Could Spend All Day Stitching Pics
When I first attacked the assignment of reviewing Pic Stitch, I was thinking: “yet another photo app, and one that doesn’t actually enhance the images themselves.” But working with this cool app proved that there are indeed ways to have fun with photos other than Instagram or Photoshop. Especially when it comes to that all-important step of presenting your photos to friends, family, or the world at large. That becomes especially important during gift-giving times, when you want to get that special someone something personal and special. Yes, what Pic Stitch does is limited, but often in an app, that’s a good thing, and I can confidently state that the app is well worth its $1.99 price-tag.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc