Play With Pictures – Product Review

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Cutting images out of their backgrounds is hard.  Really hard.  All that zooming in and gently rubbing away with the eraser.  All that messing around with feathering and transparency.  All that fiddle farting about in general.  Then getting all those images together, scaling and rotating etc. to form a collage…  What a pain in the Jackson!

Forget it.  Those days are gone.  Now we have “Play With Pictures” to do all the difficult stuff for us.  It really is very, very, very, very easy to use.  So easy in fact that it warrants use of a fourth “very”.

So how does it work?

Once you’ve got the program open and set the canvas size (this is where you’ll build your collage), you need to get your source image in there to make your first cutout.  You can do this either by hitting the “cutout” button (yes it really is that simple) and selecting a file or by simply dragging and dropping from anywhere.  You can literally drag things straight from the internet.  Pretty handy if like me you store all your stuff online.

Once the image has been dropped in the program does a bit of processing to find all the edges.  The accuracy of this part is somewhat dependent on the quality of the source image but it is more forgiving than you might expect.  This will leave you with a kind of jigsaw puzzle of image pieces.  You should be able to work out from this which bits you need to keep and which you need to lose.  Just highlight over the bits you don’t want and they will be gone.  Don’t worry too much about any rough edges or discrepancies there are manual erase and restore tools to sort out all that stuff.  When you’re happy with your cutout, just hit the “add” button and it then added to your collage.

Moving, scaling and rotation are literally taken care of by dragging the image around in a logical manner.  Trust me when I say “it’s obvious” because it really is.  It seems that “obvious” is a recurring theme in this application.

So what else do you get?

On top of that, there are some basic post process tools like duplication, tinting (for matching skin tones and lighting etc.) and transparency just to make things fit a little better.

That’s about as complicated as it gets really.

As an added bonus the guys behind the app are building a strong community on Flickr, enabling users to share tips and of course inspiration.  In case you don’t find it easy there’s a load of great tutorials on the website to help ease you in.

Now if that wasn’t enough already…  They do competitions too!  Prizes thus far include things like cameras, iPods and digital photo frames.  You can find more info about them on the “Play With Pictures” blog.

Can I try it before I buy it?

Of course you can.  You can download a fully functional, time limited trial version from their website.

So what’s missing?

One thing I feel is missing is Flickr integration.  As there’s a Flickr group and it links to the community from within the app, it would be nice if you could download and upload directly from the application.  I’d also like to see a simple “blur” control to enable some basic depth of field matching for images in the collage.

I’d also like to see some basic deformations like skew & perspective in collage mode just to add a little more realism.

The all important verdict

I like it…  A lot.  It’s so quick and easy, how could I not?  Within seconds I was cutting stuff out like a pro (well, nearly).  The price point is good for software of this nature too but I would advise that the developers extend that trial period a bit.  Although 15 days probably is long enough, the going rate is 30 days meaning theirs is sub par.

I say it’s definitely worth a download and play even if you’re not massively into “this kind of thing”.  If you are into this kind of thing, just go and buy it.  Under £40 for a decent image tool…  How often does that happen?

The cold hard facts:

Website: http://www.playwithpictures.com/
Blog: http://blog.playwithpictures.com/
Twitter: @playwithpics
Price: £39.95 (inc VAT @ 19%)
Trial time limit: 15 days
Platform: Mac OS X / PC Win 32