Join Seán Duggan for an in-depth discussion in this video Color blends and textures: Stackables, part of Mobile Photography Weekly.
- Hey everybody, Sean Duggan here, and this week I want to show you a really cool app for adding color blends and texture overlays to your photographs. It's called Stackables, it's an iOS app, and let's dive in here and see what we got going. I'm just gonna tap on the picture icon here to load up the picture, I'll go into one of my albums, my In Progress album, and I'm gonna get this photograph of an old motel sign that I took the other day.
So one thing to point out here is that I'm doing this on an iPad, but the app is also available for iPhone as well. It's a universal app, which means that with a single purchase you can use the same app and download it on either your iPad or your iPhone. There's just a lot more real estate and it's a little bit roomier here on the iPad to show you what's going on. All right, so on the first screen here I can choose from some different aspect ratios, how I want the image to look. I'm just gonna leave it set to the original width and height, and then up at the top I've got choices for what file format I'm gonna eventually export the file as from the Stackables app.
So I really don't use tif too often when I'm doing iPhone or iPad processing, but I do appreciate the ability to make that choice if I wanted to save out a tif. I'll just leave this one set to jpeg here, and I'll tap the check mark to move in to the main editing interface. So over on the left hand side is our layers area, and there's also a masking area there too, you can see that little mask icon there. We'll get to that in a little bit. And then over here on the right side we have the different textures and the different blend modes.
On the iPhone the layers are actually down below, it's all on one side here, but I'll give you an idea of how that looks there. So I'm gonna initially start off by adding some texture to this, and you can see that the way the textures look, it's not just a texture, there's also some coloration in there, and you can choose different ones there to see what works good. I know which one I think works pretty good for this image. There we go, the one called thorny rose is kind of a nice, noticeable texture. And there's more down here.
These ones here, if you tap on this, this then is an in-app purchase, so you can, in this one here you can follow them on Instagram to unlock that. I'm just gonna leave that set the way it is. But there's a lot more here that you can access. I'll just leave this set to the thorny rose, and then to give it the blending modes, what I need to do is just sort of tap on that, and then you can see the blending mode panel kind of opens up and it hides the texture panel. So that's how these panels work in this app.
Now, if we were on the iPhone the layers would be down below and I would tap on that, and then the layers panel would open up. So you can see I've got the usual suspects here of blend modes that I can play around with, see which ones are gonna work good for this image. It always starts off with overlay, which I think is probably the one that's gonna work best most of the time, but there are all these other ones here you can try. I am gonna set this back to overlay here just to leave that there. All right, so that looks good for now. I think what I want to do is I want to make a copy of this layer so I can do and I can do something else in the next part of the app.
So to make a copy of the layer, I'm gonna come down here on the lower left corner and I'm just gonna tap on the plus icon, and I can just choose to add a brand new layer, or I can choose to duplicate the layer. In this case what I want to do is I'm just going to choose to duplicate the layer. So now you can see I have layer one and layer two there, and now I'm gonna move onto the next section up here at the top, so this first little checkerboard icon, that's the textures, if I move here, that's gonna give me some different looks.
So it's gonna add that on here, whatever layer I have active. Now I have this bottom layer active here, so you can see the little eye icon there. If I tap the eye icon it's gonna turn that off. Tap that back on again, and I've got these different looks I can choose. So for instance, if I choose Saint Louis, I get this kind of washed out, black and white look, which kind of works well for this one here. And I can use the opacity slider if I want to modulate that, so I can bring back some of the color into that there if I wanted to.
I'm gonna leave that fairly desaturated and washed out. That looks pretty good there. So there's all these different recipes and looks that you can put on here. I'm gonna leave that just sort of set the way I have it there, and what I want to do now is maybe add a masking effect to my texture layer. So let me just tap on the texture layer to make it active, and I'll click, or tap on the little mask button up here, so now I'm in the masking mode. And if you look at the thumbnails you can see that I've got the eye icon there which tells me what layer is visible and there's a little highlight border around it which shows me that I'm working on that layer.
But I know that I'm working on the mask because the layer thumbnail is much smaller. So if I was working on the layer itself, you can see that the actual layer thumbnail is larger. Let's go back into that mask there. Now, the masking is not as flexible as you might find in a program like Photoshop. There are kind of these pre-fab masks that you can apply, and there's minimal ways that you can adjust them. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna just tap on this first mask, which is the gradient mask there, and it may be kind of hard to see here, but you can see that basically, I don't have the texture now showing up on the bottom part of the image, it's only showing up on the top part of the image here.
And I can modify the size of this mask here, so you can see that this blue overlay is moving up and down. You can kinda really see it right there as I move that slider, how that overlay is moving up and down, and that is sort of the midpoint of the mask. If I move it all the way over here to the left, more of the mask is coming down into the image. If I move it over to the right, the mask is not masking as much of the texture. So one thing that I would like to see done differently in this app here is that, instead of this dark blue color for the mask overlay, I'd like to see it be a red color, because that is sort of almost an industry standard.
Those of us who've grown up using Photoshop, that's what we're used to seeing in Photoshop, and most other programs where masking is used, so I think that that would be a lot clearer than this blue color. But basically this allows me to have the texture really only applied to the top part of the sky and not to the bottom part of the image, so I think that's a pretty cool feature to be able to do that. If I tap on this little arrow button on the thumbnail, it's gonna change to a radio mask, and a different type or radio mask, and then back to the main gradient mask.
And there's a lot of other different masks here. Some of these are pretty goofy and may not be something you want to do, like this obvious circular shape here or a shape like that. Again, that's not something that that's interesting me too much, but you might find that it is just perfect for your project. All right, let's do something else here. I'm gonna come down and make my image active down there at the bottom, and let's just go back to my layers view. And now look at the thumbnail of that top layer, you can see that it has both the image thumbnail showing the texture as well as the thumbnail showing that there is a mask applied to that.
So I really appreciate that kind of visual feedback in terms of the interface, and you get that same visual feedback on the version of this app on the iPhone. So the next thing that I want to do is I want to go in and apply some adjustments. So I'm gonna come to this button here that shows the sliders and I can come in and make some adjustments. Now you might have noticed that what happened is is I lost that black and white look. So that's one kind of little idiosyncrasy of this is that when you go from section to section, you'll lose what you've done before.
So if I wanted to keep that, what I'd have to do is make a copy layer. So let me come back to where I had that look applied, and that was the Saint Louis look, there we go. And so what I'm gonna do now with that layer active is I'm gonna duplicate it, I'm gonna make a new layer. All right, so now what I can do is take this layer here, I've got it set to normal blend mode, and what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go over here to the adjustments, and now I can come in here and I can lower the brightness, I can bump up the contrast, and if you slide down to the bottom here you'll see that there is the usual type of adjustments you might expect to find in a program like this.
Brightness, contrast, white balance, sharpness, saturation, et cetera. So I can do something like that. So I really appreciate the ability to kind of stack up these different layers here and create these different effects. Let me just save this out here, I'll just tap on the Save or Export button up there. Now notice that what I can do is I can either save the image to camera roll as is, and I think I might do that. But if I tap that button again, there was another interesting choice up there, Save Edits as Formula, and that is really one of the cool aspects of this app is that you can put together a mixture of different color blends and different texture effects and different adjustments and you can save those as a formula.
So let me just tap on that, and we'll just call this Vintage Motel, which seems like a good trendy name for a formula, and I'll tap Save, and so this is now a formula. so if I come over here to the Formulas category, which is that little beaker there, now it tells me here, if I switch categories I'm gonna lose all my edits, and that's fine 'cause I've already exported these, plus I've already saved this as a formula.
Let me just tap Yes on there. And now here are all these formulas that other people have created, and here's one called Tin Type. And you can look at these and deconstruct what's going on, so some of these formulas have many many layers in them. This one is called Asylum, possibly an appropriate name for a weird, creepy old motel. This one's called Anarchy, et cetera. And down at the bottom here you'll see that there are favorite formulas, which is the one with the star next to it, and there are one that have hearts on them.
So you can see, there's the one that I just created, Vintage Motel, and you can drag and drop to rearrange them if you want. Like that. These other formulas here that have the stars on them, these are formulas that were created by other users, and they upload those and they can put those into the app. So there's a lot of really cool functionality that is built into the Stackables app.
You can add textures, color blends, which we really didn't get into, overall adjustments, you can apply masks to any of the layers and the effects that you add to the layers. There's a lot of stuff to do, and with the ability to mix and match all these different variables and save what you create as a formula that you can easily and quickly apply to other images, it just is a really creative app, and I think you'll have a lot of fun with it.