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APP REVIEW: HALFTONE

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When the recent Batman triology began with The Dark Knight back in 2008, fan-boys everywhere raced to their mother's basement to nerd-rage over the liberties Christopher Nolan had taken with his latest adaptation on the darkest, stickiest corners of the internet. While everyone broke their caps-lock key "shouting" their hostile opinions at each other on Reddit over bagel-bites, one thing these white knights could all agree on was how stupid Batman sounded while he talked.

As a self-proclaimed dork, I must admit, I too was a little disappointed with these films. Not over the fact that a world famous millionaire / vigilante with daddy-issues disguised his voice by doing his best Michael Wincott impression. No. For me, growing up on re-runs with Adam West, I was crestfallen over the sever lack of BIFF's, BAM's, and POW's every time Batman crammed his fist down someone's throat.

That's why I'm so excited to review this weeks app, Halftone! An app that boasts the ability to turn your photographs into comic book panels by the combining of Comic Sans with action balloons. If you've ever looked at any printed material up-close (like comic books), you'll notice a that the images aren't comprised of solid colors or lines, but a collection of dots varying in size and hue. These dots are what printing professionals refer to as a "Halftone", which is where this app gets it's name.

To get started, Halftone prompts you to begin with either uploading an existing photo or taking a new one. For this review, I'm going to use this selfie that inspires my mom tell me how handsome I look every time she see's it.

uncleandySure Mom.

First things first. Once you select your photo, Halftone jumps right into adjusting your image. After getting a couple of app reviews under my belt, one constant that's always included in every photo editing app is the typical stable of image editing effects: Red-Eye Removal, Sharpness, Brightness, Filters, ETC. all of which are present in Halftone.

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I glossed over these because in addition to knowing how most of these tools work anyways, I was more excited to play with the artistic aspects of this app. While there were several less traditional features such as the ability to Whiten or Tilt-Shift your images, let's just say that these tools worked as well as they should. I'm the type of person who likes to edit my images before I upload them into an app because I feel I have more control in Photoshop on my computer than fumbling with my iPhone. For those of you without access to either, the image effects included in Halftone can provide to be quite helpful.

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Once settled on the image effects, your launched into Halftone's UI. Once I reached this screen, I looked throughout the app, searching for the feature to create a halftone pattern to give my image that printed comic book feel. I finally realized that the app does it automatically. While this is convenient, I would have liked the option to adjust the dot size or intensity of the halftone patterns on my image.

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Clicking on the ear-marked paper icon toggles Halftone's Paper tool. This feature works similar to the Filters tool in most image editing apps. Your selection is overlaid on top of your original image to give it a aged / distressed appearance, which ties in nicely with the whole vintage comic vibe this app shoots for.

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The frame icon accesses Halftone's Layout tool. A common literary device used in comic books is when someone is speaking in third person (be it the protagonist or the narrator) the text is encapsulated in a yellow box. The Layout tool offers several different panel layouts including these dialogue boxes.

When you select a layout, it defaults with the day's date on the top, and some filler text at the bottom. Double clicking both allows you customize the text in these boxes. While this feature works really well with the overall theme of the app, I feel that the developers of Halftone missed out on an opportunity to make this app more engaging by neglecting to make the layouts and the dialogue boxes more customizable.

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Onto the next feature. No comic is complete without word balloons! While most are familiar with the standard oblong word balloon, several different variations exist to emphasize tone or cadence when reading. A square word balloon indicates stiff robotic dialogue, a jagged word balloon indicates urgency or action, and a bubbly word balloon indicates a character's internal monologue. While most people might be unfamiliar with these variations, it's nice to see these little details included in Halftone.

Once you've placed your word balloon(s) onto your image, tapping it once allows you to change the text, tapping and dragging the point of the balloon's tail allows you to place it accordingly, and double tapping the balloon changes it's style.

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Now is where we get to the fun stuff. Halftone's library of comic book elements is so true to it's source material, it made me want to prance around flamboyantly in blue stain underwear! Let's have some fun shall we?

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The comic book element library in Halftone is chock full of action text and effects found in golden age comics. You can also change the gradient of your selection to better match the look and feel of your image. My major gripe with this is if you look at the far right image, I wanted to use the action lines in the library for my image. Problem is these go on top of the layout dialogue boxes with no layering option to move them behind. If I made the lines small enough so they wouldn't cover these boxes, then the effect would end up covering my face entirely. While not a complete deal breaker, it made me grumble a bit.

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Finally the last feature in Halftone is the Font tool. When I came to use to Font tool, I had several word balloons in my image and wanted to adjust the sizes of each since the Word Balloon tool only changes the look and content of the balloon, not the size.  Unfortunately, when you adjust the font size using the Font tool, it changes the size of every word balloon and dialogue box, not just one individually.

So after compromising on about half of what I wanted to do, lets see how my final image looks.

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I'm impressed! Halftone allowed me to create a comic strip that's almost just as unfunny and boring as Family Circus. Now lets see how my smug-mug looks printed on wood.

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Normally I'd chime in with a pun or anecdote related to the theme of the article, but I was transfixed after getting sidetracked watching videos of Adam West dancing awkwardly for the past 45 minutes, so lets just get to the point.

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Although a pay app, Halftone offered several in app purchases. While this would seem like a good idea to unlock different comic book effects or fonts, these purchases unlocked more image filters. Keep in mind these filters are added before Halftone applies it's comic book filter to get that printed look, which seems like they would go unnoticed after the fact.

If I may nerd-rage for a bit, about halfway into this app Halftone started to feel like a glorified template. Time after time I've downloaded apps that were fun at the moment, but were long forgotten shortly thereafter. When more customizable features are included in an app, it creates a longer shelf-life in the mind of the consumer. Especially when thinking of all the combinations of effects and features they have yet to explore.

Overall, Halftone is a very fun app, but only for so long. The attention to detail in replicating the look and feel of older comics made me feel like the developers had a good idea at the start. Unfortunately, Halftone is an app that's high on concept, but low on content.

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