Latest in Features

Image credit:

Halftone iPhone app gives your photos that old-time newspaper look


Halftone (currently US$0.99), a new iOS photo app from Juicy Bits Software, wants to be the app that turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a photographic time machine. Juicy Bits is the company that created the cool 3D Camera Studio for iPad ($3.99) and 3D Camera ($1.99) apps that provide a way to create 3D anaglyph, stereogram and "wigglegram" images.

A Short History of Halftones

Back in the ancient, pre-digital days, there used to be a way of consuming news, entertainment and sports content called "reading the newspaper." Whenever there was a major news event -- the Kennedy assassination, the Apollo moon landings, and so forth -- many people would grab the newspapers to stash them away for posterity.

Looking at old newspapers now, it's amazing how crude the photos look. The halftones used to print pictures, coupled with the sepia tone that the papers have taken on through aging, have a distinctive look that is associated with an era that began to disappear in the late 1970s and early 80s when digital imagesetters made their entrance. Click "Read More" to read the review of Halftone.

Gallery: Halftone App gives iPhone photos halftone love | 6 Photos

The App

Halftone, the app, isn't just a filter that achieves the look. According to Juicy Bits spokesman Marty Gough, the app actually runs through a number of sophisticated steps to create a realistic halftone and add the tints and papers that are a vital part of creating the aged look. If you take a look at the close-up image in the photo gallery, you'll notice that the size of the cyan, magenta and yellow dots varies depending on the color and intensity of a specific area of the photo.

Your photos can come from one of three sources -- the camera on your iPhone or iPod touch, pasting an image from another app or the Photos Camera Roll.

There's more to Halftone than just turning photos into halftones. There are nine different types of paper that run the gamut from clean, white paper to stained and crumpled messes. Since color photos tend to get a bit of a "cartoonish" look to them when run through a halftone process, the developers added a way to put cartoon captions on your photos with a choice of nine separate frames, three different text sizes and even a "Digitalstrip" font.

In this first release of Halftone, sharing consists of saving photos to your album, sending the photos via email or pushing them to Facebook.

The Future

While Halftone is a lot of fun, there's room for a lot of new features, and Gough said that they're working on a "bunch of updates" that will add even more variety to the app. Among the big items coming in future versions are a choice of output resolution, more licensed and embedded fonts to match the antique style, decoration stamps, new ways to share images, black and white halftone methods and a speed increase in processing.

Personally, I'd like to see some landscape postcard frames and connections to services, such as Twitter and Dropbox. I was also surprised that the front-facing camera in the iPhone 4 wasn't supported; the "self-portait" image I used in the gallery embedded in this review was taken from the regular iPhone rear-facing camera, then opened from the Photos Camera Roll in Halftone.

I did encounter one issue while using Halftone. While trying to take the Wall-E photo, the app would act like it was taking a photo, then restart without having saved the photo. My iPhone tends to have way too many apps open at once, and after I closed a bunch of them, everything worked perfectly.


As you can see, I really liked this app. It's fun and inexpensive enough at the introductory price that anyone can get in on the action. The developer has a proven track record of constantly updating and improving apps, so I'd expect Halftone to become even more of a photo tool in the future. If you like playing with your iPhone photos, Halftone should become part of your photo app kit.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr