Tangled FX

Tangled FX is a photo-editing app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, which gives a fresh, new, artsy look to pictures.

A single tap transforms a ho-hum, run-of-the-mill, ordinary picture into a striking work of art that wouldn’t look out of place along side a multi-million dollar collection of impressionist or expressionist (post or not) paintings. Yes it’s that good. And with a price tag of $1.99, it’s a good investment.

What, you don’t believe me? Check out this picture of my daughter walking through the snow covered trees. The inset shows the original photo and the caption denotes the preset used.

s tangled-fx
Brush Strokes Preset

Brush Strokes Preset

All that’s missing is her hands clasped to her head and an opened mouth scream, and it might be confused for a long lost painting of Edvard Munch.

Tangled FX isn’t like other photo-editing apps out there. It doesn’t saturate colours or simply add an overlay to a picture. What it does is enhance what’s already in the pictures, transforming lines and changes in hue into accented strokes, lines, and swirls with varying degrees depending on the preset being used. You can go for a look that changes the picture in subtle ways all the the way to an image that looks completely different from the original.

Tangled FX has 16 built-in presets. Each preset has a different effect. A picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s let this picture of a sunflower do the talking.

Tangled FX No Preset

The picture is alright on it’s own, but with the harsh lighting at the time the photo was taken, it’s definitely no masterpiece.  With the lines of the petals and the intricate patterns in the seeds, it’s the perfect image to show what can be done when the different presets are applied, each with varying success. You can click on each image to make it larger to give you a better idea of how the photo is being changed.

Tangled FX Fibers Preset Tangled FX Fibers Smooth Preset Tangled FX Fibers Harsh Preset Tangled FX Swirls Preset
Tangled FX Brush Strokes Preset Tangled FX Pencil Strokes Preset Tangled FX B&W Etching Preset Tangled FX Cartoon Preset
Tangled FX High Contrast Preset Tangled FX Bloom Preset Tangled FX Small Details Preset Tangled FX Blurred Preset
Tangled FX The Light Side Preset Tangled FX The Dark Side Preset Tangled FX Webbed Thin Preset Tangled FX Webbed Thick Preset

Pretty cool, right? Each preset is a good starting point and can easily be tweaked by selecting “Fine Tune” in the preset toolbar overlay (you can set the advanced effect settings to be on in the effect settings). You can even create your own presets which you can save, name, apply to other pictures to your heart’s content, and share with whomever you think might be interested.

I used this app on some of my pictures of anything from humans to animals, macro to wide, landscape to cityscape, and everything in between and watched the magic happen. Some of the presets I did not like the look of at all and some worked really well, but half the fun of using this app is applying the different presets to a picture and watching what happens.

Small Details Preset

When applying Tangled FX on portraits, it does a nice job when used subtly. For closeup portraits, there are only a couple of presets that can be used if you still want a somewhat recognizable face. The Small Details Preset used here, brings even more sparkle to this babe’s eyes.

Fibers Harsh Preset

Be careful though, tap the wrong preset and that angelic child will look like a ghoulish zombie straight out of a horror movie, like in this case with the Fibers Harsh Preset. It works great for the ice covered branches, but the girl’s face becomes one even a mother wouldn’t love, better suited for pages of the muscle tissue section of an human anatomy book.

Cartoon Preset with Fine Tuning

The Cartoon Preset makes the facial hair of this selfie pop out.  Some fine tuning of the preset was necessary to not sacrifice the definition in the eyes.

Brush Strokes Preset

The presets can work quite nicely with portraits, though they work best for environmental portraits, when there is something else in the image which Tangled FX can enhance. In this picture the Brush Strokes Preset makes beautiful sweeping lines of the colourful leaves, and the baby is small enough in the frame so her face is not completely distorted.

Fibers Harsh Preset

The Fibers Harsh Preset weaves a web of colour through the balls in this picture.  This specific preset is usually not suited to faces, but it works quite well here because the child’s face is hidden from the camera.

Fibers Smooth Preset with Fine Tuning

The Fibers Smooth Preset was used on this picture of this girl enchanted by the ocean. This preset again is not the greatest for faces, but because the girl’s face is looking away from the camera it works, making her dress and hair sparkle

Cartoon Preset

The Cartoon Preset used on this picture of a man surfing on the back of a cruise ship, makes it appear as though he’s surfing on flames

Small Details Preset

This picture was taken at game six of a Stanley Cup Final game between the Bruins and the Canucks. The atmosphere was electric, and the Small Details Preset makes that electricity almost palpable

Brush Strokes Preset

Pictures of animals are especially well suited for Tangled FX. With all the fur, hair, feathers, or scales, there are endless possibilities. The Brush Strokes Preset used here makes wonderful lines of the golden retriever’s fur, and the shallow depth of field is still retained seen in the softer swirls of the trees and leaves in the background.

The Dark Side Preset

The Dark Side Preset makes dark lines wherever a difference in colour or shade is seen. This was a seldom used preset for me, but for this picture it worked quite well.

Fibers Smooth Preset

The Fibers Smooth Preset accents and brightens the behinds and tails of these horses

Webbed Thin Preset

The Webbed Thin Preset makes sweeping lines all over this bison, which match the look of the grass in which he is grazing.

Brush Strokes Preset

A picture of flowers can be made to look like a painting, without all the mess, effort, and time. Here the Brush Strokes Preset does just that with a troika of daisies.

Fibers Harsh Preset

The Fibers Harsh Preset turns the disk flowers into a surreal, futuristic vortex

Swirls Preset for Foliage, Brush Strokes Preset for Sky

The Swirls Preset enhances the colours of the foliage in this picture of the Great Divide in Costa Rica

Cartoon Preset

While the Cartoon Preset works really well for portraits, it can also make regular landscape scenes look pretty interesting

Webbed Thin Preset with Fine Tuning

Tangled FX is perfectly suited for trees. With all the lines present, there are lots of different presets that do an amazing job, from making it a natural enhancement to making it look completely wild.   Here, the Webbed Thin Preset with Fine Tuning does an awesome job.

Webbed Thin Preset with Fine Tuning

Trees in Fall looking spectacular with help from the  Webbed Thin Preset with Fine Tuning

Brush Strokes Preset

The converging lines of the snow and the branches of the trees are accentuated thanks to the Brush Strokes Preset

Brush Strokes Preset with Fine Tuning

This Lone Tree in a cornfield was perfectly suited for the Brush Strokes Preset with Fine Tuning

  • Brush Strokes Preset with Fine Tuning

    The Sun Sets over a Windswept Pine. Brush Strokes Preset with Fine Tuning

  • Cartoon Preset

    Cartoon Preset

Brush Strokes Preset

Brush Strokes Preset

As with any app, there is always room for improvement. All editing software should have an undo/redo button and Tangled FX really needs one if only to easily see the effect of changes made instead of trying to remember the fine tuning number you’ve changed and then pressing render to go back a level, or worse yet, starting all over. An option in preferences to do away with the “Render” option in the fine tune settings so every change you make you can see instantaneously would be nice as would an in-app crop feature. It would also be extremely useful to have a selective adjust filter whereby adjustments to the “scale factor” can be made to specific points of the picture or the option to use two presets in different parts of the image, but I believe that is probably beyond the scope of an app such as this.

Having said that, this app is really cool as is, and anyone can use it to make some amazing artsy pictures.

The app allows for rendering of pictures up to 16 megapixels (4096×4096 pixels) in size, meaning you can comfortably print to a size of 13 inches at 300dpi, stretching to 20 inches at 200dpi if you’re willing to sacrifice some quality.

You can also easily share your newly created work of art to instagram, twitter, facebook, and email via a share icon in the toolbar.

In conclusion, I will say it feels a little like cheating when using software that changes a picture so easily and dramatically. But with any great leap of technology, purists always feel that way. There are those that felt digital cameras were not a pure form of photography compared to capturing on film. The same can be said with the introduction of Photo Shop back in the 90’s which did all kinds of work usually saved for a photographer’s dark room. So there’s no reason to feel guilty using an app like Tangled FX, instead indulge yourself.

You can purchase Tangled FX in the App Store and turn your pictures into works of art with the simple tap of a finger. You never know, in a hundred years your masterpiece might be sold for an unprecedented amount in auction at Sotheby’s.

If you still need some more convincing, you can check out more pictures created with the help of Tangled FX on page 2 of this post.

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Comments 1

  1. I have admired results like some of these in PS for years but never had the expertise nor the latest PS to create them. I stumbled upon Tangled fx the other day and after playing with the sliders eventually got a few that I liked.
    Your tutorial is just what I was looking for. THANK YOU.
    I rushed through looking at the fabulous results and explanation for each one. I will now go back and study them and hope I can do more of my own.
    If you have other sites on apps that you like I would hope you can direct me to them as well.
    I’ll sign up for your news letter next.

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