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XnSketch for Android

Free Android Photo to Drawing App

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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XnSketch Android App

XnSketch Android App

© XnView
XnSketch is a free Android app that is designed to make it as easy as pie to make your photos look like drawings that have been sketched by hand. The app is produced by Pierre Gougelet who is also the developer behind XnRetro and XnView.

There are quite a few free photo to sketch apps available on Google Play, so XnSketch will have to do a good job if it's to capture users in this sector. I'm going to have a look at the app and give you an idea of how well it does and if it may be worth your while to download it and give it a go.

User Interface

XnSketch scores well for a very simple and easy to navigate user interface. When you launch the app, you are given the option to open a photo or to take a new photo to work on. XnSketch doesn't include its own camera app, so if you choose the latter option, you will be presented with a list of all your installed camera apps so that you can choose which one to use. I chose to use the default Android camera app and after taking a photo and touching the OK button, the photo is opened in XnSketch.

The photo fills the larger part of the user interface with access to various controls above and below the image window. Above the window, the top bar contains just two buttons which will be familiar to Android users as the options for saving and sharing files.

The majority of the controls are placed below the image window, though that shouldn't give the impression of a crowded interface as there are just four buttons there in total. The first allows you to rotate your image in 90º steps in a clockwise direction. The next button accesses the image adjustment tools, followed by the button that opens the carousel with the different effects that form the core of the app. Finally is a button that opens additional settings for the different effects.

If you want to preview your complete image at any time, just touch it anywhere and the overlaying controls are hidden.

Image Adjustments

XnSketch for Android Screen Shot

XnSketch for Android Screen Shot

© Ian Pullen
The image adjustments slider controls offer users a degree of control that allows you to tweak and adjust the effects and so vastly increase the available options.

These controls are presented as horizontal sliders that affect the brightness, contrast and saturation of your images. They're very straight forward to use and quickly update the preview image, encouraging experimentation. If you reach the point that you think that you've actually made things worse, there's a reset button to the left that you can touch to reset the sliders to their default settings.

Effects

The effects are at the core of this app and when you touch the button, a carousel is displayed that allows you to quickly and easily slide between the various different effects. Unlike the sister app XnRetro, there is no thumbnail to give an idea of how the photo will look with the effect applied, but it's very quick to try out the different effects and the icons do give some indication of what you should expect.

There's a reasonable range of different effects on offer, covering hand sketched styles, pastel effects for color images and some more stylized effects, such as Halftone and Hope. The result of these effects will vary depending on the base image that they're being applied to, but overall I was very impressed by the quality of the results. I felt that I was able to get more than passable hand drawn effects with a couple of photos and I'm sure that the more time you spend tweaking the effects, the greater your rewards. That said, there are some weak spots and I found the Hope filter particularly disappointing. While it may be more effective with other images (I only tried it on a couple of portraits), I could argue that its inclusion undermines the overall quality of the app.

Once you've applied an effect, you can tweak it to your taste by using the image adjustment tools mentioned above or using the settings button to the right. A change that I would like to see in future would be the option to save image adjustments as effects so that they could be easily applied to other photos in the future.

Settings

This is the aspect of XnSketch that I least liked. Firstly, some of the effects are not compatible with this control, so if you touch the button, you just get a message displayed telling you that there are no settings. It would improve the user experience if the button was disabled and grayed out when there are no settings available.

Of the remaining effects, touching this button will display at least a Strength slider that allows you to vary the intensity of the effect. Some effects also have an Opacity slider and while I couldn't work out what was having its opacity affected by this control, the results are clear enough to see if you adjust the slider. At least they are in all the effects other than Sketch B&W where I could see no discernible affect when adjusting the Opacity. The Mono effect has one additional tool that allows you to select a color that is applied as an overall tone to the image.

Sharing

Sharing your artistic creations is one of the main reasons for using apps like XnSketch and it's very easy to share your pictures without leaving the app. When you hit the Share button at the top of the screen, you're presented with a list of all of your installed apps to which you can send your image.

Conclusion

All in all, I found XnSketch to be quite a fun and easy to use app that produced some good results from some of the effects. I didn't find it quite as well rounded and compelling as its sister app, XnRetro, but as a free download, I think it's well worth giving this a try if you're in the market for a photo to sketch app.

There are a few aspects that could be improved, but I feel it is well worthy of four out of five stars and I can see myself using this app again in the future.

You can download your own free copy of XnSketch from the Google Play Store.

Related:
XnRetro Android App
XnView Free Image Viewer
XnSketch Desktop App for Windows and Mac
XnRetro Desktop App for Windows and Mac
Android Mobile Graphics Apps
Share Your Favorite Graphics Apps for Android

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