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PicMonkey.com: Photo Editing Software Review

As a homeschooling family, we don’t just sit at home filling out endless pages in workbooks.  We build projects.  We explore the outdoors.  We travel (both in and out of state) and we go on countless field trips (the zoo, museums, parks, markets, etc.).  We pack a lot of things with us when we go out, like snacks, water, hats, Benadryl, Ibuprofen (that’s for me) and most importantly my camera.  I try to take pictures of everything we do and everywhere we go.   My job as mom and educator is 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It’s all too easy to leave out a project or activity in our end of year summary if I’m not careful.  Taking pictures along the way is an easy way to document our homeschooling adventures.

Needless to say I have countless photographs stored on my hard drive.  However more often than not, my photographs look sloppy, dull and boring.  This is because wrangling a wild boar would be easier than taking pictures of my children.  Just as soon as one of them stands still and smiles, the other one walks away or picks their nose, yawns, jumps, yells, cries, etc.  You name it; we’ve unintentionally captured it on film.  I’m so thrilled when I get both of them standing still and smiling, that I never even bother to change the camera settings or check the lighting.  I point.  I shoot and if I see nothing egregious, I call it a victory.

Weeks later when I finally upload them to the computer, it isn’t a sense of accomplishment that I feel; it’s a sense of disappointment.  That is when I see the vacuum lurking in the background, my son’s dirty pants, my daughter’s mismatched socks and the chocolate on both their teeth.  As bad as these photos may seem, I know there is always hope for them with photo editing software like Picasa, Gimp and my new favorite PicMonkey.com.

Picasa (put out by Google) is a great tool that I have been using for years.  It’s perfect for organizing photographs and photo editing.  I can crop, remove red eye, change color, change contrast, add text and more.  I can also alter photographs and artwork in Gimp.  Gimp is a powerful graphics editor that can be used for image retouching, editing, drawing and photomontages.  Both are great programs.  They have always done everything I have needed them to do and both of them are free.  So, why add PicMonkey.com to my photo editing arsenal? The answer to this question is simple… it’s easy to use and fun.

PicMonkey haybail collage

Using PicMonkey.com was uncomplicated and amusing.  It’s a website that allows you to quickly edit your pre-existing photographs or create brand new graphic designs.  It’s the perfect place to turn your ordinary or less than perfect images into creative masterpieces.  Here’s a list of my favorite PicMonkey.com things.

It’s Free

All of your basic options and about half of the “extra” options are available at PicMonkey.com free of charge.  If you want to get fancier you can purchase the upgrades for either $4.99 a month or $33.00 a year.  All of the member’s only options (or Royale options as they are called) are depicted by a golden crown.  While the upgrades were really entertaining, I stuck with the free options.  Mainly because they are free!

No Software Downloads

All of the software needed is already on their site.  You do not need to download software, go through a lengthy setup process, apply patches or worry about updates.  Just go to PicMonkey.com, upload your picture and you are ready to start editing.

No Registration Required

 It seems like every webpage I go to these days requires registration.  I create a username and password; enter in my email, birthday, zip code, etc.  For some sites I spend more time registering than actually browsing.   Inevitably, I wind up forgetting my username and/or password, which then leads to the lengthy process of username/password recovery.  I appreciate and even depend on these security measures from my financial institutions and online merchants, but that is where my tolerance ends.

At PicMonkey no such registration is required (unless you upgrade and purchase a subscription).  Just upload and go.

Easy to Use

This is software that I felt comfortable using within a few minutes.  Everything on this site is clearly defined and labeled.  The site is easy to navigate and understand.  There is no need to buy a book or watch a ten part Youtube video series on “how to use PicMonkey.com”.  They even have few short tutorials on their webpage to help you get started.  Within minutes you’ll feel like a PicMonkey expert.

Click here for PicMonkey.com tutorials.

Enhance Your Photographs

I found a few dull and hazy photographs on my computer and one at a time I uploaded them onto PicMonkey.com.  With just a few clicks, the oceans were bluer, the grass greener and the sky more vibrant.  All of a sudden they weren’t my usual point and shoot photographs, they were works of art (at least to me they were).  My confidence as a photographer quickly skyrocketed.  I soon felt like the next Annie Lebowtiz.

(FYI:  I usually make a copy of my original photographs and make all of my alterations to the copy.  This way if I do not like the changes I have made, I always have the original, untouched photograph to fall back on.)

Here are a few ways your photographs can be altered:

Imagine Size

You can crop your photos in the Basic Edits selection.  You can customize the size or choose preset dimensions.

Imagine Orientation

You can rotate your image by the standard 90 degree rotations.  You can straighten your image (so that it is not crooked).  Pictures can also be reversed and flipped upside down.

PicMonkey sarah Collage

Color

The color temperature and saturation can be changed in the Basic Edits section. You can also alter your image with over twenty different special effects.  Among them are a few classical effects like sepia (brown and white) and black and white.  There are some retro effects like yester-color, which gives the image a 1970’s color tone.  Cross process allows you to change the original undertones of your photographs to blue, green or red.  Then there is my favorite effect, Orton, which inexplicably illuminated my photos.  I wish I could tell you exactly what the Orton effect does, but I can not.  I only know that when I selected it and played around with the sliders, colors became vibrant and my photos took on a certain glow.

PicMonkey Penguin Collage

This is a before and after photograph of penguins at the zoo. The color was enhanced and fake snow and text were added.

Sharpness 

You can sharpen or soften a picture to make an image more appealing.  Softening or blurring a portrait can give it an almost airbrushed effect.  It lessened my crow’s feet and frown lines thus making me look a few years younger.  This tool is a must for anyone addicted to posting selfies on Facebook.

Focal Point

You can also change the focal point within your image, so that one section is highlighted, while everything else takes on a blurred effect.

Red-Eye Remover 

You will find Red-Eye Remover in the Touch-Up section.  Use this tool to correct the pesky problem of red eyes.

Touch-ups

We’ve all heard about the models and actresses who are airbrushed.  The cellulite on their legs miraculously disappears, their stomachs are instantly toned and gorgeous, cheekbones are created out of thin air. Their skin is made flawless, with blemishes vanishing in just a click.  I’ve always fanaticized about software like that, especially when I look at my post partum pictures (well, only the ones where my babies are 9 months old and I’m still carrying an extra 15 pounds).  Although I have never found software that can turn me into a super model, PicMonkey.com does have a touch-up feature that will enhance natural beauty.

Most of the effects in Touch-Ups are for subscribers (Royale customers only).  A few options, like blemish fix, blush boost, teeth whitening, lip tint, eye brow pencil, eye shadow, red eye removal and weight loss are all free and can be use to make yourself a little bit more glamorous.   These options were fun to play around with, but yielded crude results.  This fact shouldn’t stop you from playing around with these tools, just don’t expect to change a Picasso into a John Singer Sargent.

 

Adding Text

Adding exciting text is always a fun way to liven up greeting cards, scrapbooks, stationary, logos, memes etc.  It is rare these days to find editing/design software that has interesting pre-installed fonts.  Boring and predictable fonts are plentiful, but good luck trying to find an elegant script, a playful scribble or a strong and gallant print.  This has been a constant and reoccurring problem that I have faced for years.  Many hours have either been spent trying to find new ways to make classic fonts (Arial, Times New Roman, Garamond, etc.) look appealing or trying to download and install new fonts onto my computer.

Thankfully PicMonkey.com has a solution to this predicament.  They have a huge collection of fun and unique font styles readily available in their font toolbar.  Their fonts range from elegant to spooky, so whatever tone you hope to establish in your design is without a doubt achievable.  The selection process is further simplified as the font name acts as a font sample.  Text is easy to insert, modify and move around.  Text modifications can be made at any time by merely clicking the text box area. This means that color, size, positioning and transparency are impermanent.

 

PicMonkey California Collage

Before and after photographs of an image that was altered at PicMonkey.com The colors in the photo were enhanced. Text and a graphic were also added.

Create Original Designs

Along with photo editing, you can also create your own graphic designs.  This is a great tool for anyone who wants to let their imagination run wild.  Armed with text and cute graphics, there are no limits to this feature.  You can use it to create homemade greeting cards, note cards, stationary or anything else your mind can think of.

The design process begins with an image that you upload or a blank canvas.    You can change the size of your canvas by selecting the crop tool.  Along with a large variety of predetermined sizes (4 X 5, 8 x 10, facebook timeline, etc.), you can also add custom dimensions.  If you choose a blank canvas, you can change your background color in the Canvas Color section.  Then travel on over to Text, Overlays, Frames, Textures and Themes to create your own tour de force.

There are a variety of themes to choose from.  A useful theme for homeschoolers is the School U Theme.  Some of these textures include a chalkboard, crumbled paper and graphing paper.  Graphics are also available like scissors, pencils, an apple, correction marks (X’s and check marks) and awards (trophies, ribbons, plaques).  Additional themes include: winter, birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Halloween.

PicMonkey Valentines Collage

A variety of Valentines Days cards created at PicMonkey.com

 

Collages Galore 

PicMonkey has a wide array of collage templates.  This feature allows you to upload several photos at once and arrange them within one of their layouts or you can choose to customize one yourself.  It was with the custom option that I created a birth announcement.

Unlike the photo editing and graphic design sections, I found collages to be a little bit trickier.  After several attempts at creating an announcement, I came to the conclusion that it is best to edit all photos before placing them into the collage.  If you decide to edit you photos afterwards, they will be treated as one unit instead of individual images. With a little practice, I soon found great success with my collage, as you can see by my finished product.

 

Baby Announcement

This baby announcement was created at PicMonkey.com.

 

Endless Possibilities  

There is no limit to what this software can do.  This is a great site for anyone with a photograph and an imagination.  PicMonkey.com can be used for yearbooks, labels, Christmas cards, birth announcements, party invitations, scrap books, greeting cards, stationary and much more.  If you have an idea, you can probably make it happen.

Of course no piece of software is perfect.  After using PicMonkey.com for a while, I did become frustrated with some of its tools and features. I did have a lot of trouble with the touch-up tools.  I tried removing blemishes, but that was ineffective.  Then I tried adding lipstick and blush and in the end I looked more like a clown than anything else. Another issue was that different tools used different types of color pickers and none of them seemed to allow a user to enter in their own HEX value.  I was constantly trying to recreate colors with my pointer instead of just typing in a value.  In addition, you can not save a project and come back to it later.  Make sure you sit down to PicMonkey.com when you have a good block of time.  Prepare to see a project through from beginning to end; because once you close out your browser, your session is gone.

Other than these minor flaws, what you see is what you get.  PicMonkey is a great resource for anyone wanting to do some fast and interesting editing/creating.

Now that you know about PicMonky.com, what will your next project be?

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