Retro Image Editing with 8Bit Photo Lab

Do you sometimes long for the pixilated blocky graphics from your youth? Yea, me too. Well, Android users rejoice. You can create your own 8-bit works of art with 8Bit Photo Lab from Ilixa.


8Bit Photo Lab is a free app that allows you to adjust the color, resolution, and dithering of your photo to give it the look of the pixilated screens from the 80s. There are several pre-set filters to get you started including filters that mimic the look of the green screened Commodore, the sepia tones of a Gameboy, or even the multicolor output of the Apple II. I felt like I was back in grade school playing Tass Times in Tonetown on the old Apple IIe. Browse the slideshow to see my examples some effects.

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In addition to the pre-set filters, there are a wide variety of controls so you can continue to manipulate the color, resolution, and dithering. You can even introduce the banding of a CRT screen and some image glitching. It is fun to try out the different controls to see how it changes your image.

8Bit Photo Lab editing screen.
8Bit Photo Lab editing screen.

The editing interface is very easy to use. When you are done, you can save your images to your device or share them out on social media.


The free app is probably good enough for you photo dabblers out there. For the rest of you, you might want to upgrade to the pro version for a mere $2.49. This gives you a bunch more presets, pallets, and effects, as well as more control over the settings. The pro version also gives you a higher output resolution.

Other Apps by Ilxia

If the name Ilxia sounds familiar, it is because I already reviewed their app Mirror Lab. You can read my review here. They have another fun photo editing app called Mosaic Art Lab.

Mosaic Art Lab is, again, a free app with pro upgrades available for $4.49. The interface is similar and as easy to use as 8Bit Photo Lab and Mirror Lab. One of the features I like in Mosaic Art Lab is the Random button. The Random button will select a random image on your device and apply a random filter. Using it you tend to get some amazing happy accidents.

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In the Classroom

In the post about Mirror Lab, I listed several ways you could use the app in the classroom.  For example…

  • Explore the different filters and have your students all create a different image based off of one starter image.
  • Build student visual literacy skills and have students create images based on different emotions. Have them write about why each image represents each emotion. Make sure they use their visual vocabulary.

Those ideas hold true for both of these apps as well. You could also…

  • Create some of your own images and have the students use them as starter images for stories, poems, or musical compositions.
  • 8 Bit Lab would be a great tool for having students create images that go along with their favorite sci-fi stories.
  • App-smash and try using a combination of the three apps to layer on special effects. Granted, this is also a great time to discuss the trap of over-editing an image.

For me, anything that gets your students taking and editing photos while building their creativity is fantastic!

Ilxia has developed a wonderful suite of editing apps that are fun and easy to use. Whether you use them in the classroom or use them to create your own art, they are all worth exploring.  Download them all today and start creating! Share your art in the comments. I’d love to see what you and your students create.

Works of Art with your Phone using Mirror Lab

Today I decided to take a little time to explore my artistic side and see what I can create using Mirror Lab. Mirror Lab by Ilixa is an app for Android and iOS that gives you the ability to turn your pictures into kaleidoscope, fractal, geometric, and glitchy works of art. You can get started with the free version and upgrade to pro if you need the extra functionality. I did all of my manipulations using the free version.


Edit screen on Mirror Lab
Edit screen on Mirror Lab

Using the app, you can take photos from your phone and apply a wide variety of special effect filters. These are not your typical Instagram filters, these filters add special effects such as mirror images and multiple mirrors to create unique works of art. To begin, open a photo and choose your filter. Each filter has different settings. You can also move the image around to create different effects.

The beauty and simplicity of this app is addicting. I spent a few hours playing around with the different effects on several images that were on my phone.

According to the app information page, there are over 50 different filters and effects you can apply. If that is not enough for you, for $4.99 you can go pro and add a bunch more.

After you are done creating your image, you can save your image. In the free version, you save the image as a JPEG. Upgrading to pro gives you the ability to save as a PNG. The Pro version also bumps up your working resolution from 3 Megapixels to 12.

Image Examples

Here are a few side-by-side comparisons of a starting image and different filters.

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In the Classroom

The obvious use in the classroom is to create amazing images. Here are a few ways to use Mirror Lab in the classroom.

  • Explore the different filters and have your students all create a different image based off of one starter image.
  • Build student visual literacy skills and have students create images based on different emotions. Have them write about why each image represents each emotion. Make sure they use their visual vocabulary.
  • Have students take pictures of their world. A picture of something familiar and have them use the filters to make the familiar into something different.
  • Take pictures of ordinary objects. Use the filters to change the images. Have students build their inquiry skills and see if they can figure out what was in the original picture. Have them support their thoughts with evidence.

These are just a few ways you could use this app with students.

Whether you want to use the app for your own creative pleasure or you are going to use it with your students, Mirror Lab is an excellent create app. It is easy to use and fun to see your images transform into something amazing.

Have you created works of art with Mirror Lab? Share your images in the comments.


360 Images Made Easy with Google Cardboard Camera

I have lamented before about how I do not have a 360o camera. In fact, I complained about it extensively in my Google VR Tour Creator post. It makes it difficult to hop on the 360o image bandwagon and create VR experiences. However, I did find that the Google Cardboard Camera app that helps to satisfy my 360o cravings.

App Overview

The Google Cardboard Camera is a very simple app that allows you to create 360o images with or without sound. These images are saved to your device, or in Google Photos so you can use them in other applications such as Google VR Tour Creator. This app is available for both Android and Apple products.

For a free app using your phone’s camera and not a real 360o camera, these are not bad. When you take a picture, a center line guides you as you rotate to capture your surroundings. If you go too fast, the app will tell you too slow down. When complete, you have a super panoramic image.

Using my phone’s camera, the center of the image looks pretty good, not a lot of distortion or vertical banding. However, it doesn’t capture a really wide angle top to bottom. So, it is not true 360o, more like 270o. You can see my full image below.

360 view of Chicago on Columbus
360 view of Chicago on Columbus

When viewed through a Google Cardboard or other VR viewer, it looks pretty cool.

My VR View
My VR View

In the Classroom

Your students will really enjoy this app. It is a great tool for them to get started with creating their own virtual field trips. Using their devices they can quickly and easily take pictures and then use them in other applications.

If you are looking for a high quality 360o camera alternative, this is obviously not it. If you are looking for a free tool to get you started in creating 360o images and VR, then this is most certainly something to try.

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 4 Adobe Express (formally Spark Post)

Updated on 9/15/2022 – Adobe Spark has become Adobe Express. Find it here –

Day 4 Adobe Spark Post

If you have been on any form of social media today, chances are you have seen them. Those inspirational quotes set on an ethereal photo background. Chances are you might have even shared one. It’s OK. I don’t judge. How would you like to make your very own?

Magic between the busy
Photo Quote created using Adobe Spark Post. Photo credit, Kristin Brynteson (me!)

I’ve been having a lot of fun creating my own picture quotes using Adobe Spark‘s Post app. Adobe Spark is a free suite of visual storytelling tools from Adobe. The web-based version has three tools for creating and sharing posts, videos, and web pages. On iOS devices, each feature is a separate app. I’m going to focus on Post for now. We’ll look at the other two apps in a later post.

Adobe Spark Post makes creating visually appealing graphics quick and easy. A username and password are necessary to use this app. You can log-in with an Adobe ID, Google login, your Facebook credentials or create a new account using your email address. Personally, I use my Adobe ID so it seamlessly connects to my Adobe Creative Cloud.

All of my featured images on this blog have been created using Adobe Spark Post. to get started, you first write your quote. From there, Spark assembles an initial image that includes text formatting and a background image. Let me step you through a creation. We’ll edit the image above and change things up a bit.

Once you enter your favorite quote, the visual fun begins. Using the Design tab, you can select a pre-created design that best fits the feel of your quote. Use the design as is or continue to make it your own using the other tabs.

Select from a variety of design styles. Us as is or as a place to start customizing.

The Layout tab lets you change the size and shape of your graphic. It also gives you the ability to create multi-image graphics.

Use the Layout tab to change the size of your image. Chose from popular presets.

Change the color scheme of your design using the Palette tab. You can randomly assign colors to different elements of your graphic and customize the color scheme by selecting your own colors.

Change your color scheme.

Adobe Spark will initially select a background image from a library of openly licensed images. You can change the image to a different stock photo or use one of your own masterpieces for complete creative control. I love that all the images and graphics used in Adobe Spark are openly licensed. If you are using this with students, it is the perfect time to have that conversation about copyrighted images and being a good digital citizen. Read this blog post about copyright and digital citizenship from Common Sense Media.

Change the background image using openly licensed images or your own.

There are also many options customizing text. From different fonts to shape overlays – good luck not spending at least an hour making your text look just right.

Text Tab
Edit Text using the Text menu.

There are additional customization tools that can help you create beautiful graphics that are completely tweetable! Projects are autosaved and you can go back and edit a project at any time.

Speaking of tweeting, when you are done with your image, you can share it through your favorite social media channels or download it to use elsewhere. Like on your blog.  Adobe also has a public user gallery. You choose if your image is discoverable through their gallery or turn of the option and keep your images private.

In the Classroom

There are so many ways you can use Spark Post in your classroom. All of the customization features make it the perfect tool for building visual literacy skills. As students adjust the look of their graphic, talk with them about how those visual changes impact the overall message. The background image, font style, and color choices are all part of what their graphic says to a viewer. Have them play around with different elements to change the meaning of their text.

Here are a few additional ideas for how to use Post with your students.

  • Create visual poetry
  • Two sentence visual horror stories
  • Create a visual quote that reflects who they are (personal mottos)
  • Create visual quotes from a book they are reading that fits the mood of the character
  • Motivational posters
  • Posters of vocabulary words

The list is only limited by your imagination. Since the final products can be downloaded as images, you can import them into a video app (such as Adobe Spark Video) to create movies or music videos. Or print the images and hang them around your classroom. Again, the possibilities are endless.

If you are using Post with students, be sure to take a look at the Guide for Educators. Adobe does a nice job walking you some best practices for using this with students of all ages. When I use any of the tools from this suite in the classroom I approach it in one of two ways depending on my learners. If they already have Google accounts, we use those. This gives each learner their own project space. If I am doing a quick workshop, I use one login. I’ve created an account for this purpose. Everyone uses that login and works within the same project gallery. This has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you can access all of the projects with one log-in. On the downside, the students can access all of the projects. This can be good but could also be bad if you have a mischievous student.

There are a couple other negatives (that is really a harsh word for a such a solid app). Becuase it autosaves, it is easy to over edit an existing design. There is not a revert function that I have found. Since I am usually demoing how this app works, I have gone into completed projects and ruined them by showcasing editing features and losing my original design. Granted, if I have already downloaded the graphic, it still lives on.

The final negative is that as of right now, there is no Android app. Only the web-based tool and the three iOS apps. Since all of my work tablets are Android, that makes me sad. However, there may be hope. Last I heard, Adobe is working on apps for us Android users. Yay! Hurry up, please!! 🙂

Despite the few negatives, I love Adobe Spark Post more than I can say. It has so many uses. With Post, anyone can create amazing graphics that will make their viral quote photo dreams come true.

Have you created graphics using Adobe Spark Post? Share them in the comments!




30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 2 Snapseed

Day 2: Snapseed

I love to take pictures. When I travel, my trusty SLR is usually by my side. My go-to editing tool is Photoshop, of course. However, over the past several years I have become fascinated with mobile photography. That amazing technology in our pockets can take incredible pictures. And is a lot easier to carry than my SLR beast. As we take more pictures with our mobile devices, we can also move the editing from our desktops to our phone. Photoshop has a very nice app – Photoshop Express. I’ll write about that one at a later date. Today I want to talk about Google’s addition to the mobile photo editing apps – Snapseed. Snapseed is available for both IOS and Android.

What can you do with Snapseed?

HDR Scape filter applied to top image. Original is on the bottom.

What can’t you do with Snapseed? This is a solid photo editing tool. You can use the basic tools to tune the exposure and color of your image. You can crop and rotate. They also have more advanced editing tools such as Curves, White balance, and a Healing tool. The fun begins with the more creative tools. One of my favorites is the HDR Scape. This filer boots tones and saturation for a more vivid image. (Warning – it can be overdone making your images look over-processed but it can be fun to play with.) The image to the right shows a before and after HDR Scape image. The top image is a bit overdone in this example but when done right, the HDR Scape filter can create a lovely image in a few simple steps.

Top right is the original.

Other creative effects include Grung, Retrolux, Black and White, Grainy Film and Noir. Each of the creative filters can be adjusted and modified allowing for a great deal of creative freedom. As an avid Photoshop user, I’m used to having total control over my images but don’t always have the time or patience to create multi-layered special effects. Snapseed is the right amount of canned filters and effects mixed with enough manual adjustments to make a photo control freak like me happy. Also, I can do it all right on my phone. No need to download the images from my phone and do my editing to my desktop. Easy and convenient. What’s not to love?

Swen Parson Hall
Multiple filters added to create the final image on right.

Along with the creative filters, you can add vignetting, create tilt-shift images, and apply fun frames. Snapseed recently added new tools for making sure your selfies and portraits look amazing. Including eye enhancing tricks and portrait lighting adjustments. You can even change the angle of your face so you have just enough head tilt. I find this feature both cool and creepy. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.

There are a few drawbacks to this tool, but not many. If you like to make collages with your images, this app is not for you. There are many collage apps out there so don’t be afraid to app smash. These photos were modified with Snapseed and the collages were made using Google Photos. Unlike Photoshop, you cannot work with multiple layers which limits the type of special effects and composites you can create. But, it’s not that type of editing tool. Also, there is no desktop version of this app. You need a mobile device to take advantage of the creative tools. (I’ll talk about my favorite web-based Photoshop alternative in a future post.)

Overall, this is a solid app for photo editing. Best of all, it is free! It is also simple enough for students to use. There is a very low learning curve but also a lot of advanced features to keep even the most advanced users happy.

So get out those phones, capture the world around you, and use Snapseed to make the images magical.