FotoSketcher

The popularity of Instagram led to a new market for apps that do clever things with photos – the likes of Prisma, for instance – and free Windows app FotoSketcher brings very much the same idea to the desktop.

With a few clicks of your mouse, you can transform a mundane photo into something really special. It doesn't matter if you're not comfortable using powerful photo editing software – the program takes care of all the complex processing, letting you create something spectacular.

Fotosketcher's ease of use and range of filters is impressive, but that's not all it has to offer. In addition to its realistic simulation of traditional media, it can also be used as a basic photo editor. All the essential tools you would expect can be found here: rotating, cropping, contrast adjustment, automatic color level tweaking and so on.

If you want to get really adventurous, FotoSketcher even supports scripting, enabling you to apply several effects to an image in one go.

There really isn't very much to complain about with FotoSketcher, but some users might be disappointed by the fairly limited number of image formats that creations can be saved in – JPEG, PNG or BMP only.

User experience

FotoSketcher is a joy to use from start to finish. The main screen is split into two, with the left side showing the source image and the right providing a preview of the results based on the filters and effects you've selected.

When you're ready to get creative, hit the artist's palette button and take your pick from a wide range of drawing styles to give your image a unique look. Each effect is ripe for tweaking and tinkering; for example, you can select the minimum size of brush strokes, the precision of oil pastels and the length of pencil lines. You also have the option of adding a frame and choosing a canvas texture. The effects are surprisingly convincing, and even the completely uninitiated will be able to create something impressive very quickly.

If you want to experiment, you can try using a manual brush to apply an effect to just a portion of your photo; this gives you the option of using multiple effects on a single image. If you're particularly enamored with an effect, batching processing means you can apply it to a set of photos at once.

If you choose the watercolor setting you'll see your converted picture being built up using layers of brushstrokes as it's converted – a particularly nice touch that you'll appreciate if your PC is a little slow and conversion takes a while.

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