When I first covered Pixlr Express a few days ago, I noted that the presence of a photo editing app was odd in Autodesk's lineup of powerful tools. Having developed apps like ForceEffect, 360 Mobile, and AutoCAD WS, you'd think Autodesk was marketing to power users who want to design, edit, animate, and engineer from the palm of their hand. Still, Autodesk's first foray into the mobile photo editing world – Pixlr-o-matic – was a hit. So much so, it appears, that Autodesk brought to market Pixlr Express.

Despite its name, the only thing "express" about Autodesk's new tool is the speed with which users can edit, manipulate, and overlay photos using a wide library of tools (when I say "wide," I refer to its selection of 600+ effects). Its functionality is not as retouch-oriented as, say, PhotoShop Touch, but it is much more complex than other on-the-go editors like Instagram or even Autodesk's own Pixlr-o-matic.

Personally, I don't have much use for photo overlays or dramatic vintage effects, and for most of my on-the-go photo editing, I enjoy Android's built-in editing options (especially in 4.2), but past that, Pixlr Express actually offers a lot of quick editing functions that Android doesn't, which – in my book – makes it pretty handy. Let's take a closer look.

Overall Interface

Using Pixlr Express is about as easy as it gets – the startup screen lets you choose whether to take a new photo or edit an existing image, and has a short settings menu for adjusting backend functionality. You can even have the app start up as a camera.

Once inside the editing interface, every option is a simple, clickable square. Sometimes you'll get more squares that smoothly glide out of the background, other times you'll have adjustment sliders that do just what you'd think.

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"Adjustment" is the tile under which all the real photo editing action happens. Users can do things like sharpen, remove noise, fix red eye, whiten teeth, 'touch up' (which is somewhat similar to Photoshop's spot heal), do creative tilt/shift blur, crop, and a ton more. The selection, which is itself impressive, is especially great because all of the functions can be executed in seconds.

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Again, the app's interface is incredibly simple, so there's not too much to talk about in that regard – just click the tile you want, make any adjustments you see fit, and hit "apply" or "cancel".





If Pixlr Express' selection of adjustments is strong, its selection of manipulation effects is simply crazy. For the sake of word economy, I'll lump three of Pixlr's categories into the "Effects" heading – Effect, Overlay, and Border.

Effect is just what it sounds like – this is where you'll find your vintage/hipster filters. It's a section reminiscent of Instagram, except that Instagram's selection can't hold a candle to that of Pixlr. Once you choose an overarching effect category (like "Default," or "Subtle") you'll see a list of variations, all named after people for easy recognition. Then again, you can always remember your favorite effects by adding them to your – you guessed it – Favorite list. Each effect also has its own adjustment slider, so you can make your image as bold or as subtly filtered as you wish.

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Overlays, likewise, are just what their name implies. Some of these (like leaking) could better fit into the "effect" category, but most of them are true overlays – some of them, like vignette, are pretty standard. Others, like Tie Dye, Retro Poster, etc., are unique and really pretty cool. With great overlays, however, come great responsibilities. It's really easy to go overboard with these effects. Once you choose an effect, though, you can select from a slew of variations, and adjust them just like with the effects. Pixlr even allows rotating, flipping, and fading of effects, again allowing for almost infinite possibilities.

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Finally, we come to Border. This, again, offers a ton of options – an overarching tier of border categories, subgroups of those categories, and then individual variations on the theme. Really, the borders are the icing on the Pixlr cake. You've got some adjustments, maybe an overlay or two, and the border selection offers what you need to either push your highly processed photo over the top, or just add a subtle touch. The borders, like everything else, can be adjusted, flipped, and rotated.

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If you're looking to do more than just save your freshly edited photos, you can share them using any sharing method you have installed, from Bluetooth to e-mail, Facebook, and – of course – Instagram. What makes sharing better with Pixlr Express though, is the fact that the app allows you to choose what size the file will be saved at – small, medium, or large. While it isn't a full fledged compression menu as seen in Photoshop, it's a great touch.


Pixlr Express' sharing capabilities, in this writer's opinion, pretty much relegate the role of apps like Instagram to that of a pass-through for the social network.


If you're looking for an app that will allow you to do a lot, a little, or anything in between to your photos in seconds, your solution is here in Pixlr Express. For heavier editing of bigger images, you'll want a more powerful tool, but if you just want a few tweaks, or if you're a member of the Instagram crowd, Pixlr Express beats the pants off any filter/overlay photo app I've yet used. All that, and it's free on the Play Store. Check it out by hitting the widget below.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Kokusho

    yep, i'm already using it instead of pixlr O matic and it's pure awesomeness !

  • Cebastian Rosing

    I was quite overwhelmed by the options available, awesome filter/editing-app! And it's even easy and fast.

  • Sean Lumly

    I can't be certain, but I would expect this version to be built upon Flash as the web version is.

    • MAtti

      Could you clarify? I don't have Flash installed on my Nexus 7, and this runs fine.

      • Sean Lumly

        Adobe AIR is a cross-platform environment for development that uses flash/flex (actionscript) as well as js/html/etc. It isn't a web-page with a flash plugin, but a way to produce applications that are cross-platform using flash. While you may not have Flash installed on your Nexus 7 as a plugin for the browser, this shouldn't keep you from running an app built using AIR, and by implication, an app that uses the flash runtime.

        AIR is designed to make cross-platform really painless, and it does a pretty good job at that. I wouldn't be surprised if Pixlr (which has a web version built in flash) was built in AIR.

        More info:

        • ericl5112

          This would have taken you literally 12 seconds to test. You need air installed to run air apps. Most people don't have air installed. Still works fine. Thus, not an air app.


          • Sean Lumly

            Nope. It is not true that you need AIR installed to run AIR apps. This is flat out false. AIR allows for something called 'Captive Runtime' that packages the runtime with the app and thus does not need AIR to be installed separately:

            "By far the most exciting feature for me is the new captive runtime support. This allows you to bundle the AIR runtime with your application rather than requiring the user to install it."

            Please only make assertions if you actually know what you are talking about.

          • ericl5112

            Ok, that is new, at 3 months ago. Of course, Pixlr development started long before that (or Autodesk is crazy), and the odds of a developer like autodesk writing an app that 98% of people won't be able to use without installing 2 apps is really low. That's exactly what they would have decided to do before August 8, and even then it' a beta.

          • Sean Lumly

            Good point! Of course, captive runtimes on Android have been available since Aug 2011 (at the time of writing of the article). I'm not sure when Pixlr was launched on Android...

    • ericl5112

      Not likely. That's similar to saying it's based on Objective C like the iOS version. Different platforms calls for different languages. Smart developers understand that, and code with that in mind.

      • Sean Lumly

        Clearly you are not a developer. It is possible (and indeed common) for languages and APIs to extend to many platforms and architectures.

        • ericl5112

          Actually I am a developer. Funny that. Lets me know that you can port code over, and just because you write an app in flash in one area, means you can use other languages elsewhere. It's MAGIC! It's also what many good developers do. Write code with the idea of porting in mind. Just because it's written in one language in one area, doesn't mean it's always in that same language..

          • Sean Lumly

            First, I don't really understand what you're saying, but I think I get the gist.

            I think you are confusing the idea of a language (source code) with a compiled binary. The very purpose of AIR is to write apps in Actionscript, and compile them to run with the flash runtime regardless of the platform that the flash runtime runs on top of. In other words, it's the same "language" being compiled to run in on different OSs and architectures.

            I'm guessing that Pixlr specifically, has been developed on AIR. This may not be true -- it's only a guess.

          • ericl5112

            Almost certainly not true, and yes I know the difference. Or should, considering I am a developer (which you appear to simply have read about them). The fact that you don't understand what I'm saying is...interesting I suppose, reading is a good skill. I think you are holding onto dear life this AIR idea. It's really not a good one. There are lots of signs of an air app, even if they finally added the ability to not have air installed. Excessive size (and that was before it had to basically have the AIR runtime built in now), much less responsive, etc. Basically, all the tell-tale signs of a non-native app. Which, by the way, is exactly why people write in the native language (or as native as Java can be) of an OS. Java for android, Obj-C for iOS, etc.

          • Sean Lumly

            I couldn't understand what you were saying, because of the poorly constructed sentences. But I understand the gist of what you were saying: writing code with portability in mind, even if the language is intended to be ported.

            Size is indeed a very good point which may hint that this is not an AIR app, unless there have been recent optimizations to shrink the size of the flash runtime.

            And the idea of Pixlr being an AIR app is just a guess -- as has been stated numerous times, not an assertion of irrefutable fact. It is certainly a plausible guess.

            It is indeed possible to have smooth apps written in AIR. This is especially true for apps that require very little animation.

            And I am a software engineer with quite a bit of experience. This includes to Actionscript (compiled with Adobe's Java-based Flex compiler on the command line -- and not the flash builder).

  • Matti

    I uninstalled Pixlr-o-matic after I tried this. Much better, overall. Sh*ts all over Instawhatever.
    The settings menu is still kinda fugly, though, but you don't really access it all that much so it isn't a problem.

  • GigiAUT

    I was also a big fan of Pixlr-O-Matic. Even more so when I got a tablet. But I've been playing with this for about a week now and it's amazing. I can't stop trying out different things. I can't believe it's free!

  • http://chrisbauer.org Chris Bauer

    I prefer the interface of Pic Say Pro which, you wouldn't believe based on the way they market the app, is excellent at flexible photo tweaks like adding contrast and customizable vignettes. It even has a faux HDR effect which (if used in moderation!) works very well.

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