MonoPhix Creates Monochrome Effects on the Cheap
Some of Monophix's filters create interesting effects. There are two that turn photos into pencil sketches and others that will turn an image into a black-and-white negative, solarize it or impose a dot pattern to make it look like an old newspaper photo that's been enlarged. There's also an edgy filter that produces a kind of high-contrast gothic print.
Monophix is a Mac app by Phixsoft, and is available for US$4.99 from the Mac App Store.
For many digital shutterbugs, the simple black-and-white filter included with most cameras these days meets their needs for dabbling with monochrome photography. For those who find that a tepid option, there are always the more sophisticated offerings found in high-end post-capture programs like Photoshop and Aperture. MonoPhix offers an alternative to those extremes, though.
Users of Apple's mobile devices may recognize the MonoPhix brand. Belgian-based Phixsoft broke in the app on those devices. The Mac version of the software, however, has more and better features.
For example, it has more filters and presets to save you time getting just the right effects. Vignetting effects can be more finely tuned, too. It also costs more: $4.99 instead of 99 cents for the iOS version.
When you bring a photo into MonoPhix, it appears in the program as a black-and-white image. You can then edit the image using tools at the top of the screen.
Tools of the Trade
The tools are organized in two groups at the top of the window. A group at the left lets you open files, save edited images and share them with users of the MonoPhix in the Phix Cloud.
When you share a picture you've edited, you can add a comment to it, and if you choose to, share information about the adjustments you made to it and the EXIF data about the shot.
EXIF data is typically automatically attached to a photo taken with a digital camera. It includes information such as camera model, time and date a shot was taken, and such.
The tool group at the right of the window allows you to apply filters and processes to an image, vignette it and manipulate its color.
The filter gallery is divided into preset and solid filters. There are 16 preset filters. They allow you to create harsh shadows in an image or bleach it out. Bleaching effects can be applied to the image as a black-and-white or to its native color palette.
Preset filters can also emulate printing on specialty papers and vignette a photo. There are three vignette filters -- a traditional one, a softer one and one that keeps the center of an image in focus while slightly blurring the rest of the picture.
Other preset filters add noise and antiquing to an image, as well as splashes of color -- red, green, or blue -- to it.
The solid filters in the program are a bit kitschy. For instance, there's a stereo filter that will make you reach for a pair of 3D glasses to try to bring the picture into focus and a "glass" filter that fractures a photo into shards. There's also a "pop" filter that doesn't appear to do much but hide whatever is in a photo behind an impenetrable fog.
Some solid filters do create interesting effects. There are two that turn photos into pencil sketches and others that will turn an image into a black-and-white negative, solarize it or impose a dot pattern to make it look like an old newspaper photo that's been enlarged. There's also an edgy filter that produces a kind of high-contrast gothic print.
After applying a preset filter to a photo, you can refine the filter effect with the software's processing, vignetting and coloring controls.
There are two sets of processing controls. The basic set allows you to make changes in a filter's intensity, as well as other adjustments. Using slider controls, you can alter the intensity of the light and dark shades in an image. Those intensity adjustments can be made throughout the whole photo or to individual colors -- red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and yellow.
Other adjustments can be made from the basic tab, too. There are also slide controllers for adjusting the monochromatic intensity in an image, adding noise to it, manipulating its contrast, exposure and brightness and posterization, as well as altering its sharpness and blurring.
The other set of processing controls are similar to the basic ones. However, they're used to refine the intensity of shades of red, blue or green an image.
Just as the intensity in a photo can be controlled, MonoPhix also lets you control vignetting effects you apply to an image. Not only can you control the vignetting, but the focus in a shot, too.
Controls available from the vignette tab let you adjust the radius and smoothness of the vignetting in a photo, as well as its focal point. So with the controls you can determine how much of the photo is framed by vignetting, how much will be in focus and how much will be blurred.
You can also move the vignetting and focus area up and down, left and right, with horizontal and vertical controls.
MonoPhix also includes a number of color presets. They let you add additional black-and-white, sepia and antiquing effects to a photo, as well as add, subtract and multiply them.
For shutterbugs with a yen to dabble in monochrome effects, but who don't want to invest in an elaborate photo-editing program, MonoPhix is a good alternative. Although some of its preset effects have dubious utility, it gives a photo editor lots of controls to fine-tune the effects applied to any photo.