The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s 2013, over 20 years since Adobe first released Photoshop for the Macintosh, and here I am writing about a simple, yet seductive, photo editing app. Repix, available for iOS, lets you “remix” photos by painting various effects over the original image, akin to functionality offered by numerous Photoshop plugins over the years. It debuted in the App Store just over a week ago and has garnered 1.5 million downloads in the first seven days. That’s pretty impressive growth, no matter which way you paint it.
Along with offering basic photo editing features, such as cropping an image or adjusting saturation, color balance and temperature, the app’s selling point is its suite of brushes that make it possible to turn even mediocre photos into something palatable. Its appeal isn’t dissimilar to the whole photo filters phenomenon that helped fuel the growth of Instagram et al — a phenomenon that Repix’s makers say it builds on and aims to surpass.
After taking a photo or accessing an existing one from your device’s camera roll or your Facebook account, you choose from one of the available brushes and paint over parts or all of an image. The resulting effect can be something as simple as “posterizing” an image, boosting its colour (“Hollywood”, “Vintage”, “Bleach”), adding a lens flare, or painting a master piece in the style of Van Gogh and others. Brushes can be applied on top of one another, too, while Repix also offers an “undo” brush to roll back any edits.
The business model is equally simple. In addition to a selection of free brushes, more styles are available via in-app purchasing at a cost of $1.99 each or in bundles costing $4.99.
So, aside from the appeal of Repix itself, what exactly has been driving downloads? It’s fair to say that the app launched with some decent PR, garnering reviews and mentions on multiple tech and news sites. And PR, at least temporarily, tends to take a life of its own once it reaches a tipping point. Beyond this, however, I’m told that Instagram and social sharing more generally has been a major factor.
Repix isn’t trying to be a photo sharing site. Instead, the app lets users share their creations on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, using the hashtag #repix. In Instagram’s case in particular, it would seem that quite a few users have done so, giving the app a much-needed viral boost. That’s something that Photoshop’s creator, Thomas Knoll, never had at his disposal.