The dream of the ’90s is alive in the Pasted photo collage app

Launching out of beta today on iOS, Pasted is a throwback to simpler times — when making a collage meant picking up a pair of scissors. It’s an appeal to Gen Xers put off by the overly complicated world of photo apps — or just searching for some inspiration through nostalgia. The app’s primary trait is its simplicity, and its greatest asset upon launch is its connection to perennial indie rock darlings, The Shins.

The app is the first from Spruced LLC, a spin-off of Portland, OR-based creative firm The Brigade — and really, it’s got the vibe of an Instagram based out of that Pacific Northwestern city. The dream of the ’90s is alive on Pasted, and the app is, fittingly, a pretty good way to go about putting birds on things.

Co-founders Zeke Howard and Ben Fogarty say their team was searching for inspiration to launch its first app, when Shins frontman James Mercer approached them with the idea for a simple collage tool.

“I was vacationing with my family in Hawaii, and there’s a little restaurant in Kailua called Buzz’s,” Mercer, a 50 percent partner in Spruced, tells TechCrunch. “It’s probably from the ’50s. Somewhere along the way, one of the owners had cut out some photos of all of the regulars and they had made one of those old-fashioned collages.”

And that’s the basis of the app, really. You start by selecting images from the your camera roll — as many as you want, essentially, all at the same time, and the app cuts them out, collage-style. It uses open-source facial recognition technology to spot people and cut around them accordingly, in a choppy sort of triangle shape. Failing that, it attempts to isolate the focal point.

It then dumps them all on a blank canvas. From there, you can move photos around the page and alter their aesthetic with a right swipe, choosing from nine filters, each playing into the app’s overarching vintage aesthetic, with black and white, sepia tone, Ben-Day dots and the like. Swiping up and down, meanwhile, will adjust the canvas to one of eight colors.

That’s really the strong suit of the app — the simplicity of interaction. “I think the difference is in the gesture-based interface,” says Howard. “Where most everything out there is menu based and there are tutorials, ours we keep as simple as possible.” There are a bunch of stickers and “Paste Packs” to customize things further.

You can add shapes and flowers and sunglasses and generally make the whole thing look like a Lisa Frank binder. That’s also where the company will be monetizing — selling premium content packs for the app.

There’s no built-in social component, here. Instead, the app is designed to create art to share on other social networks like Instagram, along with the requisite hashtags. “A lot of the current collage apps force you to add a lot of things at a time, versus throwing them on there more naturally,” says Fogarty. “It makes the process feel more organic and natural.”

Pasted is definitely simple, and depending on precisely what you’re aiming for in an art app, that could either be its best or worst quality. It’s easy to understand and get started, out of the box, even for those with little technological or artistic knowledge. But even with all of the upcoming feature packs, it may have trouble maintaining feature-hungry users’ attention for much longer than a few goes.

That said, the company is set to launch a broader push highlighting artists’ output with the app in an attempt to show how far that simplicity can go in the right hands.