AppAlchemy: Fast track your iPhone image processing skills [Review]

If you’re looking to fast track your iPhone image processing skills, AppAlchemy is the best $7 you’ll ever spend.

Created by  Dan Marcolina, the author of the hugely popular iPhone Obsessed book, AppAlchemy focuses on post-processing and experimental image making techniques using iPhone apps. It contains reviews of 40 different apps, details 32 image formulas and contains over 5 hours of video lessons.

Inspirational from the start

AppAlchemy is inspirational from the moment it starts up –  atmospheric music plays as a series of Dan’s impressive experimental images flash across the screen.

The next screen is like a table of contents split into four sections with tabs down the left-hand side.

Image tutorials

The first tab ‘Image tutorials’ features 8 step-by-step tutorials (screenshot below) showing how Dan creates his stunning images.

Image tutorials

The original image and finished image are shown, with a number of steps in-between showing you how to create the image yourself. Each step has its own video tutorial featuring a different app.

Tutorial steps

The video tutorials are well put together and show off Dan’s considerable skill, while at the same time being easy to follow.

You can see a clue to one of the very clever touches in AppAlchemy in the top left of the screenshot above. When  you tilt your iPad to portrait mode, other images that have gone through similar post-processing techniques appear (both before and after shots).

App Reviews

The second tab App Reviews is my favourite part of AppAlchemy. With so many photo and image processing apps in the marketplace, it’s difficult to know which one are worth having and which ones you can pass on.

This indispensable guide cuts out the guess work for you. It features 40 app reviews in eight different categories: Production; Grunge, Light and blur; Toon & graphic; Film looks; Cameras; HDR and AutoFXs.

You can see the App Reviews screen below. Clicking on one of the app icons on this page takes you to a full screen review.

AppAlchemy table of contents

Which apps are reviewed?

There’s a good range of apps reviewed across lots of different categories. Below is a full listing.

Production – Blender, Snapseed, PhotoForge2, PS Express, Photo FX, Lab, Touch ReTouch, Anti Crop, PerfectlyClr, Full Res.
Grunge – ScratchCam, Vintage, ModGrunge, Pic Grunger.
Light and blur – TiltShift, Lens Flare, Blur FX, Big Lens.
Toon & graphic – ToonPAINT, Percolator, Diptic, WordFoto, addLib, Decim8.
Film looks – Plastic Bullet, Dramatic B&W.
Cameras – SlowShutter, BracketMode, Fast Camera, CCD.
HDR – TrueHDR, DynamicLight, pro HDR, SimplyHDR.
AutoFXs – PicFx, Pixlromatic, Jazz, PictureShow, RetroCamera.

I already owned quite a few of the apps listed above, but it was still interesting to watch the video tutorials to see how Dan uses them. His knowledge is displayed effortlessly in each video as he gives you tips and tricks on how to get the most out of each app.

Below you can see the app review of one of my favourite apps TouchRetouch.



On the left hand side, the video tutorial appears in the middle of the iPhone background image – you can easily make it full screen though if you wish. Dan fires up the app and shows you the possibilities it has for iPhone image processing.

On the right hand side, Dan describes each app and provides a useful table of facts underneath it including such information as Pros and cons, Price, Resolution and his rating.

From the right hand side of the page you can also pull out the quick start guide (screenshot below) – handy if you have no internet connection or just want a quick overview of the app without watching the video.

Cheat sheet

An internet connection is required to watch the videos as they are streamed from the Internet. I found even on 3g they download quite quickly and there wasn’t much of a delay.

All of the app reviews have the same clever tilt feature described earlier, though for the apps, a Pinterest board of images processed with this app appears (see below).


Resources and About the author

The last two tabs on the table of contents link to a Resources section (more reviews, resource sites and new images) and to the About the author section where you can learn more about Dan, with links to his website and profiles on social networking sites.

Trailer video

Part app, part book, part video masterclass. Take a look at the trailer video below and see for yourself!

What do I like about AppAlchemy?

Pretty much everything!

Video tutorials

For learning different image making processes using iPhone apps, video is the only way to go. In this app there are over 5 hours of videos. 

App recommendations

With so many similar apps in some categories, it’s hard to know which ones to buy. Dan’s guide takes out the guesswork.


I’ve been playing around with AppAlchemy for a couple of months now and it has opened my eyes to different image processing techniques. It’s actually taken me far longer to write the review for this appbook than I’d ever anticipated, simply because each time I fire it up, I learn about a new app, which I then go and buy from the app store and play around with for the next few days.

The price

App Alchemy is a bargain costing just $6.99 (US) / $7.49 (AUS) / £4.99 (UK). These prices are cheaper than at launch. Grab yourself a bargain!

What don’t I like about it?

At first I found navigating through the app a little confusing until I got used to it.

December 2012 update

Version 1.1 of AppAlchemy was released in December featuring smaller downloads, higher quality images, fixed broken links fixed and bug fixes for iPad 1.

AppAlchemy Pocket

On 6 December, a free iPhone app called AppAlchemy Pocket was launched which brings a taster of these excellent tutorials to iPhone. You can buy the full version of AppAlchemy Pocket in-app for $3.99. AppAlchemy Pocket doesn’t have quite as much content as the iPad version – it features  28 essential apps and 7 image formulas with detailed step by step video tutorials with 3 hours of video tutorials.