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This article was published on April 17, 2014

Union unmasks the charm of silhouettes and composites

Union unmasks the charm of silhouettes and composites
Jackie Dove
Story by

Jackie Dove


Jackie Dove was in charge of The Next Web's Creativity channel from February 2014 through October 2015. Jackie Dove was in charge of The Next Web's Creativity channel from February 2014 through October 2015.

Sometimes you have a creative vision that the camera alone cannot capture. For that, you have to go into software, where your hand-eye coordination links up with your mind’s eye. There, you can transform your fantasy into reality—or at least try.

Pixite’s Union, launched today on iPhone and iPad, is a photo enhancement app targeted to both amateur and professional artists who want to focus on creating complex visuals that require image stacking, layering, blending, silhouetting, masking, and compositing.

Union 1
Union has a layering sequence for your composites.

Union lets you quickly combine up to three photos for superimposed silhouettes and double-exposures to create your own unique special effects.

Union is part of Pixite’s trio of image editing tools, joining Tangent and Fragment, which have both been updated for compatibility with their new sibling.

Pixite gave me a pre-release copy of Union to take for a spin, and though it took a few tries, I managed to create something I’m not ashamed to show my cat.

The interface is easy to follow. The app accesses your camera roll for foreground, background, and mask images. You can choose from four aspect ratios, and with each module, there are multiple options for slider-based adjustments for brightness, contrast, saturation, and color temperature.

Union 4
Select how the foreground image blends with the background.

Everything goes in order. When you’re done with the background image, you proceed to the foreground, and then to the mask. Once you get the hang of  how the app handles images, you can better choose which pictures to start with.

The Magic Wand allows real-time adjustments, while the brush tool offers solid, gradient, and square brush options, complete with zoomable brush sizes. The Highlight tool reveals where the masks are located.

You don’t have to use only images: you can load a color fill or transparent layer for compositing.

In the final step, users add a mask layer that dictates which parts of the foreground will be removed to create the final blend. The mask layer, which can also be an image, is non-destructive and separate from the foreground image, so nothing is lost in experimentation. You can even swap out the foreground and retain the mask, though the masks’s brush mode locks the foreground image in place.

Union 3
Use the masking features to combine images together.

When you’re satisfied with your picture, you can go ahead and save it to your camera roll, or you can export it to Instagram where a whole other world of polishing edits—not to mention social sharing—awaits. Finished compositions can be saved in full-resolution, exported, and shared via social networks or email.

I have only a couple of minor complaints about this debut. The app works only in portrait orientation, and I hope at some point there’s more flexibility. While I have rather small hands, I still find delicate edits with my fingertips are not finely calibrated enough, especially on an iPhone. If you have a stylus, it will help give you cleaner masks and a more polished result.

Union is available now on Apple’s app store for $1.99. It runs on iOS 7 or later.