Flare 2 Review

With the release of Apple's new version of OS X, Yosemite, came a surprise update from the Iconfactory... a new version of their great image styling app for the Mac, Flare.

If you aren't familiar with the original Flare, it allows you to apply and fully customize Instagram-like filters at full resolution. And while there are Photoshop actions that can replicate filter sets, the ease and power of Flare make it a great tool for designers. (And as an added bonus, it's really fun to use.)

Flare 2 improves significantly on the original and adds a pretty clever companion iOS app.

 Flare interface in full screen mode. Notice multiple images open across the bottom.

Flare interface in full screen mode. Notice multiple images open across the bottom.

For me, the biggest improvement is a rethinking of the interface. Presets are to the right and customization is on the left. You can now have multiple images open... a big help when you're trying to apply similar effects to bunch of pictures. And light and dark interface themes are a welcome addition. 

 Flare 2 interface in dark mode.

Flare 2 interface in dark mode.

The new interface makes it easier to find and organize presets. Preloaded effects are on a "Best of" tab. Another tab keeps track of your saved effects. And a third tab keeps track of snapshots — a history that lets you return to previous settings. 

 Simple edit lets you make quick adjustments.

Simple edit lets you make quick adjustments.

Flare 2 adds a new simple edit feature. Simple edit allows the creator of the preset to pick a handful of settings that will impact the filter's effect. And if that doesn't work, then you move into advanced edit. It works well, but will take a little while to figure out exactly which sliders to add to the simple edit popup.

Flare 2 adds a few new filters and effects to the already solid arsenal. And before adding new effects, you can see a preview. It's a nice touch.

 When selecting a new effect to add, Flare 2 gives you a thumbnail preview.

When selecting a new effect to add, Flare 2 gives you a thumbnail preview.

 Access Flare Effects from the Camera Roll.

Access Flare Effects from the Camera Roll.

Completely new is the iOS Flare Effects app. You download the app to your phone, open it and... instructions... The app contains a couple of slides with instructions. Follow the instructions and your Flare effects are available from Camera Roll or Camera app. It's really impressive. I was expecting a full featured app, but Flare Effects takes advantage of iOS 8's extensions to work with the app you already use. It's nice. 

And it automatically syncs all your effects to your phone and groups your favorites together. I'm actually not sure how it syncs the effects. I didn't log in or create an account so I'm assuming it uses iCloud. It's pretty much magic.

I'm thinking more than a handful of social media managers will create a custom look for their Twitter, Instgram and Facebook feeds and then use Flare 2 and Flare Effects to apply it consistantly.

For a limited time, Flare 2 is $9.99 on the app store. Flare Effects for iOS is free. I think it's a great addition to any designer's toolkit for quickly adding effects to images or illustrations. And being able to use your effects on iOS makes Flare even more useful.

FYI: I need to update my presets on my Flare page to more easily work with Flare 2, but they all should work fine. And I plan to add more in the next few weeks.