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PixelSquid – add 3D objects to your photos

This app makes photo compositing a breeze – finally, you can add dinosaurs to those wedding snaps

Price: Free
IAP: None
Version: 1.3
Size: 93 MB
Developer: TurboSquid, Inc.


Update! We first wrote about this photo manipulation app four years ago – has time been kind to PixelSquid?

So what’s new? Not much, unfortunately. Just a single update in the last four years, as the app sadly seems to have been abandoned by its developers. The interface is a little dated, with letterboxing on X-style iPhones, and the criticisms we had back in 2016 haven’t been addressed. That said, the app still works in iOS 13, and the compositions you can create look as good as ever. Despite a huge leap in the quality of photo editing apps since PixelSquid launched, there’s still nothing quite as effective for adding realistic 3D objects into a scene – especially when you consider the app is entirely free with no IAP.

Revised rating: Showing its age, but still packs a punch. ★★★½


Our original review, written in June 2016, is presented in its entirety below.

Ever wanted to turn your family into a team of superheroes, pimp out your garage with the finest supercars, or see how you’d look with fairy wings and a tiara? Of course you have. Realistic photo composites used to require complex Photoshop wizardry to achieve, but PixelSquid allows you to easily add objects to your photos without the need for expensive software or technical know-how. Drop objects into the scene, paint away the hidden parts and color-match the finish until it fits perfectly into your photo. The only limit is your creativity! (And the size of the object library.)


We’ve been adventuring…

The app provides an impressive array of three-dimensional objects to drag-and-drop into your scene. This is where PixelSquid is so much better than alternative compositing tools, as each model is fully rotatable to help match the angle and perspective of the original photograph. Anyone who’s ever tried manually cutting an object out of a photo to splice onto another one will appreciate how much easier it is when your models come perfectly rendered with no background. It’s as easy as adding a sticker, but the effects can be so much more compelling.

Once you’ve chosen your object, it’s time to place it into the scene. Swiping with one finger rotates the object around a central point, to allow you to match the angle to the shot. Swiping with two fingers allows you to move the model, while pinching with two fingers will alter its size. Next, it can be blended into the scene with detailed color adjustments, plus blur and opacity sliders to help faraway objects look more natural. Finally, if you’ve placed the object “behind” an element of the original image, you can use the erase brush tool to mask out any parts of the object that would be obscured.

This all adds up to a powerful tool for blending rendered objects into existing scenes, but the pleasingly simplistic interface can’t disguise the fact that a few more functions wouldn’t go amiss. Simple things, too: PixelSquid is sorely missing undo and redo controls, the erase brush could be more precise, and there’s no option to mirror objects. Most crucially, there are no options to adjust the intensity or direction of the pre-rendered shadows; more control over light and shade would do wonders for believably merging these models into the background. Finished compositions are easily saved or shared, though sadly there’s an unremovable PixelSquid watermark in the lower right of the image – it would be nice to at least have the option of paying to remove it.


We had a bit of help moving offices recently

Extra content is split into themed add-on packs, which provide a whole host of new objects to play with. There’s a good range of packs, from guns and tanks to dinosaurs and skeletons. Moving up in scale there are architectural landmarks and even planets to play with, and we’re also treated to unofficial packs based on Star Wars, The Avengers, Disney Princesses and Game of Thrones. Some of the models are very high quality – almost photorealistic – while others take a more cartoony approach. The available collections pale in comparison to what’s available for desktop use from the PixelSquid website, but it’s still a very decent and varied selection. There’s a lot here and, refreshingly, it’s all free!

That said, we were a little disappointed with the interface for choosing objects to add to your scene, as the only way to navigate the extensive library is by scrolling blindly through a long, unordered list. No search, no filters, not even headings to separate the content packs. Add to that the fact that these storage-heavy packs (~100 MB each) can’t be deleted once downloaded and you’ve got a library interface that leaves a lot to be desired.


Scrolling through hundreds of objects is a bit of a pain

PixelSquid is the little sister of TurboSquid, the world’s leading marketplace for 3D models. This project transfers their experience in 3D to make it possible for non-techies to get creative with photo manipulation in a fun and intuitive way. A few interface improvements would go a long way, but even in its current state PixelSquid is a very powerful tool and we can’t quite believe all this content is completely free. The fact is that this is an extremely fun app, despite its limitations. If you have the slightest interest in photo editing, download this app.