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Review: Retype – automated viral poster machine

Retype is a typography photo editor that helps you make cool inspirational poster-like content.

Price: $2.99/£2.29
Size: 55.1 MB
Version: 1.0.1
Developer: Sumoing Ltd

App Store Download button

Retype has a simple, singular purpose: to bring text and photos together to make awesome images. You don’t need to know anything about typography or graphic design: the app does nearly everything for you. Just throw in the basic ingredients and let the magic happen.

You don’t even need to be creative! The app comes preloaded with a great selection of stock photos and a huge library of quotes to get you started. Retype puts in the design work and provides the inspiration, too. Of course, you can use your own text and photos for a more personal touch.


The 15 base styles can be randomly remixed with a press of the refresh button

Retype is remarkably straightforward to use; tap the text to change it, or the picture icon in the top left to choose a new background. The first tab along the bottom is the most important – it allows you to choose your layout, with a nice variety of designs covering a range of graphic styles. Tapping one of these styles will auto-generate a striking text arrangement, with the occasional scroll graphic or faux-vintage icon to spice things up a bit.

Don’t like what you see? Just tap the same style again and it will refresh your design, randomizing the parameters until you get what you’re after. It’s a really nice, instantly satisfying way to explore new ideas. The other tabs offer some further customization: colors, filters and fade/blur/opacity adjustments. Each of these lets you put your own stamp on the design, though it’s a fairly limited pool of tweaks.


You can customize the key colors, but for most images white works best

The photo library content is high quality, if slightly clichéd. Once your photo is loaded – whether from your own library or the app’s – disappointingly there are no further adjustments offered. You can’t crop or zoom your photos; instead everything is shrunk to fit within Retype’s 3:4 aspect ratio, with letterbox borders applied if necessary.

In addition to the stock photos, Retype comes with a preloaded library of hundreds of quotes and sayings that can be summoned at random, ranging from pithy one-liners to motivational speeches. It’s a nice touch.


The filters are standard fare: nice, but not customizable

There are a few nice features which almost go unnoticed to the untrained eye – the photo-inverting ‘mask’ setting hidden next to the opacity slider, the long list of quotes just off the left of the text editing screen, the fact that certain styles let you toggle fill settings by tapping a color selection twice.

None of this is massively obvious, and though the app is generally pretty intuitive, some kind of tutorial or tooltips – however brief – would at least make sure that every feature gets a look-in.


These fine-tuning options can really help your message stand out

One thing sorely missing from the app is the ability to mark particular sections as key phrases. One of the problems with the automated layout process is that you’re relying on random word placement to get your message across; fairly often words like “the” or “of” will be given more prominence than the actual focus of the quote, diluting the impact of the message.

Of course, the random regeneration process means you can keep processing new designs until this isn’t a problem anymore – but it would be really nice to be able to highlight the most important words, or rearrange them manually.


Sharing options are good and the app saves nice, hi-res images

As we’ve come to expect from the developers, the app is well-polished with a smart, friendly interface. Disappointingly though, it lacks the depth of other Sumoing apps like Relook. It’s a powerful app, but doesn’t let you access much of the power for yourself.

Every app like this has to make a choice about where to stand on the line between full user control and total automation – Retype seems to have pitched up a little too close to the automation line. Though its simplicity makes it quicker and easier to get decent results, after a short while the lack of options will frustrate most users.

For quick, eye-catching imagery it’s top of the class. But those who long for depth or customization may wish to look elsewhere.