Instagram Effects: Free Tools That Give You More Than Instagram

One of the most fun aspects of Instagram, for snap-happy photographers, is the Instagram effects. Others love the social aspect of Instagram and sharing your best photos of your life is fun with others who like and comment on your photos. Once Instagram came out with video, it has never been the same – shooting videos that are short and sweet, but still longer and more satisfying than Vine.

Some of us are not satisfied with just Instagram effects. We want a little something more to put our photographic creations over the edge. That’s where this article comes in. We feature just a handful of apps, both online and mobile, that offer a boatload of features.

If you have a large following on Instagram, then you are probably always trying to take the best photos you can. The cool thing about Instagram is that you can upload photos that are already edited. If you want find a program that takes your Instagram photos to the next level so that you can out-photo your fans, read on.

spiderman - instagram effects

Image taken from and edited on Pixlr

Or perhaps you want those cool Instagram effects on a web browser, where you can edit, download or share as you please. You can also see them online, on bigger screens, in all their Instagram-y glory. If so, I’ve got some sweet apps for you, too.

You can comfortably fall into photo editing nirvana. The featured apps in this article have more filters, more collages, more borders, more effects, stickers, letters, and sharing options. Some are very advanced for a complete customization experience; some are simple and sweet – they do the hard work for you.

If Instagram effects are your thing, but you don’t want to spend all day bouncing your photos between different photo editing tools, then check out these all-in-one tools below.

Instagram Effects Without Instagram


Picfull has Instagram effects and then some. This is a web app only. This free online photo editing tool takes your uploaded picture and can transform with these 21 effects:

Vintage dark: Darkens photo with browns and tans. Brightens background with yellow.

Crazy mirror: Makes the middle of the picture look HUGE. If the picture is your face, your nose would be big and round!

Red eye removal: Adds black to pupils.

Colored dots: Changes photo into blue and pink dots. Colors can be changed.

Old photo: Makes photo very dark and grainy. Best for very bright photos.

Two colors: Foreground is one color and background is a different color. Colors can be changed.

Line coloring: Two colors, one solid and the other lines. Colors can be changed and so can the lines (straight, wavy, etc.)

Yellowed: Places a yellow hue over the photo.

Aquarelle: Changes the lines and makes them blurry, like its underwater.

Vintage: Adds cool colors, softens the photo and gives it a nostalgic look.

Pen outline: Makes the photo look like it was drawn in pen. All colors can be changed.

Blurring with zoom: This can make it look like you are coming in fast on a subject.

Color separation: Photo is doubled and overlapped, in two different colors, like a 3D image. Colors and images can be altered.

Exaggerated colors: Oversaturation of photo. You can adjust the colors and effects.

Sepia: Brown and white photo.

Color stains: High contrast photo with color splash in the background. Colors can be changed.

Glow: Takes out contrast and softens photo.

Old colored: Similar to Old Photo, but it is brighter and has some color.

Pencil strokes: Looks like it was drawn with a pencil, with light gray and gray contrast.

Color balance: Changes the photos overall color while keeping details of original photo (all blue, all magenta, etc.). Colors can be changed.

Posterizer: Similar to two colors, where it simplifies the photo to simple colors, but uses four instead of two.

Picfull has a lot of Instagram effects, and they can be fine-tuned with a lot more control over the look and feel of the image for a truly unique creation.


The Photoshop Express Editor

The Photoshop Express Editor is made by the same people who, you guessed it, made Photoshop, one of the most advanced photo editing software tools on the planet.

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You can find the online version here and the app version here.

The Photoshop Express Editor is far more simple than the full Photoshop suite, but it has an impressive array of tools that you can use to make your photo look GREAT in 5 seconds or less. If you choose, you can also use the more advanced tools to really customize your photo.

It has the best of Photoshop compressed into a couple of dozen tools.

For example, the basic tools include the standard, photo touchup, redeye eradicator, resize and crop.

The next set of tools includes adjustments to the lighting of the photo, to make it brighter, softer, darker or sharper. Some tools allow you to touch up only certain parts of the photo. For example, you can brighten up a smile, or darken a background to highlight the subject. This is great for portraits.

It is the next section, the effects, which are quite like the Instagram effects. The cool part is, you can adjust these effects to make your own cool Instagramized version of a picture.

The effects are stackable.

The Photoshop Express Editor has another aspect as well – Decorate. This tool adds stickers, watermarks and frames to a photo. You can even add text.

The Photoshop Express Editor is a great way to customize a photo. App is web only.



There are two different websites for this one. The effects are incredible, and, if you are really into Instagram effects, you will love the rich choice you get from this app. The only real drawback is that it doesn’t post directly to Instagram.

Playing with this app on my phone and online, I have to say that you can get bogged down with too much choice. Simply scroll back and forth, find some favorites and choose.

You can also add effects to the “surface”of the photo (bokeh, lighting strips, etc.) and some cool frames.

Yes, the choices keep multiplying. Instagram effects up the wazoo.

Pixlr Express and Pixlr-o-matic are pretty much one in the same. They have the same basic effects, which look to be about 50 or so. The difference is the interface.



Pixlr-o-matic can be used on your phone and online. It is available as an app on iPhone, Mac, iPad, Chrome, or Android.

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Opening page from Pixlr-o-matic

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Pixlr-o-matic dashboard

Pixlr-o-matic has a ton of features. You can customize which effects you want to use by activating or deactivating them. Effects you activate will show up as a choice when you are editing a photo.

Pixlr Express

Pixlr Express has Instagram effects galore, plus so much more. If you don’t have the skills to use an online editing program to create awesome effects, then Pixlr Express has tons of professional looking shortcuts that you can use in order to create some very nice effects that are totally unique. Because it is an online app, it has more powerful tools that you can take advantage of.

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Pixlr Express has more options than Pixlr-o-matic does. Pixlr has the added options of adding text and stickers to your photos, cropping, auto-fix, and turning the photo, as well as all of the editing options of Pixlr-o-matic. It also has the option of putting together collages, capturing from your webcam or grabbing from a URL. You can also choose how much of an effect to add, from 0% to 100%.

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As you can see, the dashboard lays everything out for you, so you can easily see the different filters. It is easier to see than Pixlr-o-matic, which is designed for mobile apps. Both have the same filters, but they are presented differently.


Line Camera

Line camera is an app that you can download to your phone. This app is from Japan, so you know that you have a lot of goodies waiting for you on this one – namely, cute effects, stickers and more.


Of course, you get the Instagram effects. That is the base from which you can create unique, fun photos.

From washed out color filters, to Polaroid frames, all of the Instagram effects are all present and accounted for. Where you get more bang for your buck in this free app, available on Apple and Android products, is the dizzying array of stickers.

From cute to classy, the stickers range from crazy characters to flowery anagrams.

You can also add cartoon sunglasses, hairstyles to your subject.

Yes, text can be added. This includes an impressive collection of fonts, letter styles and colors. Additionally, you can add pre-made balloons of text with adorable (or odd) catchphrases to any photo you snap with your phone.

Bonus: Tips to make the most of Instagram effects.

The key to great photography is to offer the viewer a perspective that they have never seen before – be it a subject they see every day, or an exotic subject.
Color and filters can be used to create this effect.
tamfamMy family trip to Hawaii
For all of the filters available, you can create some stunning photos, expressive of your natural talent as a photographer, or simply showcasing your creativity.
instagram effects
If your goal is to stand out – be it to compete with friends, sell a product or service or simply to develop your photography hobby, it takes a little more than just shooting random object, slapping a filter on them and posting them.
instagram effects
Granted, practice makes perfect. You don’t develop talent unless you continue to take photos and experiment. You get a lot of mediocre photos, but some are real gems. Even professional photographers take dozens of shots, and then pick the best out of many. In a way, shooting good pictures is a numbers game.
Nevertheless, you want your photography skills to evolve in a certain direction.



1. Scroll back to the beginning of this article and choose an app (or a couple) that really work for you. Use them to edit your photos.

2. Contrast ideas, for example, take a picture of a sunny day, and use a faded, darker filter for an eerie effect.

3. Natural lighting is one of the BEST lighting for photos of almost all kinds. If you have a choice between the two, always go natural.

4. Use color enhancing filters for colorful photos, or photos with one brightly colored item.

5. Take pictures in places other people aren’t. Use common sense (avoid funerals or other sensitive times), but otherwise get wild with photos.

6. Resist the urge to take a picture. Sometimes, you have to feed your creative self by just being in the moment and enjoying it for what it is.

In the past, taking photos and videos was about having an expensive camera, taking pictures to the store and getting them developed.

Now, you can take pictures with your phone, tablet, even your computer, laptop or other device.

Some can argue that there are so many photos in the world now, that picture-taking isn’t special anymore.

Others would take it a step further and say that people are so concerned with taking pictures, they miss the real essence of the moment they are in.

Maybe that’s true.

What is a fact is that there are tons more photos going into cyberspace and on family walls everyday. This gives us a wonderful shot at improving our photographic ability.

It gives us a chance to document our lives, like aspiring anthropologists.

Or it simply gives us a way to share appreciation for things that we have in our lives.

Whatever you use them for, having a great list of apps with Instagram effects is definitely a must-have to create amazing and fascinating effects.

For those that really like Instagram, but often feel limited by their color filters will find this list of Instagram effects helpful, especially the extra features of each app.

Whatever your interests, I hope these apps come in handy for you. Will you use them? Post below.

Frustrated Engineer Finally Retires In 2012 After "Tapping Into Online Systems". Now Lawrence travels the world teaching how to leverage the internet, and social media to live a life without a boss. Click Here To Learn More and Learn Directly From Lawrence Tam

10 thoughts on “Instagram Effects: Free Tools That Give You More Than Instagram

  1. Mark Baker says:

    A lot of cool info here thanks LT. Going to check out Line Camera “Rad” lol Flashback 🙂 going to bring this word back with this app

  2. Linda Kapani says:

    Too new and too excited to learn about them 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing these apps and tips LT! I didn’t know about PicFull, I’ll be adding it to my toolbox now 🙂

    1. Lawrence Tam says:

      picFull is pretty cool 😉

  4. Tim says:

    Great info, thanks LT, we liked Pixlr Express, lots of options and it looks easy to use. We will try it.

    1. Lawrence Tam says:

      Pixlr was a new one and it does look pretty cool

  5. That Photoshop Express Editor looks like fun! I’m going to check out a few of these and see if I can fix a few pics with them, or if not, at least add some cool effects to them. Thanks for this awesome list and the great tips!

    1. Lawrence Tam says:

      thanks for stopping by… the instagram effects people are used to can now be added outside of the program which is handy

  6. Great tips, I’ve used several of these. When I searched for line camera, it said that aillis is the new name. Is that the right one? Thanks for all the tips!

    1. Lawrence Tam says:

      yeah.. they had a rebrand.

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