Diptic: A Simple Way to Make Collages on Your Mac

I do a fair bit of photo editing — everything from screenshots to engagement and wedding shoots — and there are some things that take way too long to do in Photoshop or any of its equivalents. One of those things is collages. Another one is setting up a background image.

In Photoshop, you’d have to create a background layer, adjust the colour, adjust the size of your next layer, and drag them around until it fit right. That’s great if you’re really particular and know exactly what you’re looking to do. But sometimes, you just want a really cool and quick way to show off your weekend at the beach. And you want it to take about ten seconds from conception to Facebook sensation. This is where Diptic comes in.

The Time of Your Life

Diptic isn’t a powerful photo editor. I need to get that right out of the way. Those of us who are used to our Canon EOS MK III cameras aren’t going to be able to switch from Lightroom 5 to Diptic. But if you do all your post-processing in an app like Aperture — or even iPhoto — it’s still really easy to use Diptic.

After ten seconds, a new desktop. Yes, I'm that guy. Check out some of the basic tools for picture editing on the left.

After ten seconds, a new desktop. Yes, I’m that guy. Check out some of the basic tools for picture editing on the left.

What’s most surprising about Diptic is that it’s incredibly easy to use. I’m always trepidatious about simple software, because it’s often the simple software that’s inexcusably bad. But Diptic is brilliant. You can tell the design was well thought out. Every button serves a purpose, and it’s just fun.

I review a lot of apps, and not all of them are fun. The first time I opened it up, I was having fun within seconds. And shouldn’t photo editing be fun? Aren’t we all just sharing memories with our friends and family, at the end of the day? This is perfect for that.

As you can see from the toolbar on the left, there's tons of different layouts you can choose from.

As you can see from the toolbar on the left, there’s tons of different layouts you can choose from.

I love how quick the app is too. Granted, I have a very powerful Retina MacBook Pro, but the app is insanely snappy. It can handle the RAW files I throw at it from Aperture, but it’s really quick with JPEGs. I suspect it’d be a little slower with an older spinning platter hard drive, but I can’t say that would surprise anybody.

It’s the Little Things

Using Diptic is a piece of cake. Choose the layout of the photos, drag and drop photos in or click to add them from the Finder browser, adjust the size and position of the photos (along with some other minor tweaks) and choose a background colour. Voila — ten seconds after you’ve started, you’ve got a professional collage.

As you can see form the toolbars on the left, it's easy to adjust colour and hue with the available Sliders.

As you can see form the toolbars on the left, it’s easy to adjust colour and hue with the available Sliders.

What’s cool about it are the little details. It’s really easy to change the colour of the background or round the corners. The corner rounding is a great feature. If you want to show off one photo at a time and want it to sit inside a circular frame, that takes about three seconds to properly set up.

The app allows you to make a few minor adjustments to photos — contrast, brightness, hue and saturation specifically — and although the tools are useful, they aren’t going to win Diptic any awards. They’re nowhere near as insatiably accurate as the same tools in an app like Aperture, but they’re worth their weight in gold for quick and easy access.

Small Beefs

What I don’t like about the controls, though, is that they don’t update in real time. If I go adjust the hue from 0 to +6, I don’t see all the changes in between. In fact, I don’t see any changes until I release the slider. In any other modern photo editing app that I’ve tried, changes are instantaneous and you can see the results as you make adjustments. That takes a lot of the trial-and-error out of the editing, so it’s a shame that Diptic isn’t quite there yet.

I put together some shots from an engagement shoot I had recently finished working on. I spent two minutes on this collage, and I think it looks pretty good!

I put together some shots from an engagement shoot I had recently finished working on. I spent two minutes on this collage, and I think it looks pretty good!

I would also like to see some keyboard integration. This is an app that requires me to use my mouse all the time. If I want to move a picture over by just a couple pixels, I have to be very careful with my mouse because Diptic doesn’t recognize the arrow keys. It’s a small nuisance in an otherwise great app.

Diptic doesn’t have any preferences. It doesn’t need them. The brilliant thing about the software is that it does one thing well and doesn’t try to be anything it’s not.

From the Top Down

The whole thing is a piece of cake, from top to bottom. What I like about the app is that they integrate existing OS X technologies where they can instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. They use OS X’s existing colour picker, also employed by apps like Pixelmator, and I think this is easier than any other design they could have come up with.

The app also has a small footprint — it’s less than one megabyte in download size, which means that even if you don’t find a use for it every day, it takes up almost no hard drive space. It’s got a clean and simple design, and that makes all the difference.

That small amount of hard drive space is really reassuring to me. This isn’t bloatware. This is an insanely handy piece of software that even pretentious photo snobs can use to save minutes out of their day.

These are the options you have for sharing your work.

These are the options you have for sharing your work.

When it comes to sharing your work, there are a couple things that I think many people will want to know. The first is that you can share to Twitter or Facebook straight from the app, but you can’t share anything to Instagram — at least, not until Instagram opens their API. Finally, Diptic is not a non-destructive photo editor. It doesn’t need to be and it shouldn’t be, but in the interest of being thorough, I wanted to make sure I included that. As well, you can export photos as either PNG or JPEG files, but not TIFF. Again, for Diptic’s purposes, I think this is mostly fine.

The Final Word

I’m as much of a photo snob as anybody else. I think that great photos can come from great gear, and I’m often inspired by incredible photography. As a professional photographer, I can also acknowledge the importance of these things.

But at the end of the day, I have to be honest: just about anybody can and should be able to take amazing pictures with whatever camera they have. Editing should also be a piece of cake for people, and collages shouldn’t be a Photoshop owner’s exclusive game. Diptic holds the same philosophies, and makes great software available to anybody for any astonishingly low price. You’re going to love Diptic, whether you’re a consummate professional looking for a quick way to share photos on your brands Facebook page, or just an ironic hipster taking street pictures with your iPhone.


Summary

Diptic is a great way for anybody with a camera to make collages on the Mac. Intuitive, fast and inexpensive, this is a no-brainer.

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