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How to add text to Instagram photos with Over (and Photolettering)

Instagram text 06Recently I’ve often found myself wanting to add a bit of amusing or descriptive text to a photo I’m tweeting, sending to friends or posting to Instagram. Of course, there’s no option to add text to Instagram photos within the app itself, so you’ll need to look to other apps.

I did a little asking around and two apps came back in recommendations so I gave them both a good go. After a few short bouts there was a conclusive winner, which I will now present to you by employing an over-stretched boxing metaphor:

The Contenders

In the Red Corner, suggested by friends, we have Over ($1.99), a Universal app which includes 30 eyecatching and fun fonts and offers dozens (and dozens!) more ‘standard’ fonts for a single in-app-purchase of 99c. To be fair, you can easily do without these as the ones included are great.

In the Blue Corner, recommended by no less than John Gruber amongst others, we have Photolettering (Free), an iPhone-only app which offers 3 fonts at first, with 20 more fonts available to purchase for 99c each, or $9.99 for all 20. The complete set is comparable in style and diversity to those included in Over.

Round one – value for money

On this basis Over clearly wins. Photolettering might be free but buying its full complement of fonts will run to five times the price of Over’s basic cost, and Over still has more choice. Furthermore, the three basic fonts it comes with are pretty bland.

It could be that for what Photolettering is offering, their ‘buy everything’ price is more realistic and fair to both them and the customer, and I’m all for that. But Over offers considerably more variety for the same price Photolettering charges for just two extra fonts, let alone Over’s vast range of standard fonts included in the single in-app purchase available.

A selection of Over's thirty available fonts The three fonts that come free with Photolettering

Round two – functionality

This is more evenly matched with each app offering some unique features, as well as the usual standards they both share such as social sharing, and a postcard function via Sincerely.

On the ‘unique feature’ front, Photolettering lets you rotate text easily using two fingers, something Over doesn’t offer at all. It also offers several two-tone fonts and control over each colour, background colours (if you don’t want to use a photo), and a choice of three basic filters which amount to Sepia, B&W, and Vivid.

On the other hand, Over offers multiple layers of text, meaning you can place several different text elements on your photo and style each one differently. It also includes a crop tool which only has one shape – square – but is perfect for setting up an image for Instagram, and the ability to darken the background photo to give your text some pop.

Photolettering has a crop tool, but only at the end of the process, and only if you decide to send to Instagram, so if you’re wanting to post it you need to plan for that as you add your text.

If you try to load in a pre-squared image, add lettering and then post to Instagram, Photolettering still forces you to crop a portrait-shaped image out of it, then add the text, then crop a square image out of that. You can avoid this by pinching the square image size to fit into the portrait crop, but the whole process is pretty ridiculous compared to how Over offers the same tool.

The sharing screen in Over A tutorial screen in Photolettering

Round three – experience

Okay, ‘experience’ is a little fancy-sounding, but that’s what we love about apps, right? How fun, easy, intuitive, and satisfying they are to fiddle with?

Photolettering is by far the plainest app, both in presentation and workflow, with one text layer and a simple tab-based navigation. It’s functional, it gets the job done – and you can rotate text, which is cool, but the whole cropping/Instagram process it uses is pretty dumb.

Over is much more stylish with a slick dial-based navigation and semi-transparent menu overlays. The dial can be a little disorienting at first, and they waste ‘More’ on an advert page for other apps, but the overall effect was more compelling.

But Over clearly wins the round with multiple layers that let you give every word its own font, position and colour, or create interesting effects by overlaying – something that works particularly well with the Blackout Sunrise font, and more than makes up for its lack of two-tone fonts.

Instagram text 06

Instagram text 01

The Winner

It wasn’t really a fair fight, was it? Over very clearly takes the crown for me. The only thing I’d nick from Photolettering is rotating text which sounds like a very update-friendly feature to me, hint hint.

So for all your text-on-iPhone-photo fun, my hearty recommendation would be to check out Over ($1.99) on the App Store.

Thanks for reading!

By myglasseye

I'm a Glasgow-born stills photographer and camera operator living and working in London, UK. As well as cameras I'm into writing, gaming, general geekery and beers by Brew Dog.

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