IN addition to being a flashlight and camera, the smartphone has another nifty feature: It is a digital mirror that can help you apply makeup.
Many beauty apps promise virtual makeovers that let you try new looks in seconds, using the smartphone’s front-facing camera and screen. But the quality of these apps varies, so here are some of the best that can give you a glamorous look, rather than make you look like a circus clown.
Makeup Genius from L’Oréal is one of the best of these apps because of its ease of use. It uses your device’s camera to look at your face, and then calibrates where it thinks your eyes, mouth and other features are. You then have a choice between premade looks — combinations of makeup put together by L’Oréal — or individual products, one by one.
At this point you see a live view of your face wearing the digital makeup, and it is impressive. Like one of Snapchat’s popular weird live filters, but with more finesse, the digital special effects follow your face in real time as you move, and even adjust to the contour of your eyes and mouth as you open or close them.
The upshot is that you can see how you look wearing digital eyeliner, lipstick, blush or eye shadow in real time. You can even turn and angle your face or smile just as you would if you were applying real makeup in a mirror.
The menus to choose new looks are clear and there are lots of options — all L’Oréal products, of course. A button lets you buy the makeup through the app, which is free for iOS and Android.
If you are not a fan of the automation built into Makeup Genius, ModiFace’s Makeup app has some of the same powers, but offers you more control over the digital makeup effects it applies to your images. This app works from a photo of your face, instead of using live video. It guesses the location of your facial features, but you can calibrate it precisely by moving indicators to line up with the corners and shape of your eyes and mouth.
Then the app applies digital makeup, which you choose from a dial-like interface. The options include the ability to choose hairstyles and colors. And if the look of, for example, the artificial eyeliner is not right, you can fine-tune the shape of each effect.
Makeup also has a live makeup effects option that is like Makeup Genius, but not quite as polished, and the digital makeover may not be as realistic.
Makeup has looks copied from celebrities (you choose the look by tapping on a celebrity’s face, and the digital makeup is instantly applied to your image) — but you must pay for some of the looks. ModiFace’s Makeup is otherwise free for iOS and Android.
YouCam Makeup Virtual Makeover and Beauty Studio is similar to ModiFace’s app in that it involves adding makeup effects to a static image of your face. But it has an automated system for detecting your facial details, which makes things easier. It also has prearranged looks, and the interface for these is clearer than in rival apps.
Unlike its peers, YouCam includes special features like party makeup looks and the chance to add accessories like earrings. It also lets users enhance features (for example, de-emphasizing your nose or minimizing blemishes). The interface is clear and minimalist, which makes it feel more professional than Makeup Genius.
YouCam also has a live video makeup effect and a neat Makeup Mashup system that applies a random assortment of looks to your face in real time, and records a video for you. The app is free, and you can find it for iOS and Android.
Bitly is a well-known service that helps you shrink web links to make them easy to share on social media. Now, an official Bitly app for Android has the same features. It borrows Google’s minimal design cues and focuses on showing you analytics about the links you have already shortened, including graphs on how many people are visiting. Bitly’s app is free.
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