Use the Photos app to write, draw, mark up photos on the iPhone using the markup tools

If you thought the Photos app on the iPhone was just for browsing your photographs, take another look. It has some great tools for sketching, highlighting, adding text, and painting on photos.

On the surface, the Photos app on iOS devices looks like a simple photo browser, a tool for viewing your latest digital photographs. It is very easy to use and you can organise photos into albums, by date and so on.

iOS Photos even has some photo editing tools. However, you may not be aware that it also has painting tools that let you paint or draw on photos, you can add and style titles, and there is a fascinating zoom control that adds a sort of magnifying glass effect.

Make sure your phone is up to date with the latest version of iOS and Photos app, then try these examples.

I’m no artist, so please ignore my feeble attempts at modifying images, I am sure you can do a better job. Let me introduce you to my cat, Harvey.


Open the Photos app editor

Open the Photos app and browse and tap a photo to view it. Press the third button in the toolbar at the bottom to go to the photo editor.

The toolbar at the bottom is replaced with a new one that has tools for adjusting the brightness, contrast, colour, rotation, and so on. Press the button with the three dots in a circle.

 Browsing photos using the Photos app on the iPhone The photo editing tools in the Photos app on the iPhone

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Go to the Markup tools

At the bottom of the screen is now Markup with an icon that looks like a toolbox and three dots labelled More. Press Markup.

Now we have a collection of tools that enable you to add paint, text and zoom effects to the photo.

The first tool in the bottom left corner is the paintbrush or pencil. Press it to select it. Choose a colour by tapping it. It looks like there are seven colours, but there are eight and black is there just before white, but black on a black toolbar background looks invisible.

At the far side is a menu button and when pressed, it shows three widths for the paintbrush/pencil tool. Select the width. Now just draw or write on the image with your finger. Double tap to zoom in for detailed work.

 The Markup function in the Photos app on the iPhone Use the pencil tool to draw freehand on photographs in the Photos app on the iPhone

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Draw lines and circles on your photos

Here you can see I have written Harvey at the top of the photo. Just below I drew a straight line. If you draw a horizontal, vertical or 45-degree line, a control appears at the bottom just above the colour palette.

Press the left icon for the original, imperfect, line and press the right icon to have Photos straighten it for you. It enables you to draw perfectly straight lines.

You can also tap a line you have drawn and drag it with your finger to move it. You can also drag the mid point to make a curve from it. It’s like a rubber band or Bezier type curve.

 Write and draw on a photo using the Photos app on the iPhone Straighten lines and bend them Bezier style using the Photos app on the iPhone

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Add text to photos

Instead of writing with the paintbrush/pencil tool, you can type in text instead. Press the text tool at the bottom of the screen and then press the aA button on the right for a mini formatting control panel.

Select the font to use, drag the slider left and right to adjust the size, and select the alignment below. The word ‘Text’ can be dragged to position it on the screen and handles (dots) at the left and right edges can be dragged to adjust the width.

Tap the word ‘Text’ and there are options to delete it, edit it or duplicate it. Press Edit.

 Format the text added to photographs using the Photos app on the iPhone Enter text and place it on photographs using the Photos app on the iPhone


Text editing and zoom effects

The keyboard appears when the Edit button is pressed and you can type in the text you want to add to the photo. The colour is whatever colour was selected when the text tool was tapped. Press Done when you are finished.

The final tool is an interesting one. Press the second button at the bottom and a circle appears on the photo. There are two handles (dots). Press and drag the bottom right one to change the size of the circle, and press and drag the top one to adjust the zoom.

This magnifying glass effect can be used to highlight something in the image. Drag it to where you want it, drag the handles to adjust the size and zoom.

 Enter text and place it on top of photos using the Photos app on the iPhone Use the zoom effect in the Photos app on the iPhone


Save and share your photos

After customising a photo, why not save it and share it in social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and others? Your friends are sharing theirs, so show them yours!

After editing a photo and adding wacky effects you might have a moment of panic as you discover that the new modified photo has replaced the original.

Don’t worry, Photos keeps track of changes and can put a photo back the way it was. Tap a photo to view it and then press the edit button as in the first screenshot.

At the bottom of the screen is a Revert button. Press it to discard the modified image and go back to the original.

 Create a duplicate of a photo using the Photos app on the iPhone Undo all the editing changes to a photo using the Revert feature in the Photos app on the iPhone

It would be a good idea to make a duplicate of a photo before starting and edit the duplicate. Access this function by tapping the share button when viewing a photo.