Annotate Photos & Screenshots Using the iOS Photos App

ios markup tools

There are a number of decent annotation apps for the iPhone & iPad. I know, because I have used a lot of them. However, I almost never use a dedicated app any more. The tools that I need are actually built-in to iOS, and they cover almost all of my image annotation needs. I’m talking specifically about the Photos app. It has some great options for marking up images and screenshots, but not everyone knows where those tools are. So, here’s what you need to know.

Markup Tools in Photos for iOS

To access the annotation tools in the Photos app, open an image and tap the image adjustment sliders in the top-right hand corner.

File Mar 03, 9 42 28 PM.jpegNext, tap the circle with the three dots on it to reveal the Markup toolbox. Tap Markup to access the annotation tools in the Photos app.

File Mar 03, 9 46 56 PM.jpeg

A menu of annotation tools will then appear, (as in the screenshot below). They include a pen tool, a loupe, a text tool, a color picker, a line thickness selector, a text formatting tool and the all important undo arrow. In essence, these are really the only tools you might want, with the possible exception of a blurring tool.

iOS Screenshot 20170303-213747 01.png

Annotation Tips & Tricks

The pen tool has built in shape recognition! If you draw a rough square, circle or even an arrow, you have the option to convert it to something a little more refined by tapping the shape recognition box that appears at the bottom of your screen after you draw your shape.

The loupe is used to magnify part of an image. You can adjust the size of the loupe by dragging the blue dot in or out. You can also adjust the magnification level by rotating the green dot clockwise or anticlockwise along the circumference of the loupe.

Text can be formatted to appear as one of three fonts, (Helvetica, Georgia, Noteworthy). You can adjust the size and the way the text is justified. All these options appear when you tap the Aa icon in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. If you want, you can add a line border around text by selecting the text and tapping the line tool to select the thickness you need.

The undo arrow is your friend. Sometimes it can be hard to select or move an annotation around the screen without adding accidental ink to the image. When that happens, a few quick taps of the undo arrow will quickly return things to the way they were.

Classroom Uses

While you might not be annotating images in every lesson you teach, there are definitely some times where you might want to mark up a photo or screenshot. These include:

  • Creating software tutorials or walkthroughs
  • Annotating maps in Social Studies
  • Drawing attention to text on a blog post or news article
  • Annotating draft designs for suggested improvements
  • Reporting app or website errors

Dedicated Annotation Apps

If the Photos app doesn’t meet your needs, consider some of these great options from the App Store. Each has a slightly different take on iPad annotation, but all are interesting in their own right. Take a look below:

  • Skitch is one I have used in the past. It is still available in the App Store, but was abandoned by its parent company Evernote a long time ago. Needs an update.
  • Annotate Text, Emoji, Stickers and Shapes is another decent option. It doesn’t have  a lot of tools, but the simplicity makes it reliable and easy to use.
  • PointOut lets you position a pointer for a zoomed in view of any image. Different layouts, borders and filters are included.
  • Pinpoint has gone through a few iterations in its lifespan, but it remains a good option for some basic free annotation tools.
  • Annotable offers some unique and powerful annotation tools too, but in-app purchases hide some of the better features.
  • Annot8 – Lets you spotlight and blur areas of your image and includes the ability to crop, rotate and straighten your images.

Bonus Tip

The same annotation tools are available in the Mail app and in the iTunesU app. Read Mark up PDFs with Apple’s Mail App for more information on how to do just that!

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One thought on “Annotate Photos & Screenshots Using the iOS Photos App

  1. Pingback: iPad Journal: Weekly iPad Links | Beardy Guy Musings

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