Put your best face forward

Screenshot of Paper Camera, an app for Android and iOS devices.

Jasmine Osada reviews four apps you can use to create unique profile pictures for your social media accounts.

WeeMee Avatar Creator

Free (Android and iOS)

Simple but cute characters and a comic strip style are the hallmarks of this avatar creator. Featuring a well-laid-out user interface, this app lets you easily create and customise avatars, complete with background settings and lots of props.

Though the app is free, it is not short on content. It includes more than 450 free items you can use to customise your characters.

My favourite props include a slice of pizza, a dog companion and a miniature T-Rex. One complaint I have, however, is that all the props and clothing are set in a fixed position, limiting your layout options.

If you want more dress-up options, the in-app store has a variety of themed add-ons, including an Easter Day pack and a mediaeval knights costume set priced from $1.28 a pop, depending on your device's operating system.

The app also includes a weekly voting contest. If you submit your completed avatar, you could win special add-ons.

Buddypoke 3D Avatar Creator

Free (Android and iOS)

Gamers who like the My Sims series of people simulator games will love this app. Buddypoke might not be affiliated to the Electronic Arts franchise, but the cutesy 3-D avatars you can create with this app look uncannily like those in the game.

Making a character was easy. I just had to select the facial features, clothes and accessories. The basic customisation offerings in the app were enough to create a chubby 3-D avatar which looked quite like me. But if you want more clothing styles, different sets are available from $1.28 each or from $3.98 for the all-clothes pack. Prices depend on your device's operating system.

What makes this app stand out is the amazing number of ways in which you can pose your character to express your personality. There are more than a hundred poses and expressions to choose from, as well as more than two dozen background options to complete the image.

For truly creative profile pictures, the app includes a virtual photo studio where you can take snapshots of your avatar from any angle, as well as add your own background image using the app's camera.

Paper Camera

$2.49 (Android), $3.98 (iOS)

While this app is not a dedicated profile picture maker, its amazing art effects can easily turn any snapshot into a beautifully stylised image.

The app features 13 separate image effects in a bevy of artistic styles. My favourite ones for profile photo taking include Sketch Up, which turns any photo into a pencil sketch (above), and Half Ton, which gives any picture a classic manga-style look.

As this is a live camera app, creating a new profile picture is a snap. Simply scroll through the available photo effects to preview what your photo will look like. Once you have found the effect you want, hit the shutter button and you are done. For selfies, tap the toggle button to switch cameras.

If you already have a photo you want to use, Paper Camera lets you import images from your photo albums as well. The only downside is that the app lacks photo-editing features, so you will have to use another app to crop images to size.

Bobbleshop

$5.98 (iOS)

If you have always wanted to see a caricature of yourself, download this app.

Bobbleshop, as its name suggests, lets you create your own customised bobblehead - a character with a big head and a small body.

At $5.98, the app is pricey, but it includes thousands of customisation parts to choose from, so you can create one that looks exactly like you.

Characteristics such as facial features and hair can even be further fine-tuned for better results.

Creating a bobblehead is quite fun. You can start from scratch or have the app create one. Making changes is as easy as tapping on the part you want changed and selecting from the dozens of options available. You can add clothes, shoes and socks to dress up your bobblehead using these simple but effective controls.

Once you are done, simply export your new avatar to your device's camera roll.

My only quarrel with this app is its annoying background music. The single track, featuring a whiny saxophone, can become unbearable, especially if you spend a lot of time using this app. Thankfully, there is an option to turn off the music.

In this age of Internet insecurity and social media boo-boos, using one's real mug in a social media profile raises plenty of valid concerns about privacy.

But not using your own photo does not mean that friends have to associate your name with an image of a giraffe or the Grumpy Cat.

You can easily create a stylised self-portrait with apps which range from 3-D character creation tools to simple camera apps that turn snapshots into sketches.

Jasmine Osada is a freelance writer.


This article was first published on August 13, 2014.
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