Stackables formulas or texture recipes are a great way to build a unique library of textures and adjustments. Using formulas and adapting them to individual images helps to give image collections a cohesive feel.

UPDATE: Stackables app has been retired since this image was created.

There are a number of possible alternative apps. My recommendation is Mextures. Mextures and Stackables are similar in both appearance and workflow. Specifically, just like Stackables, Mextures comes supplied with multiple textures, effects and filters which can be applied in a limitless combination. The formula can then be saved for repeated application to any number of iPhone images.

View my Mextures workflows.

I touched on Stackables formulas in my previous look at using Stackables on a one off edit. This article looks in more detail at creating, editing and saving Stackables formulas via a series of screen grabs.

Given the time of year I am using this Christmas Tree creation as the example image which gives me a great opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays for those with alternative beliefs) and a happy and successful 2015. Thank you very much for the amazing support Skipology has received over the last 12 months. It is very much appreciated. I am delighted to offer this tutorial in a specially formatted free PDF download.

iPhone photography apps used:

stackables - christmas tree

{ Stackables formula – Christmas tree }



Process and apps used

ProCamera8 / Snapseed ~ initial capture. This is an intentionally out of focus outdoor Christmas Tree. I lock the focus on a nearby object and then capture the bokeh light:

The image is then imported into Snapseed just for cropping although this could also be done within ProCamera8

Stackables ~ normally I create my own Stackables formulas from scratch but on this occasion I decided to start with one of the preloaded formulas shipped with the app ‘Asylum’:


Stackables – applying a formula

I start by importing my image and ticking through the crop screen without adjustments. I am then presented with this Stackables screen:

stackables formula - asylum

{ applying a Stackables formula }

From here I can access all the Stackables app functionality in one place. To apply a formula I:

  1. Select the flask icon at the top for formulas:

    By default Stackables will already have selected the first option in that block which is ‘textures’ and adds the first texture. However, this has not been applied. When selecting the flask icon Stackables will warn me that all layers I have already applied will be lost. This is fine.

  2. Select the formula library:

    There are three libraries. From left to right these are (i) Stackables created formulas, (ii) User submitted formulas, and (iii) My own saved Stackables formulas.

    For the purposes of this image I leave the default selection untouched which is Stackables created formulas.

  3. Select the formula:

    I choose ‘Asylum’. It’s effect is viewed on the image in real time.

  4. Layer panel:

    At this stage the formula cannot be edited but for information purposes only the various, textures, adjustments and overlays used to create the formula can be viewed.

  5. Edit Stackables formula:

    If no further adjustments are required I would simply select the icon at the top right and save the image. However in the case of this image I would like to enhance the formula to suit the festive nature of the image. I therefore select the spanner icon to edit and / or add to the various layers.


Stackables – editing a formula

Having applied a formula and selected the spanner icon I am presented with this Stackables screen:

stackables edit layer

{ editing a Stackables formula }

From here I can access all the Stackables app functionality in one place. To edit an existing layer already included within formula I:

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  1. Select the layer:

    Tapping the layer will highlight it with a border and also show an eye icon in the corner. The layer can be hidden or revealed within the formula by tapping the eye icon. If I wished, it could be deleted completely by tapping the delete layer icon at the base of the layers panel. In this case I select the first layer.

  2. Select the type of layer you would like to change the selected layer to:

    This will default to the existing layer type (filters in this case) and I leave it at default.

  3. Select the new content for the layer:

    I simply choose to change the filter from monochrome ‘Madison’ to one of the colour filters ‘Tokyo Chill’.

  4. Blend Method:

    Default blend method will depend on the layer type. For the purposes of the filter I have selected I leave it at ‘normal’.

  5. Opacity:

    I reduce the filter opacity a little to taste. As with all adjustments and edits the effect on the image can be viewed in real time.

In addition I make minor adjustments to the settings of other existing layers without actually changing the layer type or content.


Stackables – adding new layers to a formula

Having adjusted the layers that already exist within a formula, I now decide to add additional layers starting with layer 8:

stackables new adjustment layer

{ adding an adjustment layer to a Stackables formula }

From here I can access all the Stackables app functionality in one place. To add a new layer to a formula I:

  1. Select the add layer icon

  2. View the new layer in the layers panel:

    In this case I add layer 8. Within the layers panel it is possible to rearrange the order of the layers by tapping holding and dragging.

  3. Select the layer type:

    Layer 8 is a levels adjustment layer.

  4. Select the new content for the layer:

    Options here will vary depending upon the layer type selected. I select the type of adjustment I wish to make (color adjust).

  5. Select image attribute to adjust:

    Again options will vary depending upon the selection made in the previous stage. In this case I choose to make a number of adjustments to aspects such as ‘colour temperature’, ‘hue’, ‘red / green / blue levels’, ‘contrast’, ‘exposure’, etc.

  6. Select the degree of each adjustment

  7. Select the blend method

    I leave the default blend method for adjustments in place at ‘normal’.


Having added an adjustments layer I add a final texture layer:

stackables new texture layer

{ adding a texture layer to a Stackables formula }

By selecting texture as the layer type some of the options are different but the workflow is the same:

  1. Select the add layer icon

  2. View the new layer in the layers panel:

    In this case I add layer 9 with no need to move it below other layers. Layer 9 will be my top layer.

  3. Select the layer type:

    Layer 9 is a texture.

  4. Select the new content for the layer:

    I select the ‘Gelato’ texture. One of my favourite painterly textures in any iPhoneography app.

  5. Rotate the texture:

    I leave the texture at default but depending on the relationship between the image and the texture interesting varied results can be achived simply by rotating.

  6. Select the blend method

    I switch from the default blend method to ‘Color Dodge’.

  7. Select the layer opacity:

    This should be done in conjunction with the blend method selection. ‘Color Dodge’ is a particularly powerful blend and as such for the look I want to achieve requires a low level of opacity.


Stackables – saving a formula

Irrespective of whether or not I think I am likely to reuse the Stackables formula, I always save it. Occasionally I may revisit the image the formula was created for and want to make adjustments. Some formulas though can be universally appropriate and may be applied with or without slight adjustments on a collection of images:

stackables save formula

{ saving a new Stackables formula }

Simply select the save / share symbol at the top right corner and select ‘Save Edits as Formula’ and give the formula a name in the box presented.


Stackables – reusing a formula

Once my formulas are created it’s an incredibly short simple process to reuse them on as many images as I wish:

stackables formulas

{ reusing a Stackables formula }

I start by importing my image and ticking through the crop screen without adjustments. I am then presented with this Stackables screen and select my saved formula as follows:

  1. Select the Stackables Formula icon

  2. Select my own saved formulas by selecting the final Stackables Formula library icon at the foot of the screen.

  3. Select the formula I wish to apply:

    In this case I choose my ‘flower’ formula which was created for a very different image but still in my view gives an interesting look to this image.


Get the iPhoneography app mentioned in this article

Apps used in this article:

  • ProCamera8 my preferred camera replacement app. Manual focus and lock is helpful when trying to capture blur

  • Snapseed the best free iPhoneography app in my opinion

  • Stackables iPhone version / iPad version one of the premier texturing iPhoneography apps. Very powerful with every element controllable enabling unique textures to be created. I believe its textures are very well suited to a painterly style of processing


I hope you enjoyed my iPhone photography look at using, editing and saving formulas with Stackables. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you again. I have just launched a more detailed new post notification service. If you enjoy my work and would like an email when new articles are published (rarely more than one per week) please subscribe to Skipology. Thank you for your support.

Irrespective of whether you choose to subscribe or not, this tutorial is available for PDF download here.



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  1. Rick Clark says:

    What a great, clean explanation of your workflow. Mine is very close to yours, but I gleaned a couple of nice tips from this piece. Really enjoy following your work.

  2. Janice says:

    I missed this, it is so simple and so wonderful!

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