Give Photos a Retro Look with this New Linux App

Want to add some retro computing effects to photos, selfies, avatars, etc?

If so, check out Halftone, a new GTK image editing app that hit Flathub at the weekend.

Using Halftone you can evoke a computer graphic aesthetic reminiscent of the late 1980s/early 1990s. We’re talking pixels, dots, dither, low color count, and more — all that’s missing is the flicker of a CRT-monitor and the garble of a dial-up modem.

We’re blessed these days with laptop displays and monitors able to reproduce millions of colours with pin-sharp clarity at super high resolutions.

But once upon a time computers struggled to display hundreds of colors – and the more color, the higher the file size, and the longer it would take to load on ye olde internet.

Thus, color-reduction techniques (like dithering, halftoning, et al) were born. These enabled images to be viewed, sent, and displays quickly whilst remaining (mostly lol) legible, despite having a massively reduced color palette.

There’s a fantastically indepth blog post by Surma that provides a TON of detail on the mathematics behind dithering, plus an ample quotient of retro-computing screenshots, examples, and so on.

So if you dig the visual aesthetic dither delivers and you want to try the effect out on your own images, this app makes it easy to do so.

Features of the app include:

  • 3 dither algorithms
    • Classic Floyd-Steinberg (think dots)
    • Riemersma (think Posterization)
    • Bayer/ordered (think Game Boy)
  • Live preview
  • Resize images
  • Set color count
  • Convert to different image format

My top tip is to resize images in-app (or before opening them) for better results, and experiment with different color values. I found the app produced the most evocative effects on my images when using a smaller image size (<500px) and low color count (2).

I also got the best results using the Bayer/ordered algorithm. This gives images a “cross-stitch” style effect that, at low resolution and low color counts, makes subjects pop. For detailed images or images with gradients the Floyd-Steinberg effect is best.

• Get Halftone on Flathub / Halftone on AUR