The Meitu App Turns You Into a Sparkling, Glowing Illustration

Take any photo and turn it into a glossy cartoon.

Getty Images / Sean Gallup

Using the photo touch-up app Meitu, people are turning up the kawaii level with soft glows and sparkly eyes. It’s a Chinese app that lets you “transform your selfies into hand-drawn pictures.” As of Wednesday morning, Meitu is exceedingly popular, sitting pretty on the App Store’s Top Ten list. It owes that popularity not to the novelty of it’s purpose, but to the execution, which looks like a shiny, wax museum replica of the original picture.

Meitu bills itself as an app for beautification through photo editing, saying in the app description that it’s for “enhancing your beauty and putting the finishing touches on your photos.” In reality, Meitu turns your picture into a head shot of what you might look like if you were tapped to star in a live-action anime show complete with colorful, flower-laden backgrounds and big, sparkling eyeballs. It’s equal parts terrifying and adorable, which means that it’s easy to see why so many people are getting a kick out of it.

People have been sharing Meitu’s “hand-drawn” edited pictures of themselves (or, more accurately, porcelain-doll versions of themselves) on social media, where the consensus seems to be that Meitu’s a blast to play around in.

That is, if you can get past the creepy, Uncanny Valley-looking images it produces.

Other people have been getting a little bit more creative with Meitu, turning its power on public figures instead of themselves. The result is that some of them have come out looking like a cartoony villain version of themselves.

The photo editing app does more than just this hand-drawn filter. It can also be used to enhance your appearance in pictures, doing things such as whitening teeth and slimming cheeks. There’s concern about how Meitu’s idea of beautiful might not be the same as others’, but most have become more hung up on the app’s feature that produces these surreal portraits instead of augmenting their own looks.

Meitu is hardly the first Chinese app to garner widespread American attention, and it likely won’t be the last. Before there was Meitu, there was Myidol, which let users create Sims-quality avatars using facial recognition software. It’s impossible to predict what app will next capture people’s attention, but people obviously love toying around with digital images of themselves.

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