Tōnr Is The Photo Filter App People With Darker Skin Have Been Waiting For

For many people, achieving an Instagram-worthy photo includes a filter. Most social media apps offer dozens of options to spruce up an otherwise normal photo with blemish blurring edits and cool colors. But, many of these filters don’t translate well onto dark skin. Now, there is a web app with filters for darker skin complexions.

Historically speaking, film and color photography was developed using white and lighter skin tones, so it’s no surprise that filters have been designed without much thought to people with darker skin. Now, a new web application called Tōnr has created a way to celebrate melanin by embracing it instead of flushing it away like the average filter. Tōnr was designed by people of color in a two-hour timespan during Vox Media’s latest Hackathon. When there is a will, smart people will make a way.

The Tōnr website is easy to navigate. Users are able to either log in via their Twitter account or just choose a picture from their photo gallery. Then, they can click away on the different filters, choose one, and save the photo to their device. The pictures are never uploaded, so any photos used won’t end up floating on the Internet (unless the person wants them to) and the images can be uploaded to any social media site.

I was curious, so I plugged in a random photo from my iPhone, and I must say the results were pretty good. For some reason, the photo kept uploading sideways from my phone, but I liked how I didn’t look like a washed out version of myself. The first photo is the original photo (no filters, I promise) and the others are with the “Golden” and “Glow” filters.

CREDIT: Tai Gooden

No filter

CREDIT: Tai Gooden

Golden filter

CREDIT: Tai Gooden

Glow filter

Alesha Randolph, a senior designer at Vox Media, decided to create Tōnr because she was tired of only having one filter to compliment her skin tone. She teamed up with illustrator Brittany Holloway-Brown, product engineer Aidan Feay, and coder Pamela Assogba to bring the project to life. According to her conversation with Mic’s Marie Solis, Holloway-Brown reversed the design process by starting with the darkest skin color and working her way to lighter browns. It was her way of going against the grain and putting people who look like her first, which is a brave move in an industry where diversity has always been an issue.

The app is still very new and will get a few tweaks to fix bugs and to respond to user feedback, but it’s a good start with lots of room for growth. Tōnr is also open source, so other designers and coders will be able to jump in and make changes to the platform. Hopefully, it has sparked a bit of change in the way photography apps are designed.