Test lab. (paint software programs) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Mike Hudnall, Tony Roberts, Ralph Roberts, Steven Anzovin, Charles Idol, William D. Harrel
With a remarkable array of input options and powerful tools, today's paint programs make it easier than ever to harness your creative energies, transforming your artistic vision into an attractive finished product, perhaps even a work of art.
This month's Test Lab focuses on five DOS packages and five Windows packages that range in price from $129 to $795.
Some of these packages clearly target beginners and casual dabblers, while others offer the power and features demanded by professionals. Some of these paint programs have been around for a while, and if you're pleased with the features in. the latest version of one of them, you may decide to stick with it because it's familiar. On the other hand, if you feel you've outgrown your present paint program, there's plenty of information here to help you choose an abler one.
Input options will figure high on many people's lists, and seven of these programs offer scanner support. Image-In Scan & Paint 3.1 works with Kodak PhotoCD images and printers, and six of the programs offer screen capture capabilities. Because a mouse doesn't offer the precision many artists look for, you'll find support for styluses and tablets with some of the packages.
Support for various file formats--images you can import from or export to the applications you use on a regular basis--may also affect your choice. Take a look at the grid of paint program features to see just which formats a particular package supports.
The tools you'll use to modify images or create your works of art may well be your primary consideration in choosing a paint program. Some of them are pretty amazing. One offers a custom brush tool, another helps you paint in the style of Van Gogh, and still another includes sophisticated photo-retouching tools. Here, too, the features grid assists by presenting information about paint tools, special effects, filter functions, image control, and more.
Keep in mind, however, that these programs sometimes differ in their terminology and approach so much that it's difficult to draw comparisons. For a more detailed look at how each program works and what the particular strengths of a program are, look to the reviews. Here you'll also find valuable information about documentation, ease of use, add-ins, and other matters that can't be covered adequately in a list of features.
Pay careful attention to the hardware requirements for these paint packages. As hardware has become more powerful and sophisticated, system requirements have also increased. Memory requirements in our lineup vary from 512K all the way to a whopping 6MB, and the manufacturers recommend even more. The minimum of disk space required varies from 2.5MB to 10MB, and you'll need a 24-bit video adapter and high-resolution monitor if you want to display the 16.7 million colors that six of these paint packages let you use. Make sure that your video adapter is supported by the package you want. Also, many of these programs recommend at least a 386 microprocessor, and there's no doubt that a 486 system will speed the performance of Windows apps. In fact, these sophisticated paint packages may offer you just the excuse you've been looking for to upgrade to a more powerful system.
Finally, while both paint programs and draw programs come under the larger rubric of illustration software, there are some important differences to consider before you buy. As managing editor David English pointed out in his introduction to the Test Lab on draw software (September 1992), "Paint programs are your best choice if you work with scanners and photorealistic images. Draw programs are best if the form of the image is more complex than its color or if you plan to print at high resolutions."
Whatever your artistic aspirations and requirements, Test Lab can help you understand this software category and make a more informed buying decision.
ALDUS PHOTOSTYLER 1.1
Remember the excitement of opening a birthday or holiday package containing an art set? Few gifts brighten a child's face so much. Aldus PhotoStyler 1.1 is a powerful art set for your computer; paints, pencils, and tools of all kinds give you incredible control over any kind of artwork. You can create images from scratch, or you can start with scanned images and modify as you please.
The programming artists who assembled this package have left no milieu unexplored. As a tool for creating artwork, PhotoStyler works well, and it's superbly suited for modifying and enhancing existing electronic images such as scanned photographs.
Back to the drawing board: PhotoStyler's array of paint tools may seem unremarkable on the surface, but when you explore the customization possibilities for each tool, you realize what splendid tools they are. For example, in addition to choosing the shape of your paintbrush, you can select the rate of the flow of the paint and the transparency of the paint. Also, when painting over previously painted areas, you can choose to have the paint applied only to areas that are lighter or darker than the paint color. Options also permit you to isolate and change only the hue, color, or brightness components of the underlying pixels.
One of PhotoStyler's finest features is the Magic Wand color selection tool. When you click on a pixel with the Magic Wand, that pixel and all adjoining pixels of a similar color are selected. This is a speedy way to select large areas--such as the background--of a picture for recoloring. Besides its ability to repaint images, PhotoStyler has a full set of color correction and enhancement tools that provide control over either the whole image or selected regions.
PhotoStyler offers an array of filters designed to help you enhance your artwork in various ways. With these filters, you can sharpen, soften, blur, or emboss your image. You can add a ripple effect or a whirlpool effect. And with the filters, as with most options in PhotoStyler, tools are available for you to define your own effect.
PhotoStyler has sophisticated options for combining and merging images, making the program one of the most complete image manipulation tools around. The program can read almost any standard graphics file format and includes driver software for a handful of scanners, but the popular hand-held models are not included. Nevertheless, PhotoStyler will have no trouble reading and modifying images once they're captured through the scanner maker's proprietary software.
With so many options and possibilities, PhotoStyler can seem overwhelming. The documentation, however, will put you at ease. In typical Aldus fashion, a fine tutorial in the Getting Started book helps you clear the initial hurdles. The reference manual includes detailed explanations of the hows and whys of image manipulation. Keep the book at hand, however, because the online reference falls a little flat compared to the help services provided in other Aldus software.
Despite its down-to-earth documentation, PhotoStyler has too much horsepower for anyone who just wants to do a little computer-aided painting. PhotoStyler is designed to handle the problems of a sophisticated user, and it won't disappoint even the most demanding professional.
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If you want real power in DOS image processing with the ability to professionally create, edit, merge, and process black-and-white and color images with over 450 separate tools for drawing, image editing, and applying special effects, then ColorWorks 1.0 from SPG could very well be for you.
Instead of an expensive Windows-compatible program costing hundreds of dollars, SPG offers a DOS package for $149 retail that still provide all the power of many high-end programs. This is a power program meant for serious image manipulation. While it lacks some of the polish and glitter of Windows applications, it compensates by supplying you with greater flexibility.
Giving up the Windows interface means that you have added power and speed. For example, all of the drawing tools in Color Works are completely configurable on the fly. This means you have the option of configuring and reconfiguring the tools while you edit images, selecting the brush stroke, color, pattern, special effect, or combination of effects you want a tool to use as many times as you like while working on a drawing.
And there are plenty of tools available for reconfiguring. The 13 basic drawing tools include line, free draw, rectangle, triangle, parallelogram, ellipse, curve, fill, font, circle, polygon, a zoom/edit pixel editor, and a cut-and-paste tool. The ColorWorks cut-and-paste tool allows you to rotate, paint/ drag, scale, stretch/shrink, flip, cut, copy, image-merge, and superimpose an area of your screen image (called the canvas).
Want more flexibility? Whenever you load a file in ColorWorks, the cut-and-paste tool is active. Thus, you can apply the effects described above before positioning and pasting your loaded images where you want them on the canvas. And the program allows an unlimited number of images onscreen at the same time for editing and creating unique pieces of work.
Several of the major graphics file formats find support in this program: BMP, TIF, PCX, Targa, and ColorWorks' own SPG image file formats. I like the SPG format because it allows you to save images with various irregular shapes and areas defined as transparent. When you reload these images onto your canvas, the transparent areas are see-through. Using ColorWorks, you could, in effect, create a library of clip art containing only the images and no backgrounds--just like having a supply of electronic decals to slap on whatever images you wished.
ColorWorks also lets you create black-and-white and color EPS files. The 23 special-effect functions include undo, reflection, grid, blend, graduation, dupe, cycle draw, antialiasing (gives smooth edges to lines, curves, circles, and fonts), shade, tint, color strip, tile, sharpen, shear, negative, filter (over 30 filters included), redo, RGB guard, and RGB swap. ColorWorks also includes powerful shape- and color-masking functions.
All special effects include precise controls for their application to your canvas. You get printer support through several black-and-white and color print drivers, including Postscript.
An exceptionally powerful paint and image-editing program, ColorWorks worked well except on my 486 with the 8514 video adapter, since that display is not yet supported. I recommend ColorWorks to those who need flexible and powerful image manipulation beyond what the Windows applications offer. If you find yourself in that group and you're willing to put forth the extra effort to learn a program with a number of options and plenty of flexibility, then ColorWorks is an excellent choice.
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DELUXEPAINT II ENHANCED
I still feel nostalgic for my first car, a beige and black 1966 Plymouth Fury V8 convertible that was showing its age in 1972 but could pass those upstart little imports like they were standing still. I feel the same affection for Dan Silva's original DeluxePaint, the first piece of software I ever bought. The Plymouth has long since gone to auto heaven, but DeluxePaint, now in its seventh year and called DeluxePaint II Enhanced, is still around and still faster than most of the competition. Though I've tried just about every paint program in the world, I still turn to DeluxePaint when I want to get a job done quickly.
Like most paint programs today (many of which have copied DeluxePaint's tool set), this program offers a wide variety of icon-based painting tools in a bar down the side of the screen. These tools include a color palette and the usual line and shape makers. You'll also find area fill; a versatile, resizable airbrush; a magnifying glass; a text tool; a grid for exact alignment; and a mirroring feature.
Pull-down menus along the top of the screen offer file-handling and screen mode controls (you can switch screen modes on the fly); brush options such as flip, rotate, distort, and bend; and such painterly effects as smear, blend, and smooth. The program's comprehensive palette controls allow you to mix all of VGA's 256 colors; there's also a spare screen for thumbnail sketches and the ability to create pictures larger than the screen. Everything about DeluxePaint's interface is well designed and easy to understand.
The secret to DeluxePaint's speed and power is its c brush tool. Using the custom brush tool, all that you have to do is draw a box around any part of your work, and it becomes a brush. You can draw with it, erase it, resize it, stretch it, rotate it, warp it, skew it, change its colors, make it partially transparent, outline it, and more.
Custom brushes can be used in conjunction with most of the other tools, too, so you can create effects that no other paint program can achieve. For example, you can actually use a face to draw a circle. You can't really understand how much time the custom brush feature will save you until you try it for yourself.
The other DeluxePaint feature that I find truly unique is perspective (one of the program's image-control tools). This is a complex but powerful system that allows you to tilt any brush or screen to create the illusion of spatial depth. Once you master the intricacies of manipulating a brush's x-, y-, and z-coordinates with the numeric keypad, you can do tricks like designing rooms that extend back into infinity or wrapping labels around boxes.
There are. plenty of features that artists want but DeluxePaint doesn't have, and probably never will. These include the ability to edit 16- and 24-bit images; the inclusion of photo-retouching tools like contrast and gamma correction; and support for Super VGA, expanded memory, and Windows. What DeluxePaint II Enhanced does offer is a fast, elegant, time-tested, and powerful system for painting images onscreen.
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DR. HALO IV PAINT AND IMAGING PAK
Dr. Halo is without a doubt one of the best-known names in PC painting. Around since 1984, this program boasts nearly 3 million users. It's a workhorse for many users who own no other graphics software, and now Dr. Halo has been released in a new version, Dr. Halo IV Paint and Imaging Pak.
There's plenty that's useful about Dr. Halo IV Paint and Imaging Pak. The package now includes five programs: the paint program Dr. Halo itself, which looks very much like the previous versions; the Viewer, a display and file conversion utility that gives Dr. Halo access to more image file formats than before; the Font Editor, which allows you to redesign bitmapped fonts to your specifications; the Grab utility, a screen-grabbing program; and Presents, a slide-show program for Dr. Halo images.
With its own conventions, icons, and ways of working, Dr. Halo, the core of the package, differs from other paint programs. For example, you choose tools and options entirely from dozens of icons--there are no drop-down menus--but the meaning of some of the icons isn't always obvious. Even such a simple function as color selection didn't work quite as I expected it to. To change the painting color, you first have to select the pencil tool. Luckily, the manual is clear and includes some basic tutorials, but you'll still need to experiment until you're sure what each tool does.
Dr. Halo performs most of the usual paint program operations, such as drawing lines and circles, filling with colors, and selecting areas for block operations like flip and rotate--and it does them fast. You won't find some of the program's unusual options in other paint programs, such as the ability to automatically draw a representation of a 3-D box.
However, Dr. Halo also has some odd omissions, at least by today's standards for paint programs. For example, there are no brushes in different shapes, and you have access to only four line thicknesses.
The other program in the Dr. Halo package that you'll use often is the Viewer. The Viewer not only converts file formats to and from Dr. Halo's own CUT format but also performs some basic image processing. You can crop, merge, and adjust the colors of TIF, BMP, and PCX images. Unfortunately, you can't jump directly from Dr. Halo to the Viewer or to any of the three other programs (except for Grab, which is a TSR).
Should Dr. Halo IV be your first paint program? Probably not. The program's cryptic, quirky interface and lack of integration between modules make it unnecessarily hard for paint novices to master. But if you're one of those 3 million Dr. Halo users who feel comfortable with the program's idiosyncrasies and occasional oversights, then Dr. Halo IV Paint and Imaging Pak is a real bargain. It greatly extends the original capabilities of Dr. Halo while retaining this classic's speed and power.
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FRACTAL DESIGN PAINTER 1.2 FOR WINDOWS
The woods are full of paint and draw programs, but if you have artistic talent and seek an exceptional program, Fractal Design Painter 1.2 for Windows may be just what you're looking for. The scope and options are extraordinary.
Never mind the usual toolbox--rotate and grab and fill and the usual. Painter has those, but they're trivial in the face of the program's other features. When you create an image, the brush palette offers the options of an airbrush, a brush, pencils, chalk, charcoal, felt pens, crayons, and special brushes. You even have the option of painting in the style of Van Gogh or Seurat. Each of these options has variants; for example, the brush can be a hairy brush, graduated brush, water brush, watercolor brush, or Japanese brush. With each of these, you can adjust the size and angle of the brush tip and make the edges of the stroke or soft or intermediate.
Not content with that variety, the developers created an array of application methods potentially bewildering to the novice. You can choose among such options as grainy edge flat buildup, grainy hard, wet, soft buildup, and more. Further, you can select the depth of penetration into the paper of your palette and the concentration of the color. In the watercolor variants, if you don't like what you've produced, you can wet the brush and soften it. For other effects, you can create a frisket, which is a mask to shield certain areas during painting or retouching.
The color palette offers 15 color families, which differ according to the selected brush, just as the colors available for pastel differ from those for oils. You can alter these default colors in their hue, saturation, and value.
And there's more. You have the option of viewing your finished artistry in a different mode. If you've painted in watercolor, you can clone it in oil, or you can see it a la Van Gogh or Seurat. Artists might well find the mouse a poor substitute for a paintbrush. Painter recognizes this and provides support for such equipment as the Wacom pressure-sensitive stylus.
The program is rather slow on a 16-MHz 386SX with 8MB of RAM. And Painter consumes plenty of RAM and disk space. While it requires only 2.5MB of free disk space for installation, Fractal Design recommends 20MB for creating images. I wish the program included more extensive documentation. The user's guide includes no sample images, and no true tutorials are provided.
Though I'm not a fine artist and though I lack access to a color printer, I was nonetheless most impressed with Painter as an exceptional program, striking in the depth and breadth of its potential for creative artistry. If you are fine artist or have aspirations in that direction, Painter deserves your attention.
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IMGINE-IN SCAN & PAINT 3.1
Given the remarkable progress in personal computer graphics over the last couple of years and the impressive crop of draw and paint programs to choose from, you should carefully consider just what you want to do with such a program. Image-In Scan & Paint 3.1 has much to offer, including the ability to import Kodak PhotoCD images.
The program takes good advantage of Windows 3.1's features, and it's perceptibly faster than other image-editing software running under Windows. When you create an image, you can choose color, gray-scale, or bilevel (black-and-white); if you change your mind later, it's possible to convert from one type to another. The program's toolbox offers a wide range of tools. Shape and thickness options are available whether you're using a pen, a brush, or an airbrush. You can create lines, open or closed Bezier curves, rectangles, circles, or ellipses. There's also a text capability, with more than 20 fonts provided. For convenience, the right mouse button provides fast access to the options for each tool.
When you're ready to edit, a pointer tool lets you select an area of the image in the shape of a rectangle, a circle, an ellipse, a polygon, or a free form. Once you've defined an area, you may choose to have your modifications apply to that area or to the rest of the image. Fill and eyedropper tools help you make color modifications. For effects, you can filter the image to sharpen it or blur it. Images can be manipulated with the flip, rotate, and stretch/ shrink commands; and adjustments can be made for brightness, contrast, and color balance.
You have your choice of 11 formats, including the popular TIF, PCX, and EPS, for saving your work and for exporting to other applications. For conservation of disk space, the TIF format offers a compressed mode. Those same formats are also supported in importing images. With very little difficulty, I imported a gray-scale image produced by a hand scanner, converted it to RGB, and tinted areas to produce an acceptable color image.
Scan & Paint provides direct support for a large number of scanners. When you set up the program, you can install the driver for your scanner and later call the scanner from the toolbox. The scanned image is brought directly into the program, where you may modify and edit it as you choose. The program also provides support for loading Kodak PhotoCD images and for fast printing to the Kodak XLT7720 series printers.
Regrettably, the documentation is in the form of a reference guide rather than a user's guide, with no tutorials provided. It requires a fair amount of digging on the part of the new user to discover just what the program offers. Still, power and a modest price make Scan & Paint a program that many consumers will want to consider.
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PC PAINTBRUSH 5+
At its modest price, PC Paintbrush 5+ can be a good value, depending on your needs.
When compared to some similarly priced Windows products (or even Windows Paintbrush, which is free), this old DOS performer seems a little long in the tooth. It lacks 24-bit color support and supports a limited number of file formats (PCX, compressed and uncompressed TIF, and GIF), so it's not really conducive to full-color image editing. If you don't run Windows and need a good monotone and gray-scale image editor, however, this is a good start.
Where Paintbrush really excels is in its extensive scanner support. Since ZSoft has been building scanner drivers for a long time, the program is a strong scanner interface. Scanning black-and-white and gray-scale images with my ScanJet IIc, I got excellent results. Paintbrush didn't handle the scanner's 24-bit color capabilities well, however. There is also strong printer and graphics adapter support, which is not found in many other products in this price range. Literally hundreds of VGA and SVGA boards are supported by Paintbrush.
Paintbrush comes with an extensive array of image-editing tools, including some found in ZSoft's higher-end image-editing packages, such as PhotoFinish. In fact, if you're familiar with PhotoFinish or Publisher's Paintbrush, you'll notice some similarities. Tool and filter names are the same, as are the color and brush width palettes. Especially impressive is the Magic Wand, which automatically selects objects of the same color. With this tool you can recolor multiple objects easily. I used it to make all the clouds in a sky scene grayer and more foreboding.
In all, the program comes with over 20 paint and retouch tools and some sophisticated special effects, such as emboss, mosaic, and motion blur. Automatic filters--sharpen, smear, smudge, spot removal, and others--allow you to work on selected portions or the entire image at once.
Paintbrush runs on systems with 640K RAM; it uses empty disk space as virtual memory to hold large images. However, until I did some reconfiguring, eliminating several device drivers, I got a lot of out-of-memory errors. The worst part is that as often as not the system locked up, forcing me to reboot. This program is certainly no for power users with numerous TSRs. And it's certainly not for Windows users, who can find more power and a prettier interface somewhere else.
When I started working with computer graphics several years ago, Paintbrush was my first bitmap editor and scanning software. And it served me well for quite a While. This is an excellent program for beginners. You should not consider it, however, if you plan to do a lot of photograph editing, especially color.
WILLIAM D. HARREL
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For $500 less than most high-end electronic darkrooms, PhotoFinish 2.0 gives you about 90 percent of the features and 200 percent of the ease of use.
PhotoFinish supports an impressive list of scanners. However, you must load the driver in config.sys, which eats up RAM and could conflict with other TSRs. Most of today's Windows scanning software uses a dII or drv driver that loads when the scanner is activated and moves out of the way when it's not needed.
The program's automatic filters--sharpen, blend, smudge, and so on--work great, as do the 20+ paint and special-effect tools. Most major bitmap file formats are supported, and there is even a filter that automatically decompresses industry-standard JPEG images before displaying them. You can even save your images to Encapsulated Postscript format to get color separations in desktop publishing and draw programs. PhotoFinish does not, however, print color separations on its own, which makes it less suitable as a professional photo touch-up package. Another drawback is the way the program uses RAM. It seems that no matter how much memory is available (this review was done on a system with 20MB), there is entirely too much disk accessing going on, which significantly slows down screen redraws when you're working on big images.
Version 2.0 comes with a nifty image viewer that loads thumbnails of all the images in a subdirectory for easy selection. And there is an extensive library of prescanned 24-bit images you can use in your layouts and presentations, virtually free of copyright restrictions, which is great if you don't have a scanner (or even if you do). Another plus for version 2.0 is the addition of monitor, scanner, and printer calibration. This feature, originally part of ZSoft's full-featured Publisher's Paintbrush, allows you to optimize your input and output devices to get even closer to true WYSIWYG. (This isn't easy when dealing with color. You need all the help you can get.)
Even the full-featured products don't have some of this program's features, such as automatic deskewing and image stitching (automatically stitching multiple scans together). One feature that few programs of any type have is Z Soft's Local Undo. It allows you to undo changes to selected areas of a drawing, rather than having to reverse all of your work--a lifesaver if you're making extensive edits.
I found the documentation for PhotoFinish to be thorough and easy to use. The tutorial walks you through touching up both a gray-scale and a full-color photograph. The program is straightforward and easy to learn, but if you should ever need technical support, it's easy to get through, and the technicians are well trained. My calls were answered promptly, and my questions were answered quite satisfactorily.
Unlike PC Paintbrush, which is definitely a beginner's package, PhotoFinish may be the only paint and image-editing program you'll ever need.
WILLIAM D. HARREL
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PICTURE PUBLISHER 3.1
Picture Publisher 3.1 (now dropped to $495 from the $795 that 3.0 cost) is an image editor rather than strictly a paint program. While it has many of the standard paint tools for drawing, filling, and color control, it's primarily oriented toward enhancing an already existing image instead of creating one. For example, you could take a flat but colorful drawing generated in another program and--through blends, gradients, textures, and other special effects--give it a three-dimensional, more photorealistic look.
Picture Publisher gives you complete control over images--either scanned in or imported via such standard file formats as BMP, GIF, PCX, Photo CD, Targa, and TIF. The program supports EPS and DCS formats only as exports.
Looking for a clean, uncluttered, easy-to-use interface? Picture Publisher has it. On the bottom line of the window, helpful hints appear about the currently selected tool or option.
Editing several images at once is easy with Picture Publisher. Each has its own resizable window. You may cut and paste between these images or between them and other Windows applications, or you can have several views of the same picture! A linking option causes changes made in one window to be reflected in all other open copies of the image.
Picture Publisher supports everything from 1 -bit black-and-white line drawings to 256 levels of gray scale to 24-bit true color images. You'll find features for sharpening, smoothing, and so forth.
For picking a specific color on an image, Picture Publisher furnishes an eyedropper tool. Called a color probe, it lets you choose just one point for an exact color match or draw a rectangle and get an average of all the colors within the bounded area.
The use of text is as powerful as whatever fonts are installed in Windows. You place text as a mask, allowing you easily to resize, fill, and rotate it for stunning effects.
Speaking of masks, Picture Publisher has strong mask features. You can isolate areas of an image for retouching and other special effects, or select areas for copying or cutting--all with masks.
Color control is also excellent. You can adjust local areas or the entire image for color contrast, hue, brightness, and saturation. Picture Publisher supports the three basic color systems: RGB, HLS, and CMYK.
Various special effects let you get as weird as you like in twirling, crystallizing, waving, or running Hurricane Andrew through your picture (try the Wind special effect for that one; it works nicely).
Service and support by Micrografx are good. The documentation, while extensive and well written, still does not cover everything possible about this very complex program. However, 24-hour technical support is available.
Other reviewers have said Picture Publisher is the best image-editing program available. I'll just say, "I switched." If you need the powerful features found in Picture Publisher, you may switch, too. That's my recommendation.
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TEMPRA PRO 3.0
TEMPRA PRO 3.0 is a powerful paint and imaging program that provides a remarkable degree of color control. And since this program runs under DOS, even computer artists who "don't do Windows" have access to its abundant set of tools that can create not only drawings but multimedia presentations as well.
While TEMPRA PRO directly accepts input from a handful of scanners as well as video-digitizing boards, the program provides ample ways to apply paint by hand. And if your hand isn't that steady, TEMPRA PRO includes the tools to help you out.
For example, you can create masks to isolate sections of your artwork and either paint those sections or protect them from change. And if the shapes are the way you like them but the colors are not, TEMPRA PRO provides an outstanding set of color protection controls.
>From the Color Protect Palette, you can isolate individual colors or ranges of color and protect them from change. The swap feature allows you to select a single color and protect all others, making it possible for you to recolor an image one shade at a time. In addition, your color protection selections can be turned into a mask that you can save to disk and reuse.
Although TEMPRA PRO works on any AT-class computer with any VGA monitor, your creative sessions will benefit from a faster processor and more sophisticated display system up to and including 24-bit systems. Even with a 486 processor, you'll find yourself waiting for some drawing functions. If you have at least a 386SX processor, though, you can boost performance through Mathematica's add-on Turbo Charge feature (available separately for $295), which allows TEMPRA PRO to run two to five times its normal speed.
TEMPRA PRO supports a long list of color and black-and-white printers and comes with its own print program that allows you to adjust images as they're going to the printer. From TEMPRA PRINT PRO you can crop images, adjust the dot size and brightness, and scale the image. Printing can be activated from within TEMPRA PRO itself or from the command line.
Another Mathematica utility of some note is TEMPRA SHOW, a multimedia authoring system. TEMPRA SHOW is a presentation program in which the user describes the events that constitute the presentation. Events can include audio, full-motion video, animation, text, and special effects. Although TEMPRA SHOW is a separate product that lists for $199, Mathematica has bundled it with TEMPRA PRO.
Thanks to the step-by-step instructions for each of the commands provided in the manual, I found TEMPRA PRO fairly easy to use. Despite its thoroughness, however, the manual is a visual disappointment. The camera-ready copy for the manual, including screen representations and illustrations, was produced on a 300-dpi laser printer. By using low-resolution black-and-white illustrations, Mathematica missed a chance to showcase the program's vibrancy and fully illustrate some of its outstanding color capabilities.
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