Plenty of creative input and some impressive artistic results.
Like Virtual Painter, PhotoArtMaster is designed to give your existing digital photos an artistic twist. In its own way it is just as successful but it would be difficult to imagine two more different applications. To begin with Fo2PiX, the UK company behind PhotoArtMaster, hasn't taken the plug-in filter route (it offers the separate Buzz.Pro for this) but instead has opted to produce a full standalone application.
What really makes PhotoArtMaster unique however is its approach. This becomes apparent as soon as you have loaded your digital photo in the Picture Central module (PhotoArtMaster only supports JPEG images and will resize them to a maximum size of 1050 x 800) and after you have made any cropping and colour adjustments in the Preparation Editor. You then bring your image into the Studio Editor which is the real heart of PhotoArtMaster.
To the right is the Canvas area which displays a full-size version of the current image you are working on. Below this, running across the full width of the screen are your Sources. These are over 100 filtered versions of the original image arranged into 13 tabbed categories, such as Main Colour and Drawn Edges, and each represented as a small preview thumbnail. These sources are effectively the art materials that you work with and as soon as you select a source it appears as a medium-sized preview called the Palette at the top of the side control panel.
Before you apply the Palette to your Canvas you have the opportunity to tweak it by changing hue, saturation, contrast and brightness. More creatively you also control how the Palette will blend with the existing Canvas by interactively mixing between various Mixer modes such as Replace, Darken and Light Tint. You can still change these settings after you have applied the Palette to the Canvas so that you can fine-tune the effect live. Only when you are completely happy with your results do you click on the Fix Artwork button to make your changes permanent.
You are then ready to begin the process over again using a new Source. In practice this tends to mean that you build up your artwork just as an artist would by first using some of the edge-based Sources to produce a sketched outline, then the colour-based Sources to fill in your artwork and finally the detail-based Sources to highlight the most important features. For these later stages the ability to interactively paint with your Sources using PhotoArtMaster's range of brushes is crucial and really puts you in control of the whole creative process.
PhotoArtMaster enables real creative input.
Though I would still have preferred a wider range of initial Sources to choose from, the level of creative control and creative input that PhotoArtMaster master provides is extraordinary. In fact, even working with the same image, no two users would produce the same results. Having said that, to be able to produce art works with the same range of styles and the same visual impact that Virtual Painter produces automatically would be a serious challenge.
The real strength of PhotoArtMaster is that it can rise to that challenge. By putting the user in complete creative control it lets them produce both good results quickly and excellent results with a bit more effort. PhotoArtMaster is a lot of creative power - and fun - for a very reasonable price.
Ease of Use 5/6
Value for Money 6/6
requirements Pentium III 500 MHz, 256 Mb RAM, 500Mb of hard disk space for processing pictures, Windows 98/2000/XP or NT 4, 1024x768 display, CD-ROM
Tom ArahJuly 2002
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