openCanvas3 & 3 Plus

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, March 2004, send e-mail
Published by: System Products Corp., go to the web site
Requires: 300 MHz Pentium or better (500 MHz Pentium2, AMD K7 or better recommended), 32MB RAM, Windows 98, Me, NT 4.0, 2000, XP or XP Pro, video card at 800x600 or higher
MSRP: ¥6,000/US$65.00 (openCanvas3) , ¥7,800/US$75.00 (openCanvas3 Plus)

Shortly after reviewing Dogwaffle in February 2004 I received an e-mail from my editor asking me to look at another digital paint application. I had no idea what to expect, and openCanvas3 Plus had some way to go to impress me after Dogwaffle, but impress it did. openCanvas3 Plus is another really nice drawing tool which takes some of its functional cues from drawing applications like Painter and Dogwaffle. Its interface is much more like Paint Shop Pro than Painter however, and in this it appears a little more irksome. However that being said I thoroughly enjoyed playing with this program and watching the events recorded by other artists. Yes that's right - openCanvas3 supports playback of all the steps an artist has taken to create a project.

openCanvas3 Plus is quite powerful and supports features such as layers and layer masks, several types of pens and brushes, gradients, filters, magic wand and selection tools. The support for drawing tablets is a true boon to the artist, however the help file indicates that only Wacom tablets are supported at the moment. The drawing tools produce very clean, smooth lines and brush effects. There is even an opaque watercolor brush which nicely reflects background tonal densities.

The Plus version adds the following features: Tones (ziptone style patterns), extended zoom capabilities, anti-alias display and PSD file format support. openCanvas3 Plus follows many of the same user interface and tool conventions found in other paint programs such as Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro. As a result it has a fairly short learning curve for anyone familiar with those conventions.

The support for Photoshop-style layers (22 layers) is very nice and this support extends through to the PSD file format, allowing you to edit and make changes to native Photoshop files. The implementation of filters is very nice too but here compatibility with Photoshop ends because openCanvas3 Plus only supports its own internal filters with no support for Photoshop format plug-ins. The addition of greater Photoshop feature compatibility and more photo style editing tools and capabilities can only enhance this great program's already nice feature set.

The event playback feature is one of my favorite parts of this great little program, acting as an excellent tutor which allows you to see how other artists create their works. I spent hours watching the events from several of the artists in the openCanvas online community. I was a little disappointed by the predominantly Japanese animé style of most of the art, but given that the program originates from Japan it's understandable.

A handful of the program's dialog function labels and help files still need to be correctly translated but System Products Corp have by & large done a good job of localization. The help file is fairly extensive and any moderately experienced user of other imaging programs should have no problem using the more common features in openCanvas3 Plus. The help files covering paint and drawing tools could be enhanced by the addition of some tutorial videos to explain the various key features.

Cons: Web site needs a little expansion in its support features. No support for Adobe style plug-ins. No clone tool.

Pros: PSD support in Plus version, tablet support, event playback, support community with image library and associated events.

Earlier in this review I mentioned Painter and its better interface. Having revisited the subject further I found that even though openCanvas 3 Plus is different from Painter, many people who use both programs have openly stated their preference for openCanvas's simplicity and I can't fault them. openCanvas 3 Plus is a pleasure to use and with its support for graphics tablets, layers and Photoshop PSD files it is a wonderful tool for the budding or professional artist. Its event recording and playback feature acts as a great demonstration tool allowing you to see how others create their works. I highly recommend openCanvas3 Plus - it is worth every penny.

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