Pixarra Sketchbook v2.5

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, send e-mail
Published by: Pixarra, go to the web site
Requires: PC capable of running Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP
MSRP: US,$49.95 £31.47

What is Pixarra Sketchbook? It is quite simply a paint and drawing program which is aimed at the home user and enthusiast. I was faced with a bit of a quandary when I first looked at this product, as I felt that it was at best a first generation paint program. Pixarra however makes no pretensions about trying to compete with products like Corel Painter 8, Creature House Expression or any of the other professional solutions. The nice thing about Pixarra is that it reminds me of the early days of paint programs on many of the platforms I've worked on - paint programs which were clearly made by folks who wanted to have fun with their tools.

Pixarra Sketchbook allows you to draw, paint and play. It would be an ideal tool for the classroom and with its rudimentary support for graphics tablets, is great for the amateur. Though the application at first glance appears to be simplistic, this appearance belies a great deal of complexity and functional flexibility in the existing tools.

The range of brushes supported in this drawing program is quite extensive and there are plenty of controls to fine tune them. Defined brushes included are: acrylics, artists, air brush, chalk, charcoal, crayons, markers, oil paint, oil pastels, pencils, pens, strange, stampers and watercolors. The artist brush attempts to emulate the style of a given period or artist. This feature however doesn't apply the effect to an existing image but instead attempts to lay down the paint and color in an emulative style. It doesn't quite achieve the expected effect but with styles such as Impressionist, Seurat and sketch, but the results are certainly interesting.

There are a couple of notable things missing from the program. It needs to provide support for textured papers and surfaces. There is also a lack of support for Photoshop style plug-ins which would further enhance the application's feature set. Pixarra does allow the import and export of predefined libraries of brush effects and presets, some of which are quite cool and lend themselves to the creation of some very interesting artistic effects and textures.

Back to basics - that's Pixarra. I visited the forum on the developers' web site and subsequently found their responsiveness to user inquiries to be timely and effective. The developer is quick to react to user requests and inquiries with changes and additions to the application. This responsiveness leads me to expect even more from this application in the future.

Cons: No controls or settings for creation of custom brush styles and shapes. There is no color picker or palette (mixing or otherwise) as such. Brushes are not totally natural and some could do with redefinition.

Pros: The relatively quick response from the developer to new feature requests. Existing range of brushes is very nice. Good refinement controls for all brushes.

Although it is clearly not a professional illustration program, Pixarra does fill the niche it is aimed at quite nicely. I recommended Pixarra for the home user with children, and for the beginner paint and drawing enthusiast. It's definitely a creative tool.

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