COMPUTER SOFTWARE REVIEW
Title: Expression; Version 1 for Windows 95, NT,
Mac, and PowerMac; Fractal Design Corporation
Reviewer: Raymond Saint Arnaud, "Not satisfied with
having the most highly regarded natural-media paint
program, Painter 4. Fractal Design Corporation has
released their new natural-media program called
Expression. It's a step ahead."
Fractal Design's new Expression is a step ahead.
Not satisfied with having the most highly regarded
natural-media paint program, Painter 4. Fractal
Design Corporation has released their new
natural-media program called Expression.
The significant difference is that Expression is a vector
based drawing tool while Painter 4 is a bit mapped drawing
tool.So how does that affect the artist or illustrator
creating an image with a computer?
When a line is drawn with a vector based program, the
shape and characteristics of the line or stroke are stored
as a mathematical formula. The artist can create an image
suitable for a business card. Subsequently, they may
wish to use it for a giant poster. With a vector based
program there is no loss of quality in the original lines or
strokes. Theoretically, a vector based drawing can be
expanded to any size.
Expression, as such a program, is similar in some
respects to other vector programs like Corel Draw, Adobe
Illustrator and Macromedia Freehand. The user can
import and export files to these other programs as well
as exporting to bit mapped programs like Adobe
PhotoShop or Painter 4.
What distinguishes Expression from other vector drawing
programs are "skeletal strokes." Draw a line or brush stroke
with Expression and you actually draw a multi-element
stroke with the characteristics of the tool and the behavior
of natural media.
Because it is vector based, the stroke can be further modified
through the use of a node editing tool. The artist can change
the width of the stroke, move nodes to relocate portions of the
stroke and use the node tangent handles to alter the shape
or curve of a stroke. Nodes can also be easily added or deleted.
Strokes can be laid down with the freehand brush tool or the
bezier pen tool and some interesting supplemental tools that
are extensions of the bezier tool. Other controls include palettes
for choosing the color or opacity of a stroke or a fill. An artist
could even decide to choose an alternative stroke from the
library of built in strokes, or create a new stroke style.
Graphic element strokes add a new range of possibilities.
Such a stroke might be a fish, a dog or a train. Creating a school
of fish or a garden of flowers would be as easy as drawing the
stroke path of the selected elements.
Multi-View strokes work with skeletal and graphic element strokes
and interpolates between multiple views of a stroke to introduce
some randomness to the stroke.
An example would be the different stages of a flower's growth.
The first view would see a small plant and small flower stalk.
The final view would represent the plant at maturity. Other
views would represent the plant at intermediate stages of
its growth. When this is coupled with the variables of stroke
length, stroke direction and width, the user can quickly populate
a garden without duplication. Multi-view strokes can also be
saved as Quick Time or AVI animation files.
Expression has 150 natural-media and multi-view strokes,
200 graphic element strokes and more than 35 hatching,
paper grain and vector patterns. It also has a layers feature,
similar to PhotoShop, that is equally handy in creating
Expression will appeal to users of vector based drawing
programs who require a program with ease of use for
natural media drawing effects and who are already familiar
with node editing.
Expression will also appeal to users of bit mapped software
because it has no limitations on the size of final output and
features file sizes that are smaller than their bit mapped
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