Expression

COMPUTER SOFTWARE REVIEW  

595 words

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 
complex images.

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 
equivalent.



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