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In a world studded with Photoshop-style image editors and Painter-like natural-media tools, it’s really tough to find a new kind of artistic software that brings something truly unique and innovative to the table. But the little-known Studio Artist 4 totally pulls it off, delivering a one-of-a-kind creative application that can craft visuals like nothing else—if you’re prepared to spend some time mastering its intricacies.
Getting an organic oil-paint look is practically effortless.
The moment you launch Studio Artist, you quickly realize it’s not your daddy’s paint program—the normal array of brushes and editing tools is replaced by a series of preset combinations, organized by groupings such as abstract, AutoCloning (which redraws a source image in any number of artistic styles), chalks, lighted tubes, dry brushes, and many, many more. The program ships with thousands of presets, and for plenty of users, that’ll be as deep as they delve into the available tools. You can base your work on an existing image or start from scratch—open an image, and Studio Artist converts it into a series of vector shapes that are then used to re-create the image by “redrawing” it with custom brushes. This process can either be done automatically—filling in the image while you watch—or manually by painting the image with brushes using colors derived from the source. The vast array of brushes is especially luscious when using a graphics tablet as you can radically alter the characteristics (color, thickness, shape) by tilting the stylus or changing the amount of applied pressure. The results are wonderfully organic—drippy paint, rough edges, all the entropies of reality. Turning a photo into a gorgeous oil painting is almost effortless, but when we took a picture and rendered it as a pile of colorful, dimensional glowing jellybeans, that went well beyond what we expect from a painting program.
We love Particle brushes—imagine painting with a brush that spawns pixie dust. We’ve never seen anything like it, and that’s literally just the tip of the iceberg. Built-in vectorization capabilities give you some amazing options for converting bitmapped images to vector-based EPS files, perfect for advanced print and animation tricks. Ever want to expand a web-res image into a poster-sized, stylized masterpiece? No problem! You can pipe live video into the paint engine, letting you paint with a brush that sprays video frames all over the screen, which is even more fun than it sounds. Then there’s an entire programmable set of Photoshop-style image-processing filters that far supersede those found in Photoshop, as well as a texture generator capable of gorgeous organic patterns that you can even apply to video, creating rotoscoped effects that belong in a bleeding-edge music video. Morphing, warping, custom distortions—it’s like a visual candy store with both familiar indulgences and wildly colored offerings you’ve never even imagined.
Once you decide to move beyond the presets and try customizing things, prepare to be intimidated. Studio Artist is wickedly complex under the hood, and we saw signs that this program was created by someone who has some serious math on the mind. Some of the options dialogs in Studio Artist look like they were lifted from alien spacecraft flight manuals. Quality time spent with the comprehensive documentation is a worthwhile investment.
The bottom line. At $399, Studio Artist isn’t cheap, but it delivers an intensely deep set of creative tools for visual artists and video animators. It’s as much graphic fun as you’ll ever have on a Mac.
STUDIO ARTIST 4
Mac OS 10.3.9 or later
Unique painting tools. Extensive graphics tablet support. Deep toolset.
Can be daunting to master. Interface sometimes cryptic, especially for new users.