Snap Art from Alien Skin Software

Snap Art is a Photoshop plug-in that enables you to create all kinds of artwork using your digital photographs. It features an easy-to-use interface that readily becomes intuitive within minutes of starting to use the software. But don't let the ease-of-use fool you into thinking that Snap Art is not a powerful package.

NOTE: Plug-ins are computer programs that run from within another program. Plug-ins extend the usefulness of their host program by adding functionality. Alien Skin Software has many great Photoshop Plug-ins that do a variety of tasks including photo correction and enhancement and image modification.

At first glance the Snap Art filter collection may seem like one of those one-click solutions, and while it could certainly be used that way, as there is a bucketful of presets available, there is a ton of power tucked within the easy-to-grasp and even-easier-to-use interface.

Because Snap Art is a Photoshop plug-in it requires Photoshop (CS or later), or a similar host program such as Photoshop Elements (version 4 or later) or Corel's Paint Shop Pro (XI or later) to run. During the installation process Snap Art will locate compatible hosts on your system and offer to install itself for any of these.

Running and using Snap Art is (pardon the pun) a snap! Simply run your graphics program after installing Snap Art and either create an image, or load in one of your favorite photos.

With the image ready to go (assuming that you're using Photoshop) choose Filter, Alien Skin Snap Art, and then choose from the list of available effect plug-ins… everything from Color Pencil and Comics to Pastel and Watercolor (there are 10 filters in all).

Figure 8.1 shows a screenshot of Snap Art with an Oil Painting effect being applied to a photograph of a tall ship.

Most of the interface main window is taken up with the preview window. In figure 8.1 I have the Preview Split set to "None", but there is a large number of ways to have the original and the effects-altered image displayed in the preview window. Figure 8.2 shows a comic effect being applied to a photo-portrait. You can see how the upper right half of the preview image shows the original photo and the other half shows the effect applied.

Along the top left of the main Snap Art window are several menu choices: File (enabling copying and pasting, etc.), Filter (which enables you to go between the different filters available), View (for zooming the preview window) and Help.

Below the menu choices you'll find tabs enabling access to the various settings that are available for each of the different filters. For example in figure 8.2, where the Comics filter is being applied, you can see tabs for Settings, Basic, Color, Canvas and Lighting options, but the Color Tab would be replaced with a Tone tab in the Pen and Ink filter. It's quite intuitive, really.

The Settings tab lets you quickly zone in on a preset… again the presets available will vary from filter to filter. The thing is you can easily use any of these presets as a stepping off point for your own explorations… to do so, after selecting one of the preset settings, open one of the other tabs, such as Basic and let the fun begin.

As with the other settings, the "Basic" options will vary from filter to filter. The Pen and Ink filter offers, for example, Pen Width, Edge Strength, Pen Coverage, Sketchiness and Pen Stroke Length while the Comics filter offers up Feature Size, Edge Strength, Halftoning Amount, Shading Amount and Posterization.

Even after exploring the Basic options for any given filter, you'll still have more options to play with… you can choose from different canvases, play with the Color/Tone and even fool around with how the lighting is applied.

Actually, you may find yourself so far from the one-click idea that you'll want to save your creations, and Snap Art makes it easy for you to do so. From the Settings tab, click the Save button and name and save your filter settings. When you have enough of them saved to matter, you can even mange your collection from the same interface.

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