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[url=https://www.amigafuture.de/app.php/kb/viewarticle?a=373&sid=ce32cfb503543ccba8313053bed0acde]Artikeldatenbank - Review fxPAINT 2.0[/url]
fxPAINT has been in development for more than 3 years and it really shows, but how good is this paint application in comparism to others? How fast is it working and which features make it really outstanding? Well, before we reveal this and more, I think, it's always a good start to tell you, which requirements your Amiga system should meet.
It really seems, that fxPAINT 2.0 runs on everything you would describe as an Amiga System. It runs native under 68k, PPC (WarpUP, PowerUP, MorphOS, OS 4.0) and Amithlon (x86 code is used here to speed up filters and cpu-demanding features). It also works flawlessly under WinUAE which has been used for this review. As a minimum requirement you will need an Amiga 68000 with AmigaOS 3.0, 10 MB RAM and a harddisc. Of course you also need a CD-ROM drive (everyone should have one by now, eh?) and a gfx-card (either CGFX or P96 system) is highly recommended! More RAM will speed up operations and handling of bigger images a lot aswell. Tablets are supported and there are some special additions when using AmigaOS.3.5/3.9 or MorphOS.
There's not much to say about the installation except that a simple doubleclick will install fxPAINT on your harddrive. At this point I have to say, that I hate the Amiga installer as it happens quite often to me, that a certain program will not install because of a buggy install-script, wrong assigns, mem-checks (this is especially bad when using WinUAE) or else. fxPAINT's installer did the job perfectly, without errors, without frustration of the user.
Features and philosophy
xPAINT provides you with all options and tools you would expect from a high-end image-processing application: there are those usual drawing-tools (brush-effects, line, circle, rectangle, pen, fill, etc.), crop- and scale-tools, effect-filters like various blur functions, colortransformations, composing-tools like colourize, bumpmapping, mosaic or bluebox which works like blueboxes on TV, etc. Of course there are also distortions-effects like page-curl, whirl, ripple, fisheye or some amazing lighting-effects. Other effects include artistic filters (oil painting, colorgradient, etc.), noise and matrix-operations (sharpen, emboss, etc.). There are also two effect-filters I found very interesting and useful: the red eye filter, which removes the phenomenon that causes the eyes of flash-photography to appear in red colour and the JPEG-artefact reduction which results in a better image-quality. However, it's impossible to mention all features of fxPAINT as there are so many (I think, I still have not seen them all in action yet).
Most of the filter effects have been improved regarding speed or options (or both!) and there are also new filters available in version 2.0 like gradient, which replaces images with a gradient, antialias, which reduces stairs in images, glow, which adds the famouse glowing-effect to specific points, neon (a funky filter that one), pinch and two filters, which are perfect for creating water-like impressions: ripple and whirl. On the pic on the left you can see my first creation in fxPAINT 2.0. This is done by the unique PyroPlugin of this image-processing software, that lets you create explosions, fire and other cool stuff simply by drawing them.
The philosophy of the fxPAINT layer-system is easy once you understand it, but unfortunately not very flexible in comparison to ArtEffect (or Photoshop on PC/MAC). You always have to fix a layer once you are happy with it, but you cannot edit or delete the layer without losing the work that you have already done because undo is the only way to get back to your old layer before fixing it. Undoing a fixed layer wasn't possible with previous versions of fxPAINT and is a new and welcome feature of 2.0. Here is an example if you don't understand, how the layer-system works: When drawing on the pic you are actually drawing on a layer, which works like a mask. For example you can mark the sky on a photo with the magic-wand tool - by using the ideal tolerance, which is a new feature of the new version and can be adjusted in several ways to select objects in a picture like equal/similiar color at once - load another picture (ie. of some flowers) and by selecting the rub-through option in the effects-manager you are now able to draw flowers in the sky! If you want to add another effect you will have to click on "fix" first.
fxPAINT is so much more than just a paint-program. It allows creation of artworks, lets you manipulate photos with ease but also features additional applications like an image-browser (even Photoshop did not have such a tool before version 7 has been released some time ago) which is called fxALBUM (see screenshot on the left) and can be used to store your photos and images as thumbnails. Of course they can be presented in a slideshow with various transitions or converted in different file-formats. Editing them directly in fxPAINT is done by a simple doubleclick on the thumbnail. fxALBUM has been improved in this version by adding an alphabetical sort function for your entries, manual sorting and rearranging via drag and drop. It's now also possible in version 2.0 to rotate your pics in 90° steps directly within fxALBUM (a very handy feature!) and there's an option to add a watermark or a comment to your pictures. There is now also a much better HTML-export in 2.0, which allows to create a thumbnail-page with various skins, borders, HTML-based slideshows or even e-cards!
If you are into webdesign then fxPAINT 2.0 has some wonderful tools for you: the new navigation builder for example. This tool allows the creation of rollover-images. All you need are two identical pictures which have some buttons/text on it. The most impressing thing is that you don't have to do this seperately for every element of your navigation. Instead, you place all the elements in one image, put their activated counterparts in a second one and the navigation builder automatically slices them for you and generates seperate rollovers for each element along with the matching HTML-code.
On the screenshot on the left you can see the imagemap-tool in action, called fxIMAGEMAP which allows to select rectangle-areas on a picture, which will then be converted into links via an automatically generated HTML file. A nice feature, but unfortunately there's no chance to use polygons or circles as map-areas.
I really like some of the new improvements in 2.0. One of them is the Color Variation Wizard, which lets you colourize your pic with ease: just choose the colour-channel you like and start mixing. For every possible option like RGB-values, saturation, brightness, etc. you see a small thumbnail, which makes it really intuitive to use (see screenshot on the left). There's also a Gradient Manager and the Gradient-tool, which are easy to handle aswell and are allowing transparent areas (see second screenshot on top). It's even possible to draw directly with gradients, that you can freely define in the Gradient Manager. Another great addition is the Arexx- and plugin-interface which features a render-plugin that shows you your pic fullscreen, steganographie (hiding of files in pictures), WBMP-pictures for WAP-pages or the creation of Workbench-icons. fxPAINT got some very useful webdesign-solutions like the mentioned navigation-builder, the transformation of pictures into a thumbnail-gallery including HTML code and various borders, imagemap-tool and the conversion-section, which now also supports batch-processing in 2.0. I only miss GIF-support here.
fxPAINT 2.0 really isn't just an update of v.1.5. It is now much more complete. Nearly everything has been optimized and improved - be it new loaders and savers (including PNG support, TARGA with transparency, PDF export (for which fxSCAN is required) or BMP, speed-improvements (especially regarding handling of huge images) or new tools like the intuitive navigation-builder.
Still, there are some things, which are a bit annoying: First, I don't really like the unflexible layer-system and I personally hope that it will be changed into a layer-manager with independent layers (like the one on ArtEffect or Photoshop) one day although this will be a heavy task, I guess. Second, I dislike that there is no real text-tool available - especially when it comes to webdesign you really need better text-functions. Although you can create a text-brush which can be modified (rotation, scaling, etc.) and there is support for Truetype-Fonts by using Gregorz Kraszewski's TTEngine, I think, that this still isn't a very flexible and intuitive method of working with text-elements. There's no way to edit the text once you have created a brush, so if you made a typing-mistake, you have to create the text-brush again. There's also no option regarding text-alignment, kerning, tracking or leading. I miss GIF-support (I know, the license-problem, but with its web-tools like imagemap-tool and naviagation-builder it's really a pity it got none).
Other than that I have to say, that fxPAINT is a perfect all-in-one-image-processing-package for the Amiga - a fantastic and well-presented tool and it is offering much more than other image-processing packages on the Amiga. If you own fxPAINT you will hardly need any other gfx-related tool again. A GFX-BASE recommendation!
Available from: IOSpirit (thanx to Felix Schwarz for sending us a test version).
reviewer:Richard Kapp, testing done by Richard Kapp and Michael vanAllen