Monday, May 1, 2006

A great, safe painting program for little kids (and dads)

BUDGET PHOTO SECRETS

By David Gewirtz

A few weeks ago, we published an article about how to create romantic picture effects using a free software program. Now, with Mother's Day just behind us, it's only fitting that we talk about free software for the kids that may eventually arrive after some good romancing.

Tux Paint, shown in Figure A, is a painting program designed for kids. It's open source and completely free.

FIGURE A

Let your kids paint! (click for larger image)

What makes Tux Paint so cool is it's designed with kids in mind. It's also ideally suited to older computers, with an interface designed to run in a screen as small as 640x480, so you can put your toddler on that old box you're not sure what to do with anymore and keep the little monster off your main machine.

Special effects

The program comes with hundreds of stamp effects, as shown in Figure B, along with the usual selection of painting tools.

FIGURE B

Your child can stamp on the screen and keep his dirty paws off your walls. (click for larger image)

What's cool is that this is a reasonably full-featured program, hidden inside of a kid's interface. For example, the program comes with a wide set of filters. Table A has a full list.

Table A: Tux Paint has a wide array of filters
FilterDescription
Fill"flood-fill" an area with a particular color
Grasspaint realistic clumps of grass on the screen and into the distance
Brickspaint realistic large or small brick patterns
Rainbow brushdraw using a brush that paints in all colors in the rainbow
Sparklesdraw glowing yellow sparkles
Blurblur parts of the picture using the mouse
Smudgepush the colors around as though smudging wet paint
Lightenfade the colors of parts of the picture
Darkendarken the colors of parts of the picture
Chalkmake parts of the picture look like a chalk drawing
Blocksturn parts of the picture "blocky"
Negativeinvert the colors of parts of the picture
Tintchange the color of parts of the picture
Dripmake parts of the picture look like it's dripping away
Cartoonmake parts of the picture look like a cartoon
Mirrorflip the image horizontally
Flipflip the image vertically

Making things fun, sound effects are played when your munchkin selects and uses any of the tools. And yes, you can turn off the sounds, either temporarily with a keyboard command (Alt-S, for blessed silence) or by making a permanent change to the program's config file.