Thursday, March 1, 2007

Bring out your inner Van Gogh with Snap Art


By David Gewirtz

If you've ever used Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, most likely you've played with the filters. Even more likely, you've tinkered with the various painterly effects that have long come with both programs. Back when Photoshop first came out, these were the cat's meow. Amazingly, you could take a run-of-the-mill picture and turn it into something that seemed like you had an artist's talent.

Sadly, as time went on, more and more people discovered these filters and effects that might help you pass as an artist back in the 1990s now made your work look all that more amateurish in the harsh light of 2007.

Into this reality comes Snap Art, from Alien Skin Software. Alien Skin's been around nearly as long as Photoshop, and they've long made some excellent Photoshop plug-ins. Snap Art updates the Photoshop artsy-fartsy plug-ins for the modern world, adding ten new artist-like effects.

The interface

The interface is pretty straightforward, as you can see in Figure A.


Here, we're using the Oil Paint filter. (click for larger image)

We like the ability to show both the original and the filtered art on the screen. We also like the way Snap Art comes with loads of pre-defined filter settings, so you can get started without adjusting too many sliders.

More filters

In addition to the Oil Paint filter, Snap Art comes with a Comics filter, shown with the Industrial setting in Figure B.


We applied the Industrial setting to the Comics filter. (click for larger image)

Other sketch-like filters include Pen and Ink, shown in Figure C and Pencil Sketch, shown in Figure D.


The Pen and Ink effect is adequate. (click for larger image) FIGURE D

We really liked how the Pencil Sketch turned out. (click for larger image)

You can't use all filters with all images. For example, we applied the Pen and Ink effect in a variety of settings to a cat picture we had, and it turned out just bad, as you can see in Figure E.


Some effects don't work on some pictures. (click for larger image)

On the other hand, some filters worked quite nicely. For example, when we applied Pointillism to one of my published nudes (no, we're not showing you the original picture, this is a PG magazine!), the very nice effect shown in Figure F was produced.


This abstract turned out very nice. (click for larger image)

Likewise, we played around with the Stylize filter, which gave us some interesting line drawing effects, like you can see with the gentleman in Figure G.