NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2007
Professor Franklin’s Instant Photo Artist 2.0
By Tom Ekvall,
newsletter editor for Northeast Wisconsin PCUG

tekvall@new.rr.com (click to email author)

Obtained from APCUG with the author's permission for publication by APCUG member groups.

Can someone create a photo art masterpiece from a snapshot within a matter of minutes without going through a lot of training and reading manuals?

This was my challenge for this month’s column of Creative Imaging and the subject of this review of Professor Franklin’s Instant Photo Artist 2, developed by Streetwise Software. The company promotes that anyone can create a masterpiece in just minutes even if someone who is a beginner.

Unlike some image editing programs that apply filters to create “instant” artistic effects, those using Instant Photo Artist use their mouse to paint over the picture with a cursor that actually looks like a paint brush. The result is a painted look based on the style desired.

Version 2 of this interesting software recently was released and is designed to be compatible with Microsoft Vista as well as all other previous OS releases including Windows 95. I first became interested in this product when it came out a number of years ago. The new version supports high resolution images and sports a redesigned interface that keeps most of the tools readily at hand.

The software was shipped on a CD with a four-page quick start guide. No problems in installing the software. The product is very intuitive to figure out and I was able to start photo painting without needing to access the help section or user guide.

Photo artists have their choice in painting in the artistic styles of Van Gogh, Cezanne, expressionists, pointillists or creating watercolor, acrylic, charcoal, and crackle antique images.

Each style from the “styles of the Masters” browser has its own pre-set brush, color, opacity, and added effects.

You can also select one of the painting tools on the palette, such as the airbrush, paint brush, colored pencil, and tip style associated with the painting tool.

Or if you want to get creative, you can use the freehand tool and apply color manually.

For me, I prefer using the “styles of the Masters” palette and then selecting the brush size, which is based on a series of five dots graphically representing the size of the brush. No custom controls here to tweak the size settings. The different types of painting styles is also significantly more limited than in high end programs, but give you a decent selection to choose from to create your masterpiece without feeling overwhelmed.

A nice feature of the program is what is referred to as the “realistic” mode which when selected will paint back the actual photo image as it looked before you started the painting activity. This is particularly helpful when you want to feature specific detail without it looking somewhat abstract. An example of this is facial features. I took a photograph from my wedding, applied oil paint effects and then restored my face with the “realistic” brush. Nice touch. The brush also helps to remove flaws created when painting.

The brushes (also known as the mouse) create strokes based on the direction and speed of each movement. This simulates how an actual artist would create a picture. If you move the mouse in random directions, it may create unwanted effects.

The secret behind creating your new artwork is a blue outline created of the picture selected on the canvas. This provides the basis for selecting brushes and seeing how the image will look as it is being painted, accessing the color of the original painting rather than choosing paints to use and mess up the results. You can though select to choose colors and manually paint, which may be a desirable situation when creating a monotone print. Another option is creating paper texture effects, such as canvas.

Once the picture is finished, Streetwise Software offers another exciting product to jazz it up. It’s called Instant Photo Effects, which also has been improved in the present Version 2. Instant Photo Effects creates a wide variety of edge effects, frames, accents, photographic effects such as antiquing, and even artistic images similar to that created by Instant Photo Artist.

The special effect options are fabulous and easy to apply to create a piece of “fine art” ready to be framed and hung on the wall.

The difference between the two products in creating painted effects is that Instant Photo Artist requires applying brush strokes whereas the Instant Photo Effects “instantly” creates the image with little outside intervention.

You can even apply multiple effects to the same image for some interesting artwork. Both programs also allow you to add text to the picture with varying levels of effects, controlling size, type style, warp effect, color, and transparency.

I installed both software on an Acer Laptop Aspire 5570Z running Vista Premium OS with Intel Pentium dual-core processor at 1.6 Ghz and 2 gigabytes of RAM. The products operated without problems, although the RAM quickly gets consumed as more effects are added to the image.

Each product sells for $59.99 and is available from the software manufacturer through their website at http://www.swsoftware.com. A special deal for both products is available for $99.99. I have talked to the company and they are willing to give APCUG member groups a 10% discount through August by entering the word “PCUG” in the promotion code on the purchase order form. Trial copies can also be downloaded from the site so that you can check it out first.

Here's how to use the coupon... Go to http://www.swsoftware.com , choose the software you want and add it to your shopping cart. On the CHECKOUT PAGE, under SALES AND DISCOUNTS, please enter the code:  PCUG  and hit APPLY. You need to hit APPLY, then proceed.  

The discount only applies to the two products.

The verdict. Both products are great for those who want to create “painted” photo art with little effort and training. However, just remember that the selection of styles and brushes is limited, which in some cases may be an asset.

This article has been provided to APCUG by the author solely for publication by APCUG member groups. All other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

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