Studio Artist 3.0

Synthetik Software’s Studio Artist has been a capable and impressive painting and graphics application since its debut several years ago. With version 3.0, the developers finally address some outstanding workflow issues, so Studio Artist can now become part of a larger graphics workflow for print, video, and Web artists. And this version features a tremendous number of new tools.

Billed as a graphics synthesizer, Studio Artist provides remarkable painting, rotoscoping, and animation tools. Because you won’t find standard image-editing or color-adjustment tools in Studio Artist, the program resembles Corel Painter more closely than it does Adobe Photoshop.

While many painting programs include fewer than two dozen tools, Studio Artist has 27 categories of brushes—and that’s just brushes. Studio Artist offers a huge number of painting tools that allow you to create everything from painterly, natural-looking textures to intricate brush strokes that look like complex paintings.

Zen and the Studio Artist

The best advice for new Studio Artist users is to relax and give up any need to control or understand this product. If you’re the type of artist who likes to comprehend your digital tools so that you can predict and control them, then you’re going to have a hard time. Simply put, the level of control and variation in Studio Artist’s tools goes too deep to be used in a strictly procedural manner. You’re better off constantly experimenting and exploring—and the program’s interface is well designed for experimentation. Though it lacks a standard tool palette, the program’s pop-up menus and windows provide quick access to all of its custom palettes.

Version 3’s interface is mostly unchanged from version 2 (   ; June 2002), though there are new parameters and adjustment options scattered throughout the program’s configuration palettes. There’s also a new Session File format option, which allows you to more effectively store a work-in-progress.

Version 3 doesn’t support multiple undos, and that’s a real liability in a program that thrives on experimentation. Previous versions would let you save a finished image only as a bitmap, so you’d lose a lot of the setup and configuration you had developed while painting. Version 3 lets you save a work-in-progress in a special Session format, so integrating Studio Artist into a workflow with other graphics applications and editing your work later are much easier.

Better with MSG

Studio Artist 3 introduces a new plug-in architecture called Modular Synthesized Graphics (MSG), which allows you to add huge numbers of new tools quickly—just in case the 3,000 included presets aren’t enough. The new Vectorizer tool automatically traces bitmapped artwork into EPS-compatible images. Unlike other automatic tracers, Studio Artist doesn’t limit the number of colors in the final image, which means you can produce stunningly photo-realistic vector images.

Other impressive new features include Bézier warps, an improved movie-editing workflow, advanced onion-skinning for animators, and numerous new image-processing effects.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

If you’re already a Studio Artist fan, you’re going to love this upgrade. If you’re not, and if you make your living producing digital still images or video, Studio Artist is well worth your consideration. With its new settings, it now fits into a multiprogram workflow. If you’re a hobbyist, you won’t want to dismiss Studio Artist 3.0; at $379 (which includes more than 8 hours of video training), it’s one of the best deals you’ll find in graphics software.

Studio Artist 3’s brushes can automatically paint over an existing image, using sophisticated routines that trace the contours of an underlying picture.
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