Today's Best Tech Deals
Picked by Macworld's Editors
Top Deals On Great Products
Picked by Techconnect's Editors
The first incarnation of Expression didn't register on many designers' radar. But the ingenious drawing tool-which lets you create beautiful vector-based brush strokes, painterly textures, and illustrations that you can open in Macromedia FreeHand or Adobe Illustrator-has been rescued from obscurity by its creator, Creature House. Expression 2 adds needed export options and tools for handling bitmap images: you can not only import them but also colorize, distort, and even apply Adobe Photoshop filters to them.
Not a One-Trick Pony
Expression 2's illustration tools are deceptively easy to use. Preset brush strokes, patterns, and textures let you produce professional-level drawings right away; pros can adjust and refine the presets or create their own. But Expression is much more than a tool for adding brush strokes to vector-based illustrations: it lets you create photorealistic paint-media artwork, layered Photoshop documents, antialiased text effects, and even interactive Flash animations.
Expression's once-simple interface is now a profusion of palettes and hidden options, and the oddly named icons can be confusing. But with a little practice and some help from the HTML-based tutorial, you'll be up-to-speed in no time.
No Tablet Required
At the heart of Expression's power is its proprietary Skeletal Stroke technology, which yields variable-width strokes and subtle calligraphic and illustrative effects that otherwise usually require a drawing tablet. You can adjust a line's thickness by dragging an anchor handle, or add a calligraphic touch by changing the angle of a line's thickness. And with Skeletal Strokes, you can use entire graphics as repeating images along a path. A variation adds instances to each stroke's thickness or shape, resulting in a mini-animation. Unfortunately, the controls for creating such strokes are hidden and poorly labeled.
You can import and export raster-based images in the TIFF, BMP, JPEG, GIF, and Photoshop formats, and export your creation as a Flash, EPS, or Illustrator file. You can also produce interactive buttons, banners, and stand-alone Flash files ready to be added to your Web page.Master Strokes: Expression 2's Skeletal Stroke technology lets you distort, refine, and resize each stroke using a simple anchor tool.