REVIEW APRIL 11 , 2001
Nowhouse Propeller Paint Engine
Painting and effects for Adobe Photoshop
You access the paint tools simply by selecting the Propeller plugin from Photoshop's Filter menu. A new interface then pops up containing all the tools and your current layer.
Once there, you simply select your tools and get to work. When you're done, you click OK, and your painting is applied to your layer on top of what was already there while preserving whatever transparency that was there as well.
What's especially nice about this plugin is that you can use any image as a brush or brush pattern. The paint engine will allow you to bring images in and then "track" them as you paint, meaning that it follows the direction of your strokes, as well as pressure and tilt, if you happen to be using a pressure-sensitive and/or tilt-sensitive tablet and stylus.
The range of effects you can create using Propeller are pretty much unlimited. Although the plugin doesn't ship with all that many brushes and patterns (108 brushes and 28 patterns), you can use any image of your own to paint with. Propeller can automatically colorize it to match one of the existing color palettes, or you can use the original color from the image. Propeller will allow you to modify the image just as you would modify any of the preset brushes, and it will allow for the same sort of tracking, pressure sensitivity, etc. that the presets have.
For functionality, this programer, pluginoffers a degree of control that's entirely uncommon in Photoshop filters.
To begin with, you have three primary tabs that determine how your stroke will look: Brush, Color and Pattern. Under each tab, you get a pulldown menu of categories containing various sets of brushes, color palettes and patterns. You can even create your own categories and add your favorite brushes (or patterns) or your own brushes (or patterns) to the collections. You can also modify color palettes by adding to them and then saving them as separate sets.
The Brush and Pattern palettes in Propeller
Each brush you can select includes a default patterns and color, but you can swap out colors and patterns as you see fit.
But these are only the beginning. You can also interactively control the stroke, effect and dynamics of each brush. Stroke controls include opacity, size, sweep and angle. Opacity, size and sweep and also be assigned ranges, and angle can be set to "constant" or "track." (Ranges come into play in Propeller's Dynamics engine, detailed below.)
For effects, you can choose from taper (none, edge, center, upper, lower), border (with options for color and thickness) and two other groups of effects. These include diffuse, bleed, spin and shake, with individual settings for each.
Finally, we come to my favorite feature: the ability to control the dynamics of the stroke. The Propeller Paint Engine supplies a simple graph of input options corresponding to stroke parameters. For example, you can use speed to control stroke size, while pressure controls opacity.
To assign an input option to a parameter, you just draw a line from an input option to the parameter you want it to control. One input option (such as pressure) can control any number of parameters (such as opacity and color), but each parameter can only be controlled by one input option. To change which input option controls which parameter, you can cut the lines connecting the two with a little knife tool that appears as you mouse over the lines.
How well it
I have only two negative comments about this software, and they're minor ones. First, it doesn't have multiple levels of undo. Second, the eraser uses whatever tool you currently have selected. Often this means you have to go back up through the brush hierarchy to find one more appropriate for erasing. (Erasing with the Pebble brush, for example, isn't a terribly efficient way to erase.)
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