Product Review: Page (1) of 2 - 07/07/05 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

Alias SketchBook Pro 2.0

By John Virata

Alias SketchBook Pro 2.0 can best be described as an artist, designer, and illustrator tool for sketching, painting, and drawing by stylus. It is an application that is specifically designed for users of Tablet PCs or those who work with Wacom graphics tablets. The cross platform tool, first released at the end of 2002 has received an update to version 2.0. Within this first look, we'll take a look at some of the new features to this very cool and inspiring application.

SketchBook Pro's interface has always been clean and spartan, with just six main tool icons, each of which holds a host of other tools that are accessed via the stylus. It is akin to a digital painter's palette in that it can be placed in the lower left or right corner of the screen. The tools include interface controls, tools and views, brushes, colors, edit, and files.

Main interface is uncluttered

Accessing each tool within the main tool icons involves clicking that icon and dragging the cursor to the desired tool, brush, color, command, or file that opens up with your cursor pressed on the icon. Undo and redo icons stay floating on the main tool palette and remain there at all times. The Swap between Last Two Brushes tool has bee relocated to the Brush marking menu, and the custom colors tool can be accessed by clicking the current color icon, which sits right below the current tool icon in the main tool palette. These, like the undo and redo icons, remain in view at all times as well.

New Features
Alias has added some new features to SketchBook Pro. One of the most requested is support for exporting files to Adobe Photoshop in the PSD file format. Once you are finished with your file in SketchBook Pro 2.0, saving out to Photoshop PSD format is as simple as selecting File > Save a copy as, and choosing the psd file format.

Brush improvements including Custom Brushes
There are eight main brushes in SketchBook Pro, as well as a global eraser tool. The main brushes include a ballpoint pen, marker, paintbrush, pencil, chisel tip pen, smear, and air brush. Each of the brushes can be resized by either holding down the B key as you drag the brush across the tablet, or selecting the Brush properties in the palette and resizing the brush via the slider. Each of the brush's properties are unique to that particular brush. For example, if you are working with the Chisel tip pen and want to resize it, you can choose to adjust the size of the pen as well as the slant.

Brush size and opacity is adjusted in the Brush Properties window.

In addition, you can create your own do-it-yourself brushes based on the seven main brushes. To do this, you click the down arrow in the tool brush bar to show brushes Click the new do-it-yourself Brush icon and the window opens. You then select a brush that you want your custom brush to be based on. SketchBook Pro will create a new icon in the Custom brush window. Click on it and you can then customize the brushes parameters. For example, when creating a new paintbrush, you can tweak the parameters, via sliders or percentages.

You can now create your own brushes

You can customize a brush with the following tweaks: Size with Heavy Pen Pressure, Size with Light Pen Pressure, opacity with Heavy Pen Pressure, Opacity with Light Pen Pressure, Roundness, Slant, Stamp Spacing, and your choice of Brush Edges, including Soft Edges, Solid Edges, and Hard Edges. You can then give your brush a custom name. You can then resize your brushes via the Resize brush tool.

Resize Brush tool. Drag your stylus in the circle to resize the brush.

This tool is located at the top of the Brush Palette. Click on it and it appears outside the Brush palette as a floating tool. and enables you to resize any brush simply by holding down the B key on your keyboard and dragging your stylus in the resize palette. A number will appear on on the screen and you can reduce and enlarge the number (and size of the brush) by dragging back and forth in the Resize Brush Tool palette. You also get a visual representation of the resized brush as well. The eraser tool is resized in the same fashion. 

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