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Creature House Expression 2

Vector illustration and painting software By Dave Nagel
Over the course of just the last couple years, vector-based illustration programs have begun making their first serious strides into the territory of bitmap painting tools. That is, programs have introduced vector tools that behave in many ways like bitmap tools but retain the editability of vectors. These include Macromedia Fireworks and Freehand, which retain most of the functionality of traditional vector (formerly known as EPS) applications, and Synthetik Studio Artist, which you would never identify as a vector tool unless you were to engage in some research to discover this fact. Right in the middle is Expression 2 from Creature House, an almost brand-spanking new application resurrected from the ashes of Fractal Design Expression from the company formerly known as MetaCreations. (Creature House is actually the company that developed Fractal Design Expression, selling it to MetaCreations. and then regaining the rights to market it late last year.)

What it does
Expression 2 is a dramatic overhaul of Fractal Design Expression, adding a whole host of new features I'll catalog for you shortly. For those of you entirely unfamiliar with any version of Expression, this is a program allows you to paint strokes with vectors?including support for pressure tablets?with a broad variety of stroke styles, from simple objects to strokes that look like wet paint strokes. It has full support for transparency, including gradations in strokes and fills. It has a broad variety of transforms. It allows for simple Flash animations. And it does all of this in a way that will not be a difficult transition to make for anyone with just a modicum of experience in Illustrator or Freehand or any other vector program.

The Expressions 2 Macintosh interface.

In addition to all of these, you can import bitmap images created in other programs or in Expressions and use them either as objects within the composition or as stroke elements. In other words, you can paint bitmap images along a path.

Tools, text and functions
The two primary drawing tools in Expression 2 are the freehand pen and the Bezier pen. The options for these tools are almost too numerous to list here. Aside from width and an incredibly broad range of stroke and fill options, you can colorize grayscale bitmap strokes, apply slant, set maximum pressure (separate from the Preferences setting) adjust stroke and fill transparency, saturate/desaturate, darken/lighten, distort, change joints (round, bevel, miter, continuous or broken) and even adjust variable width. This last one is great for those who don't have a pressure tablet and want to vary the width of the stroke along the length of the path. For those with pressure tablets, this lets you edit the pressure you input over the course of your stroke. You can add points, move them and expand them for wider or more slender areas. (See Variable Width palette below.)

Tools and width settings

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