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Lost Minds Vectoraster 1.0

Vectorization effects for still images By Dave Nagel
Summary: Vectoraster 1.0 from Lost Minds is a standalone application that takes a still image (JPEG, TIFF, PSD, etc.) and applies screen-like effects to it (made of columns of dots, squares and other shapes). It then allows you to export the resulting effect as an EPS file, with each individual element of the effect fully editable in vector illustration programs like Adobe Illustrator.
Developer: Lost Minds (http://www.lostminds.com)
Platform: Mac OS X
Price: $10
Users: Graphic designers, illustrators
Recommendation: Buy

There's no shortage of tools out there for making halftone and other line-screen effects on still images. But there are two things that make Lost Minds' Vectoraster 1.0 stand out from the crowd. First, this software gives you a tremendous amount of control over the effects you create. And, second, it allows you to export your effect as an EPS file, making it fully editable in vector illustration programs like Adobe Illustrator.

Features
Vectoraster is a stand-alone application, rather than a plugin, that lets you import still images (in pretty much any popular format, such as JPEG, TIFF, PSD, etc.) and convert them into monochrome or color images composed of circles, polygons, letters or random blobs. The shapes that make up the effect are actually vectors, and they can be exported as vectors for further manipulation in whatever illustration program you prefer to use. (Note that the effect doesn't necessarily have to be exported; it can also be copied off the canvas and pasted into other programs. More on that below.)

Here's the way it works.

First, you import a source image, such as the picture of the eye below. The base effect is overlaid on top of your image.



Then you can adjust the view to eliminate the image (or the effect) to help you make your adjustments. These controls are located down in the Display palette, along with zoom and color settings. (Note that although I have my effect set to black and white, the colors can actually be adjusted to anything you want, including using the source image colors for your effect colors.)



Next, you have the ability to select the type of shape that will be used in your effect. Shapes include circles, polygons, rounded polygons, contracting shapes, random bobs and characters.



Polygons, rounded polygons and contracting shapes (basically spoked shapes) can all be adjusted from three to six sides/spokes and can be rotated manually, randomly and otherwise. Rounded polygons and contracting polygons can also have their roundness adjusted, and contracting shapes can also have their degree of contraction adjusted. The "character" setting lets you choose a single character from any basic font on your system and use that character rather than another type of shape.

Beyond the base shape, Vectoraster also allows you to set the minimum and maximum sizes of the shapes, the pattern of the points, the spacing and the rotation.




The effect in a radial pattern


An alternating grid pattern


A straight grid pattern


A random pattern

And you can use any of the image's color channels, the alpha channel or the luminosity of the image to base the effect on.

Once you have the effect set the way you want it, you can then export it as an EPS file or simply copy it to the Clipboard to be pasted into other programs. In a program like Adobe Illustrator, the effect is pasted as a group but can be ungrouped so that you can manipulate individual dots, should the need arise.



Ease of use/performance/workflow
Vectoraster is extremely easy to use, but, with its large number of controls, it also allows you to create a wide range of effects. The interface is straightforward, with a main window and three palettes, which can be moved around independently, but which always follow the main window when it's moved around. (This is a pretty nice touch that makes life easier when working with multiple apps.)

As for performance, Vectoraster is pretty much instantaneous, except when using very small dots spaced tightly, in which case you might see a couple seconds of lag, but nothing major. Export of the effect to EPS is similarly quick.

And, for workflow, I mentioned before that Vectoraster integrates nicely with other graphics programs, like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, so you can easily use the effects you create in the programs you would normally use.

The bottom line
Vectoraster is a great little program for creating screen effects on still images. Its easy to use. It's fast. And it gives you a high degree of control over the effects it produces. And it lets you save you effects as vectors for maximum control in the editing/compositig stage. It's hard to go wrong with any graphics software that sells for $10, but some thought has gone into Vectoraster that makes it a useful and useable effects generation tool. Grab it while it's still at this price, or at least download the demo and try it out. I give Vectoraster a Buy recommendation.

Lost Minds' Vectoraster 1.0 is available now for Mac OS X for $10. For more information or to download a demo, visit http://www.lostminds.com.

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Related Keywords:vectoraster, vectorization, effects, vectorizer, halftone, still images, dots, ascii, photostat

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