Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 03/01/07 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook


Starter digital paint set for kids of all ages By Ko Maruyama
While looking around for some sub-$100 illustration applications, I found Tux Paint, a free, open source project started by Bill Kenrdrick and his band of tux'ers. (Notably Martin Fuhrer for his Mac OS X build). Because it''s open source, it has several future possibilities.  But the great thing about Tux Paint is that it's giving children inspiration to create digital imagery.  Can your child or student hold a stylus or click a mouse?  Check it out.

Tux paint is a consumer level digital painting software which is easy to use.  I say it's great for kids (suggested 3 years old+), but honestly, it's great for older users too.  Face it - there are a couple of generations out there who are computer savvy, but have never used painting applications.  (My grandmother is almost 90, and we email all the time).  

However, Tux Paint, as it turns out, has already been adopted by schools across the country (and abroad).

While there are only a few drawing tools available in the current build, the application is geared toward learning about digital painting and illustration, and doesn't assume to be the end-all, be-all product for professionals... far from it.  It has a sense of humor which is perfect for little kids.

A little penguin at the bottom of the interface (I call him "Tux") calls out phrases (in text) when different commands are invoked.   Other times he offers words of encouragement.

When buttons are selected, the application makes sounds.  Actually, whenever your stylus makes any action with the software interface, sounds play.   It makes for a noisy classroom. (There is a place to disable all sounds in the config application).

The icons are very large, and fairly obvious.  This makes the interface easy to navigate for children - or anyone not familiar with the smaller, and sometimes arcane tool icons of professional software.

The tools include a brush tool for standard painting (as well as a few custom bitmap images), stamp painting - set down multiple copies of Tux flapping his arms, Lines and Shapes (the ability to transform shapes before applying them is an important feature not overlooked).

The Text tool has a limited number of fonts - but what 3 - 10 year old is going to want to "mess up" their masterpiece with "words".  :)  There is an option for bold or italicized letters.

The tool that many kids will have fun with (of course) is the "Magic" tool.  Unlike a magic wand feature in Adobe's Photoshop, this magic invoking tool has a number of special features.  Some don't work as well as others - but kids still have fun with it.

Tux Paint has been translated into almost 70 different languages!!  As part of the open source project, Tux'ers are encouraged to help translate the software.  (Apparently it's working).  Although the software hasn't been completely translated into all of these languages, it is a continued effort.

A 5 minute sketch is fun, but only that : for fun.

Get Tux Paint for free at  While you're there, check out some of the great work done by students from all over the world.

Kudos to JohnLuke for his renders of the Fantastic 4 - and self portrait in Wonderland.  Cheers to Imogen (age 3) in Sydney NSW and Luis (age 3) in Portugal.  These may be the digital film makers of the future!

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:Product Review, Tux Paint, GIMP, free painting application, MacPaint, digital for kids


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