Serif DrawPlus X4 review

£80
Price when reviewed

Think of vector drawing programs and two main choices, Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW, spring to mind. However there is a third alternative that offers similar all-round design power at a fraction of the cost: Serif DrawPlus.

Over the years it has quietly built up extensive capabilities covering everything from perspective drawing and simple 3D to Flash animation and PDF/X output of multi-page publications for commercial print. This release boosts the program’s technical drawing capabilities with new dynamic guides and vertex snapping that let you accurately align and size objects as you draw. The existing Dimensioning and Connecting tools have also been made more intuitive and more powerful to help create scaled plans, charts and flow diagrams.

DrawPlus X4’s more technical approach is most strongly evident in the new Properties studio tab. This provides feedback on position, size and rotation, line and fill formatting, filter effects, and also lets you update properties directly. This role as centralised control panel is certainly handy, but you can’t use it to simultaneously format multiple objects.

Serif DrawPlus X4

In terms of formatting power, DrawPlus offers good handling of tiling bitmaps, gradients and mesh fills, but the most important option remains simple flat colours. The new Colour Picker tool lets you sample average colours rather than points and, if you drag rather than click, you can quickly pick up and apply gradients. There’s also a new Colour Palette Designer which automatically generates colour palettes based on your choice of base colour and colour harmony rules (monochrome, triad, complementary and so on).

The emphasis on the technical side of illustration might make DrawPlus X4 sound a bit dull, but the program also has strong creative capabilities. This is most apparent in DrawPlus’s excellent vector and bitmap-based brushes which can be used to create striking stroke, spray and edge effects. Here, the entire range of brushes from artistic watercolours and airbrushes through to photo-realistic objects and abstract effects has been overhauled and recategorised to make them easier to find.

The quality of all brushes has also been improved, particularly their onscreen display at high magnifications. There’s also now support for pressure-sensitive tablets in the Pressure Studio. Alternatively, if you’re using a mouse, you can apply and customise pressure profiles.
The biggest boost to creativity is the introduction of blend modes. DrawPlus X4 provides all the Photoshop standards – darken, lighten, hard light and so on – as well as an erase option that drills down through all objects on the current layer. Explore the modes on offer and the overall impact of your work is guaranteed to improve.

Details

Software subcategory Graphics/design software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no

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