Studio Artist 4.0 review

£245
Price when reviewed

For the past 20 years, professional art on the PC has largely been defined by one application – Corel Painter. Now some serious competition has finally arrived, as Synthetik has at last ported Studio Artist from Mac to PC.

Rather than being a traditional paint program, Studio Artist calls itself a “graphics synthesizer” for reasons that will become clear. However, as with any art program, the software’s success ultimately depends on the range of brushes it provides. Studio Artist doesn’t disappoint, with thousands of options ranging from acrylics to watercolours and plenty of eye-catching special effects. Each brush is accessed from a central Presets control panel with an Editor tab for fine-tuning how you save your own brushes.

Using Studio Artist’s brushes, images can be painted from scratch, but the program really comes into its own once you’ve loaded a source image – usually a photo – for conversion. Studio Artist automatically analyses the bitmap, breaking it down into colours, regions, outlines and so on, and can then use this information to repaint the image. Simply hit the Action command and the source photo is recreated before your eyes in the currently selected style. Plus, as the image is being built up stroke by stroke, the end results are excellent and far superior to most art filters.

Studio Artist 4.0 paint

It isn’t only the end results that are creative and rewarding; the entire process of producing them is absorbing too. In particular, it’s possible to switch brush presets while the image is being painted; Studio Artist won’t even pause. This allows you to quickly explore creative options and makes it possible to produce some extraordinary and unique mixed effects. Even better, using Assisted Mode you can take advantage of Studio Artist’s automatic painting for your own creations.

If this were all Studio Artist offered, it would be impressive enough, but this central Paint Synthesizer mode is just one of many effects. Switching to Image Operations mode opens up access to hundreds of customisable filter options, while changing to Warp or Adjust modes offers a whole range of distortion and colour-correction effects. Dual Mode applies dynamic effects as you paint.

Using Texture Synthesis mode, abstract textures can be produced that are procedurally generated and therefore independent of the resolution. Even more impressive is Studio Artist’s MSG mode, which stands for “modular synthesizer graphics”. This generates abstract geometric patterns and, using the dedicated Evolution Editor palette, allows variations on the current theme to be quickly generated.

More power is available in the form of Studio Artist’s vector capabilities. Using Vectorizer mode, source images can be converted to a wide range of shape- and line-based artistic interpretations that can be saved to resolution-independent EPS or SVG formats. Switch to Bezier mode and the generated paths can be edited, and new ones drawn from scratch. Most amazing of all, though, is the ability to switch back to Paint Synthesizer mode once this is completed and add a stroke path with the current brush. If you don’t like the effect then you can simply undo it and choose another preset.

Studio Artist 4.0 modes

Again, all this alone would be enough to justify the asking price, but Studio Artist adds more with its compositing capabilities. At any point, you can switch to Selection mode to create a mask to limit where brushstrokes and effects are applied. For maximum control and creativity, you can create layered compositions, and manage opacity and blend mode.

And Studio Artist 4.0 has another major ace up its sleeve: it’s just as happy creating the frames of a video as it is producing standalone bitmaps. Simply open a video or image stream and the current canvas can be repeatedly written out to build up a freehand animation. Alternatively, batch processing can be used to output whatever appears on the Studio Artist canvas. Existing video, meanwhile, can be manipulated by loading the frames of a QuickTime video to a movie layer that can be edited by hand.

Finally, Studio Artist can record all the actions applied to the current frame as a paint action sequence that can then be batch-applied to the video as a whole. In this way, entire videos can be rotoscoped in any number of artistic hand-painted styles. Combine paint actions sequences with Vectorizer mode and you can even resize your rotoscoped footage to cinema resolution.

In short, Synthetik Studio Artist 4.0 is a staggering piece of software. It’s neither child’s play nor cheap, but the sheer range of creative power it offers is extraordinary. For professional art on the PC, Corel Painter has been blown out of the water.

Details

Software subcategory Graphics/Design software

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