California HomeSchooler

Creating Digital Art
software review by Khandi Chong

My daughter is a connoisseur of computer graphic design programs. From the time she was two and could say, "Mommy, I really think I need Disney's Magic Artist so I can make pretty pictures," she has always shown a preference for art created digitally to art created on paper. Why this is I can't say, but I have no trouble encouraging her explorations in the world of graphic design. In today's highly visual world, graphic artists are needed to create everything from the magazines we read to the Web sites we visit.

Yet, finding tools that teach her the rudiments of graphic design has been a little tricky. Most computer programs for kids encourage coloring and stamps but do little to teach children how to mix colors, skew ( tilt or otherwise distort ) shapes, and work with various effects. Professional graphic design programs are expensive and often assume a level of competence children are unlikely to have.

Not so for corefx (Core Learning Ltd., $59.95, ages 5-up, for Windows 98 and later); an intuitive creative expression software program that teaches children how to work like graphic designers while simultaneously letting their creative juices flow. corefx offers 12 types of art tools from waxy crayons to oil pastels. A color-mixing palette allows young artists to create the colors they want for their art (instead of the colors usually provided for them). In addition a variety of graphic design tools are offered that allow children to create shapes, skew them, create, save, and reuse patterns, play with symmetry, and add special effects.

What stands out most about this software are the realistic media effects (the harder you scribble with the crayons, the darker the lines for example), and the ease with which children can learn to use a suite of tools usually reserved for professionals.

corefx has three levels: basic, junior, and advanced. At the basic level not all of the tools are available, nor are all the media. This is an excellent place for children who are unfamiliar with graphic design software to start. They still have access to a variety of clip art, can create basic shapes, and are given an excellent color palette. Older children and those, like my daughter, who are used to using this type of software, can move immediately to the junior level. At this level children are given access to all media tools, can mix their own colors, and are also able to change the size of the paintbrushes and pencil tips. In addition they are able to work with symmetry tools, create their own patterns, and play with special effects such as smearing, skewing, and sharpening. At the advanced level children learn to animate their drawings using a film frame metaphor.

At all levels there is an undo button, which can take a children all the way back to a blank page, and a redo button (in case they didn't make a mistake after all). Both buttons are easy to use, not the least bit frustrating. A self -running tutorial and an instructional activity guide round out the package.

The proof, they say, is in the pudding. After installing the program, I turned my nine-year-old daughter loose on it. Within minutes she was easily navigating the junior level and creating a folder full of art. She gave it two thumbs up and five stars, then proceeded to spend the rest of the day creating - not a bad return on my investment.


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