Chicago Tribune


Users drawn in by simplified features

James Coates

August 6, 2005

Toddlers right up through troglodyte software reviewers love this addicting software that simplifies just about every trick in the computer graphics artist's tool bag to turn out eye-grabbing paintings, drawings, illustrations and enhanced photographs.

"Did I do that?" says the amazed newcomer shortly after the first doodling starts and the screen fills with a delightful proliferation of colors, textures, shapes, motifs, brush strokes, canvas sizes, paper types and such.

Working in the most advanced of the three levels in the software, it is possible to use a set of colorful stamp designs and built-in recursion tools to paint with the moving brush--leaving behind trails of trees, mushrooms, flags, numbers, vegetables, clouds, letters and other artwork. Recursion means that a wave of trees duplicates in screen quadrants or halves to give the images mirror qualities.

Learning is the company behind this software's middle name and so much of the value lies in the educational opportunities, especially in the first two levels of complexity. corefx Three Level runs in different interfaces in steps for ages 5 to 9, 10 to 13 and 14 through Medicare.

These elegantly simple interfaces essentially use the same tools as in Adobe's Photoshop for professional illustrators and computer artists. But the tools are simplified to extremes and thus work with childlike simplicity.

Changing the color of one's brush entails looking at a row of identical brush icons each in a different color and width. Similar metaphors present the huge variety of potential shapes, painting surfaces and effects that are handled by a complex system called filters in Photoshop.

Also in the box is a module for creating animations of the type used to grab attention on Web sites, videos and movies. The process is disarmingly simple, and the resulting artwork is professional grade.

Art teachers and parents alike will relish the ways this software lets a youngster learn such fine points as brush pressures and important techniques in digital graphics.

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