Review of the PostWorkShop Pro Brush application fron Xycod to create impressionist / manga / BD drawing effects
PostworkShop Pro is a graphic application to turn photos / images / designs into an impressionist painting, manga drawing, BD drawing, charcoal drawing, pencil and much more. The product is from Xycod, a software company from the wonderful city of Budapest, Hungary.
The application generates an impressive display of expressionism, impressionism, water color, brown water drawn, manga, BD, charcoal effects,hings, Japanese wood carvings, expressive strokes, historical forms and many other art methods. Some common methods or approaches are included, some unusual ones such as comic BD, can't say I have seen that before and one I love (as I also love€opean bande dessinée)
To modify the effect, go to the properties and preview tab: sadly in some cases, there are very few options to modify, and most of the effects are as is. Of course, this is only the case with the actual 'default' effects, and going to the editor allows the combination of building blocks to modify the effect in countless ways. Without much of an idea of how a water color and random paint effect will combine, it was very much trial and error but really it becomes fairly obvious that some effects will creatively enhance the image and which effect combinations totally decimate the image. Certainly many hours of fun exploring the various combinations of effects.
Layer effects are you would layers in Adobe ® Photoshop ®, re-order them, combine with different blending modes such as difference and darken - all super flexible and great for creating truly unique and wonderful artwork.
The effects layers can also be mixed in a fun way as well using the layer mixer. Instead of a dialog based approach and moving layers above or below and using opacity, the effect layer mixer modifies the strength of the effect relative to each other and offers an interactive response to moving one effect in relation to another. All very impressive and useful. The only minor issue being that the name of the effect is not given unless selected, and if you are not sure which is which, you end up randomly clicking
Support for Adobe ® Photoshop 6 brushes type (so most of the 15,000 brushes on the graphicxtras site are accessible within PostworkShop Pro) extends the selection of brushes allowing for a much wider range of creative effects. There appears to be a limitation on the brush size import. I love brushes so it would have been lovely if the brushes were accessible throughout the effects but I found I could only access the brushes in certain effects, and I have to say, the effects that were of most interest to me and ones I explored more and more were the ones allowing the modification of the brush length / width / actual brush. I must admit at times I was not sure why one effect allowed modification of the brush and others didn't, disappointingly many of the effects didn't accept different brushes and I am certain they would have been improved by that feature. It also took a while to find the effects (fresco & random paint being some of them) that accepted brush inputs. I guess the reasoning being that a pencil with a different brush might not actually look anything remotely like a pencil drawing (still, I would love to be able to decide on that myself). The default brushes included with the application were all fine and of use. Really liked that the brushes were made up of potentially multiple inputs (as a brush family), such as the alphabet brush made up of A B C D E. The random paint brush effect is available an input to other effects via the editor. You can find many different brushes such as zoom brushes and wave brushes and twirl brushes and tribal brushes and many more via the site
The program icon is a little uninspiring - black and amber, a minor issue but as it sits on my taskbar all day, it is nice to have a lovely icon. Not bad for an application when you can say the only slightly annoying feature is its icon.
I particularly liked the comic book effects: manga, BD. Obviously it is only a very stereotypical view of manga or BD and in no way could any application, however good, hope to match the countless individual artist effects in those art forms, but straight out of the box it gives a really good impression of the effect; and probably with a little tweaking and combining other effects, countless artist effects are achievable (though, of course, without the human touch and artistic decision making that goes into why one stroke or path works and another doesn't) Still, a good BD effect could be applied to any set of images, though without the BD effect of panel composition and storytelling, the best application will not help. Some of the effects definitely benefited from additional tweaking by adding other effects to the mix, though some were improved or changed by tweaking of the settings if available, as in the case of manga effects.
The file dialog displayed a selection of locations but unfortunately not the current user top level folder so was required to search via the c drive, minor issue and perhaps one I created by my slightly unusual setup of installing the software as admin and then using the software only on my basic user account.
One thing I did a mite too often, and that was click on a effect in compositing, when I really meant to add a effect in the editor; I wish there had been either a dialog or perhaps a difference in the color of the effects tab between compositing and the editor. At least the undo works well and I can restore my carefully crafted editor effect.
Postworkshop Pro does allow for some randomization such as random selection of effects applied to an image, though I found the application misses a number of areas that are ripe for randomization such as randomization of the settings of an effect; randomization of a brush applied. I like the randomization of the effects, but once I have decided on a particular effects (say Impressionism) it would be nice to randomize the settings for that particular effects so I can try a random set of impressionist effects. Randomization of the brush would also allow for a lot more experimentation. Randomization = experimentation, though of course it can easily equal a lot of time spent clicking and clicking and perhaps wasting a lot of time having fun. Stretching this even further, I would love to see a snapshot feature where the randomizations could be applied and saved to a new experimental image, allowing for further contemplation of 100s of images to decide on the one image that is 'perfect'.
Would love to see a random combination feature, one that just selects effects and combines based on the rules of the application (some effects cannot be combined and the editor / input / output nodes will reject the effect)
There are 100s of effects included with PostworkShop Pro and many are very very good, there are some effects that seem to have hardly impact on the image such as in the photo section / special effects, many of them are easily achievable in many graphic software and filters. The standard effects still have their place as they are the building block effects - so I perfectly understand the reason for including them and combining the building blocks can produce truly stunning and unique results. Spending many hours going through the effects, I still haven't explored even a hundredth of the effects features nor touched the surface of the building block effects. The building block effectss are the sources of all the effects so definitely worth checking many of the settings. I have to admit some I found quite hard to understand but I guess I will work them out.
The input (and output) image can also be modified before any effects processing, changing the brightness, saturation, rotation, scaling, which I have to say is an interesting addition to the tool. An unusual feature that I haven't seen in any other application. The purpose being that an image may or may not be exactly right for say a pencil drawing or charcoal, and that a subtle change to the gamma, saturation might result in quite a different output. Definitely very useful as it does avoid the need to use another application to modify basic settings of the image
The editor is a very useful tool, simply drag a effect from the effects panel, then join the input - output pins ending with the right side final image. You can easily get out of hand adding more and more effects. You can also use the mouse wheel to look into the thumbnail images which is a really nice and useful feature, though strangely this doesn't re-size the output image (I love the replace feature as you can quickly modify a selected effect with another effect (though you are only given the name of the effect and not an image of the replacing effect), still a useful feature as I am endlessly changing my mind to the end effect
The batch processing is a very useful feature as some of the processing of effects on larger images is fairly slow and can take ages, the batch process does allow the application of a effect to a selection of images in a folder. Go and have a nice mug of green tea and return to see all your work turned into pencil / woodcuts. Helpful for adding a scratchy effect to a film perhaps (though it would probably take a month of Sundays). Testing it on two 3648 x 2600 sized images with a single effect I had to wait ages and ages for the images to be processed but the end results were still pretty good. Would have loved to see a feature to be able to set jitter / randomized settings to each image so there would be subtle differences with each image, useful for a more natural animation / movie
Render: a useful feature when the size of image is over 1000 x 1000, as the response time for the rendering becomes a little slower. With documents sized 400 x 400 and with a chain of one or two effects, the rendering at 1:1 of the size of the document, the delay is acceptable. When the images get slightly bigger and the effects more complex, the rendering time becomes an issue. Quick solution: simply move out and set the preview scale to 0.2 and the image / effects won't be an exact match but still pretty close, but you do gain in the speed of the rendering of the effects. As soon as you are happy with the image and the effects, you can render the entire thing via the render menu, or rendering a smaller selection of the image. On saving the image, the image is actually rendered fully. Very useful, a similar approach is made in the Andrew's filters available on this site. I would have loved to have seen a 'suspend rendering' on the render menu as well, as after using the application for a while you become fairly familiar with the end results and can work without seeing any rendering, and then render once in a while to check the end result.
The text object is added in a slightly different way from most software. Like the effects and properties, the text is modified via the properties and you can change the text, font, size, scaling, rotation, kerning, color. Once you have added the text layer you can apply a effect to the text. Personally I found work with text alone (without an image layer) much more fun and productive than the combination of text and image; some effects worked wonders with the text, others really added little more than a slight ripple to the text, so definitely a little experimentation is required. Still, a very powerful text feature and once I can see very useful with my own work and creating surreal items from my own fonts, tracing, and converting to even weirder and more wonderful fonts. I would love to see the application support shapes / Vector graphics in their own right but as many of the graphicxtra fonts are purely decorative works, the text object is halfway there.
Postworkshop pro comes with a huge range of effects, probably so many that you might find yourself never needing to tweak or modify or create your own effects. You can also obtain other effects and install them into the application. Postworkshop does allow you to publish effects for sale.
The latest version fixes a few of the things I had issue with in the first version such as inverted import of Photoshop brushes. Version 2 includes a useful bitmap editor which also includes a useful brush panel for retouching of artwork. Other new features include an alpha map editor to allow for effects to be applied to a section of an image (Volume ery useful) as well as improvements to the batch processing. Also now comes with 64bit support, useful for people on a 64bit OS (sadly I am not so I couldn't test the feature) Another very useful addition is that a Photoshop filter is included, offering the same features as the standalone. It works well and offers a wonderful additional toolkit to Photoshop. I used it in Adobe ® Photoshop ® Extended CS5, I have no idea how it works in other versions of Photoshop or other software. On my main machine I use two accounts, an admin account and a standard account. For all my graphics work I use my standard user account. The application insists on running as admin though, so each and every time I begin using the the application (either in filter mode or standalone) I have to enter my admin password. I really wish software would work more smoothly in a multi-user (though still ostensibly single user) environment. Only a minor issue but hopefully one that will be fixed by the end of the beta.
There is now a new version available with a number of new features and a fairly impressive interface overhaul - a brilliant product gets even better.
This is certainly not a replacement for an application like Corel's Painting tools as there is no feature to apply a brush (with the attached effects) to a localized area of the image. I have used a number of similar tools such as various filters and apps (Impressionist from Microsoft, Paint Alchemy, Propeller, Fantastic Machine's Paint Engine, ArtRage - though many of them are old and might not work on a current OS) but I found this application overall to be one of the more useful tools, and will certainly be using over and over to create many designs.
A big thumbs up for a great application and at a very good price. There is a trial version / basic version available on the site, as well as slightly cheaper versions than the Pro version, though the Pro version is as stated, at a decent price for the power it brings to your computer.
You can find many other tutorials and reviews such as how to make photoshop brushes from photos tutorial and how to use brushes as layers as well as reviews such as Astute Graphic's Vectorscribe and Review of Mirrorme plugin from Astute Graphics