ArtEffect 2
Jason Compton

Don't blink--you might miss a shift in the Amiga graphics product market. For the past few years now, starting I'd say with Photogenics, the Amiga software customer has been flooded with options. Image processing programs have become all the rage. Relative newcomer ArtEffect has taken up an interesting position with its version 2: it's now just about as expensive as professional favorite ImageFX, is more accessible and available than aging but still good AdPro, and even offers a feature or two that the other guys don't have.

ArtEffect is marketed heavily on being a Photoshop clone. This is a bit of a stretch if you're talking about features, but it does have a heavily graphical/window based interface, something ImageFX 2.6 doesn't offer. The interface is pleasingly simple to look at, although this might seem deceptive if you're accustomed to being overwhelmed by on-screen options.

ArtEffect is geared towards 24-bit work and runs quite well under CyberGraphX. I have heard reports that it is non-functional under Picasso96. AGA 256-color and HAM8 modes can be used, although HAM8 can get very slow very fast.

The first place to start with any image editor is loading. ArtEffect can load a decent although not exhaustive array of common image formats, but straight out of the box it is very limited in what it can save out to--IFF and JPEG being the notably useful ones. To expand your image load/save capabilities you need the SuperView plugin for ArtEffect, available for about US$45.

Once you're that far, of course, now you have to put that $200 or so you just spent to good use. As an image conversion package, ArtEffect will do the job (and now that ArtEffect 2 has added ARexx, you could conceivably automate the process of batching a collection into JPEG or GIF or IFF). ArtEffect does not really offer any cataloguing features, but there are other programs which will take care of that for you.

ArtEffect, like any good image processor, has to perform not just on image conversions, but on manipulations. The basic color balance level changes are available, good for importing images from a source and touching them up. ArtEffect offers scanner plug-in capability, so this sort of work would be your next likely step after a successful scan. But if you're looking to go further, into design and graphics work, you'll want to take advantage of ArtEffect's filters and the implementation of layers, unique among Amiga graphical packages.

Layers provide you the ability to approach an image not as a single flat surface on which to apply effects and transformations, but as up to three sandwiched "layers" which overlay each other, either completely opaquely or with some degree of translucency. ArtEffect allows you to use just three layers at a time, the functional minimum for seriously getting any use from layers. The concept has been used successfully in Photoshop for some time--this is one of the areas where a somewhat legitimate comparison between the two can be made. But three layers isn't much--while an included tutorial shows how they can be used effectively, it's always frustrating to see arbitrary imposed limits. Hopefully memory will be the only barrier in the future.

Layers can only be created--they cannot be "pulled" from an existing image. The exception is the special IFF format you can save while working in ArtEffect which will preserve your layers. Any other format requires combining all of your layers into one for the save. Layers can also be merged at any time, freeing up a layer to add another effect.

ArtEffect's filters are the power effects you'll spend your time in once you're done converting or gamma correcting images. These are your "special FX", the things that make image processors fun and can produce stunning results. ArtEffect comes with a good sample, although some of the more fun effects come in the special plug-in add on packs for US$45. Many effects are very dramatic, reminiscent of the current trend for PC and Mac users to want to "cartoonize" every image they come across. The most impressive facet of ArtEffect's filter system is that the preview windows which come up when an effect is called are interacting--multiple effects will cascade their results in corresponding filter windows and update automatically. This is very useful for getting a hold of what your final image will look like. Multiple level undo is indispensible as well--luckily, it's in this version of ArtEffect.

For all that's nice about ArtEffect, I'm a little turned off by the price. I realize that ImageFX does not seem to be the most intuitive program in the world, but I've seen what it can do when used by someone familiar with the system--and I know that the effects are superior to those offered in ArtEffect. So when the price of the two packages is now virtually identical, and ArtEffect actually requires that you spend MORE money in order to get even close to the amount of effects and supported image formats, I have to caution you. If it's serious work you're looking to do, ImageFX is still the way to go. ArtEffect is probably going to be more instantly gratifying to someone, and it is certainly nicer to look at and more CyberGraphX-friendly, but for the price you could be doing better.

ArtEffect 2 ships with the documentation from ArtEffect 1, plus an AmigaGuide update file. Haage and Partner provides very good customer support and frequently releases update patches.

Haage and Partner
PO Box 80
61191 Rosbach

++49 6007 930050 voice
++49 6007 7543 fax e-mail

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