Monday, March 8, 2010

Graphics Toolbox -- powerful graphics software for the family

I wasn't sure what to expect when I found out we would be reviewing a graphics software as members of the TOS Homeschool Crew.  To be honest, I've never worked with a graphics programs before, and my photo-editing experience has been very minimal.

When I first downloaded the Graphics Toolbox software and opened the manual, I began to feel very overwhelmed.  The manual was 89 pages long, and when I opened the software there were rows of icons instead of pull-down text menus!  I admit I'm not a very good manual reader, and the icons seemed daunting, so I quickly signed up for the tutorial workshops that Great Software Tools offered us.  It helped so much to have each of the icons explained and watch someone use them, step by step.  In each of the workshops, we were walked through a project, from beginning to end.  I attended a few of the workshops live, and then I watched the online videos of the other workshops.

Graphics Toolbox does not use layers that some other programs use.  While this takes some adjustment if you're used to working with layers ... I didn't mind it.  I had previously found layers to be confusing, so other than remembering to save the stages of my work often with Graphics Toolbox, I liked the fact that it didn't use layers.

Some of my favorite parts of Graphics Toolbox are the color swapping abilities, the ability to zoom WAY in and edit tiny pixels, the ribbons, and the ability to crop out a portion of the photo.  The tonal color change and color matching abilities are also great tools for photo and graphic editing.

For instance, in this card that I made, I cropped around Baby G in his green wig.  But, it had a flat edge to the wig, since that was the top of the photo.  So I zoomed way in and tried to create a more natural shape to the top of the wig.  I was able to layer 3 different ribbons for the border, as well.  I found the shamrock image on the internet, cropped it, and added it to the card for one last touch.

I then decided to make a pregnancy announcement card.  I found an image on the internet, added a border, and then text.  I didn't use any fancy tricks for this card, other than resizing and cropping the baby's image.   I wish I had a color printer so I could print these out, but I don't. 

I then began playing with creating blog headers.  I enjoyed using the textures, the vast array of color cards, the ribbon borders, and adding text.    I designed three different blog headers.  The first one included texture, color matching, and layering 3 different ribbons to create the border. 

The second blog header I created was more simple.  I loved this floral ribbon, and pulled all the other colors in the header straight from the ribbon.  Adding a texture and text finished the header.

The last blog header I created was one attempting to play with the brown and pink color combination that I love and that is so popular lately.  I chose a striped ribbon, enlarged a portion of it, changed the colors to suit me, and then added several rectangles around it to create a border.  At that point, I decided it needed more brown stripes, so I added brown lines in the middle of the pink stripes.  I had to zoom in and neaten up the ends of the lines.   In the end, though, I decided it ended up just TOO pink.  I need to play with the colors again to make it less pink.

My children wanted to play around and create some artwork on Graphics Toolbox next.  My 13 year old daughter created a photo card using the same techniques I used on the St. Patrick's Day card.  I had to walk her through the steps, much as the video tutorials had done for me.  My 9 year old son wants to give it a try, but I will need to set aside even more time to teach him how to use it.

The last live tutorial I participated in was the digital-scrapbooking tutorial.  As a scrapbooker, I've never made the switch to digital scrapbooking.  I have created a few photobooks from photo-printing websites, but I used their templates and my control was limited.  Graphics Toolbox works well for digital scrapbooking, although you would need to have 12x12 page layouts printed by a business with printers that can handle that size of page. 

I've found Graphics Toolbox to be versatile and powerful.  I know there are probably tools I have yet to discover in this software, and I'm looking forward to using it in our cattery business.    I'm sure there are many ways this could be used to create school projects that I haven't yet tapped into.  Several other Crew members did find ways to use it in their homeschools, so be sure to check out other Crew reviews.

We had three problems with Graphics Toolobx in our home.  Our computer has low RAM for this software, and we had to choose settings with very few Undos.  Frequently, while trying to place a ribbon around the edges as a 4 sided border, the program would just close.  It didn't close when we tried to do the ribbon one side at a time, however.  I'm sure it's also memory related.  The final problem was merely that we could not print our projects on our black and white printer, so we would have to pay to have our projects printed elsewhere.

Graphics Toolbox retails for $149, which is actually less expensive than some other graphic and photo-editing software on the market.   Purchasing a software like this has never been a high priority for our family, so I had no idea what I was missing out on.  Before having used Graphics Toolbox, I would never have considered spending that much on a computer program. 

Graphics Toolbox has a free 30 day trial which you can download HERE, to help you decide if this will be worth the expense for your family.  Don't forget to use the helpful tutorials ... they will shorten your learning curve tremendously!  Finally, make sure that your computer is compatible with Graphics Toolbox before you download it.  It is NOT compatible with Windows Vista 64-bit, unfortunately.  Minimum requirements for Graphics Toolbox are:

  • Microsoft® Windows® NT, 2000, XP or Vista 32-bit

  • 512MB of RAM

  • 80 MB of free hard-disk space

Try the 30 day trial, and have fun with it!  It really is an awesome program.

This item was provided free for our review as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew.  We received no other compensation, and this review is our honest opinion.  Click the TOS Homeschool Crew banner at the top to read more reviews on this product by other Homeschool Crew members.

Trusting In Him,

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your pregnancy. I like the announcement!



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