capsule review

Paint Digital Artwork With PD Artist and Plenty of Patience

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder PD Artist

    PCWorld Rating

    Use realistic-feeling tools to create digital paintings on a PD Artist canvas.

PD Artist 2 is a program for digital painters. The focus is on brushes, paint media, and special effects. PD Artist ($79) really tries to recreate a feeling of painting on canvas, paper, or any other surface you select, but what it's best at is creating organic and fluid digital art. Unfortunately, it's difficult to learn; you may find comparably-priced programs a better investment of your time.

PD Artist
Learning PD Artist is a challenge because the program relies on the feel of the paint rather than hard figures. This makes it difficult to recreate or improve on your work.
With PD Artist, you work purely in raster (pixels); there are no preset shapes and forms to manipulate like in vector drawing programs like Adobe Illustrator ($599) or Serif DrawPlus ($99). You choose a brush and get to work.

PD Artist's Brush sets are thorough, and include non-brush tools like Airbrush, Pen, and Pencil, in addition to media such as Oils, Tempera, Pastels, and Watercolor. Just like raster painting program ArtRage Studio Pro ($80), and most other digital painting programs, the brushes aren't so realistic they don't allow you to watercolor over oil paint for example, but for the most part they create surprisingly good results. However, unlike ArtRage, setting the brush style is not intuitive in PD Artist.

The number of brush effects is unlimited, because you can make your own, much like in Adobe Illustrator. PD Artist includes a few hundred to get you started, including Smudge and Smear; Organic effects like grass, leaves, flowers, rocks, and sparkles; styles like Impressionist and dry brush; and odd additions like the brush that piles on photo-realistic rocks and one that paints beautiful wildflowers.

To help you with your painting, PD Artist also includes a multitude of transforming filters, such as Blur, Sharpen, Noise, Artistic, the interesting 3D perceptive and Lighting tools. There's a lot to learn. Unfortunately, just like with real painting, with PD Artist it's difficult for anyone to tell you step by step how to achieve a particular result: There are multiple ways of doing it. This makes it hard to learn PD Artist, even with prior experience using other painting programs. And with no searchable help in PD Artist you can get stuck, even if you are trying to work with one of the many tutorials found online.

If you're used to any other drawing or painting program, layers in PD Artist can be a little confusing to start. They work more like transparent overlays. You can store images and use a swap buffer feature--- essentially a replacement for saving multiple drafts---as if you're taking a fresh piece of paper. The upside of this is that you can go back to a previous snapshot of your work and also merge different images. It's like a combination of Adobe Photoshop's History and Illustrator's Layers, but it takes a while to get the hang of.

PD Artist doesn't have photo manipulation tools. You can open your photos most common image files and turn them into part of your artwork, but if you're interested in adding or removing parts of photographs to incorporate them into your art, you may want to try Paint.NET or RealWorld Paint, both free raster painting programs that are less brush-focused and easier to use.

In PD Artist I found it very difficult to recreate my artwork, an important step when you are learning how to use a program. When I was unhappy with my painting, I could follow the steps involved in creating it, but even keeping tool settings the same, I never got the same result twice. Maybe this is deliberate---like true painting---but I found it made PD Artist frustrating, and there's no work-around other than trying again and again to get the effect you're happy with.

I also had problems with PD Artist not responding while my Intel dual core processor practically melted down, even when doing something mundane like adjusting brush properties.

PD Artist 2 is powered by Project Dogwaffle version 6. Version 1.5 of the Project Dogwaffle software, originally created for Windows XP is still available for free, and installed and ran on both Windows 7 and Vista with no problems and no error messages … which is more than could be said for PD Artist. If you're not an expert in ActiveX controls or fixing things in the command line, you may get stuck before you even start painting with PD Artist.

PD Artist includes some interesting special effects, but if you want to learn to digitally paint, or even if you're a painter and can't afford costly supplies, PD Artist is frustratingly difficult to learn and achieve the effects you envision. Unless you're an avid Project Dogwaffle user, I'd suggest sticking with more intuitive painting programs like ArtRage Studio Pro or Paint.NET.

--Clare Brandt

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Use realistic-feeling tools to create digital paintings on a PD Artist canvas.

    Pros

    • Multiple brushes and brush options
    • Tools give feel of real painting

    Cons

    • Problematic to install
    • Unstable in Vista and Win 7
    • No photo-manipulation tools
    • Hard to learn; no great tutorials
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.