Category Archives: Drawing Software

Aviary Application Suite – Free In Browser Creativity Tools

imageI’ll admit, I’ve never been a big fan of cloud based applications – too old, too staid, too set in my ways, and of course – my dissatisfaction with cloud security. Still, I’m slowly being converted to the idea that online applications are, in some cases, as powerful and as convenient to use, as onboard applications.

A recent discovery – Aviary Application Suite – an impressive suite of browser-based design tools (see the following graphics), has been a bit of a convincer for me -maybe it’s time to get on the “cloud” bandwagon. Could be that this old dog can learn new tricks, after all.

The Aviary Application Suite offers an amazing range of high quality applications including –

Image Editor: Use the Aviary Image Editor for basic image retouching or complex effects.

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Markup Editor: Use the Markup Editor to crop, resize and markup images and web pages captured from your browser.
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Vector Editor: Use the Aviary Vector Editor to create fully scalable vector art.

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Audio Editor: Use the Aviary Audio Editor to remix music tracks and audio clips. Apply sound effects and record your own voice and instruments.

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Additional components.

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First impressions:

The developer has put together a first class set of full blown creative applications that have been designed with simplicity in mind – yet, has managed to retain the power one would normally associate with locally installed applications. I must admit – I’m very enthusiastic about this cloud service. Scores a definite 10/10 in my book.

As part of the package, Avery provides a full range of tutorials (60+), designed to help users get the most “bang for the buck” from each suite component.

There’s much more to be discovered on the site than I can cover in a short review so, I recommend that you drop by the site and wander a bit.

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Filed under Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Drawing Software, Freeware, Graphic Software, Image Editors, Online Tools, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

5 Fully Licensed Applications FREE From Ashampoo – Value $129.95!

As a popular Blogger, I receive “giveaway” offers from software developers virtually everyday. This past week, for example, a developer offered two free licenses for their backup software – software that has no major advantages over an assortment of free backup applications readily available for download on the Net. My only response – give me a break – this type of marketing is so Twentieth Century! Two licenses? Sheesh.

No, I have much more interest in pointing out to readers, opportunities to download fully licensed software from mature software developers who focus on the big picture. Developers who create opportunities for significant numbers of users to benefit from giveaways – not 5 or 10, and certainly not two! No fuss, no muss, no waiting, no trusting to luck giveaways – professionally handled, and a win-win for all involved.

Ashampoo, a German software developer with over 125 million software installations to their credit, is a perfect example of a company that understands marketing in the Twenty First Century. As such, Ashampoo periodically offers free multipacks of their programs for download, with the only requirement being registration.

This time out, Ashampoo is offering 5 of their applications for free (retail value $129.95). This is a limited time offer, and as such, there is no guarantee that the offer will not be withdrawn without notice.

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Applications include:

Burning Studio 2010 Advanced – (for CD, DVD, and Blu-ray burning projects).

Home Designer – (a 3-D home-planning tool).

Photo Commander 7 – (for sharing, organizing, and managing photos and videos).

Snap 3 – (a screen- and video-capture utility).

WinOptimizer 6 – (a Windows tuning, maintenance, and optimization utility).

If you’ve not used Ashampoo’s applications in the past, then you’re in for a treat. This company develops absolutely first class applications, and I recommend that you give all of these applications a try.

To take advantage of this offer, click on the “Redeem Coupon Code Here” button, in the graphic below.

I should point out, registration is required to unlock any application past the initial 10 day trial period.

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Note: If you’re wondering what the green circles are, in the above graphic, this is the WOT Browser add-on advising me that the links in the email (the graphic is a screen capture of my email), are safe.

Even if you have no need for any of this software, consider passing the offer on to your friends as a “one day late”, Christmas present.

Ashampoo loves to remind you occasionally of the value of their full software lineup, so if you find it bothersome to receive this type of email, you’d be better off passing.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.when I do receive emails soliciting my business for new applications.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, CD/DVD Tools, downloads, Drawing Software, Freeware, Giveaways, Multimedia Tools, Photo Tools, Screen Capture Utilities, Software, Software Giveaways, System Utilities, Utilities

Jealous? Cyber-crooks Have You In Their Sights

Jealousy_by_EvilTelephone Physiological studies have observed jealousy in infants as young as five months old and surprisingly, in elderly people. Many psychologists hold the view, that jealousy is a normal and appropriate reaction to the fear of losing a loved one to someone else.

It’s no surprise then, that Cyber-crooks are continuing to use jealousy as a social engineering email hook, to entice potential victims to click on an email containing enclosed links which can lead to the installation of malware.

The following screen capture (from one of my email inboxes, yesterday), illustrates the type of crafty email currently circulating on the Internet. Consider carefully – would you follow the links in this email?

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If you had attempted to do so, in this case, you would have been cautioned by bit.ly (a free service that shortens long links), since the original link has been shortened using this service. Kudos to bit.ly for being on the ball here.

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(Click pic for larger)

The following is the text of another email of this type, currently circulating on the Net.

Hello,

I apologize for my frankness. I’m sorry for not being able to speak to you in person, but I can only talk to you via email and I feel obliged to notify you to open your eyes, you are being betrayed.

I know it is difficult to prove, but every picture tells a story, I’ll send you these pictures so that you can see it with your own eyes. Take care…a big hug

From a good friend who is very fond of you

View photos here

In this case, there is no intermediary, like bit.ly – so you’re on your own.

It may well be that certain individuals are not prepared to take the fidelity of a loved one at face value, but these same individuals have no hesitation in opening an email from an unknown sender, it seems.

Do these types of emails work for scammers, do you suppose? You bet! Let me give you an example of how foolish people can be –

Several months ago, I wrote an article “Nude Pics Of Your Wife/Girlfriend Attached – Click Here”, as another of my frequent tests of Internet user gullibility. This is the very type of article frequently used by cyber-criminals to launch penetration attempts. Much to my surprise, the article is now one of the most frequently read articles on this site. I ask you – how careless can people be?

Regular readers of this site are familiar with the following safeguards:

  • Install an Internet Browser add-on such as WOT (my personal favorite), which provides detailed results on a site’s safety; protecting you from security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, and online scams.
  • As well, WOT now checks links embedded in your email, and warns you of dangerous web sites so that you can avoid spyware, spam, phishing, identity theft and other Internet scams; before you click on dangerous embedded links.
  • Don’t open unknown email attachments.
  • Disable scripting features in email programs.
  • Make regular backups of critical data.
  • Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised.
  • Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.
  • Install a personal firewall on your computer.
  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.
  • Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, Drawing Software, Email, email scams, Freeware, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, Windows Tips and Tools, WOT (Web of Trust)

Special: Download 5 Terrific Ashampoo Apps – No Charge

Ashampoo, a German software company noted for developing top quality, easy to use applications, periodically makes available free, current versions of their retail products. The last time I recall a similar offer from Ashampoo was a couple of years ago, when they offered 6 of their programs for free.

This time, Ashampoo is offering 5 of their applications for free (retail value $160, or so). I believe this a limited time offer, and there is no guarantee the offer will not be withdrawn without notice. So as the hot dog guy at the ball park says, “get em while they’re hot.”

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Applications include:

Burning Studio 2010 Advanced (for CD, DVD, and Blu-ray burning projects)

Home Designer (a 3D home-planning tool)

Photo Commander 7 (for sharing, organizing, and managing photos and videos)

Snap 3 (a screen- and video-capture utility)

WinOptimizer 6 (a Windows tuning, maintenance, and optimization utility)

If you’ve not used Ashampoo’s applications in the past then you’re in for a treat. This company develops absolutely first class applications, and I recommend that you give all of these applications a try.

To take advantage of this offer, go here and enter coupon code ASH-444LW1.

I must point out that registration is required to unlock any application past the original 10 day trial period. You might find this process a bit of a hassle. But, then again – maybe not.

Ashampoo loves to remind you occasionally of the value of their full software lineup, so if you find it bothersome to receive this type of email, you’d be better off passing. Personally, I find it easier to stay in the loop on new software developments.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.when I do receive emails soliciting my business for new applications.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, CD/DVD Tools, downloads, Drawing Software, Freeware, Giveaways, Multimedia Tools, Photo Tools, Productivity Software, Screen Capture Utilities, Software, Software Giveaways, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

17 Free Productivity Applications That Make Life Easier

The Internet is loaded with free software, but it seems to me, that most free software is either security related, or system related. There’s nothing wrong with that of course; but because freeware offerings are heavily weighted in favor of these types of applications, productivity applications tend to get lost in the fog.

As a consequence, you might think that you have to wander the aisles of your local computer store to find good quality productivity software. But, you don’t.

There’s a wealth of tried and tested free productivity software out in the wild blue of the Internet, that will meet virtually every need you’re likely to have.

Take a look at the following recommended free downloads and I think you’ll find that these applications will more than do the job.

Working with words:

OpenOffice.org 3

OpenOffice.org 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers.

It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages.

AbiWord

If you want to go light on a word processor then AbiWord is for you. AbiWord, an open source application, has been designed to integrate perfectly with the operating system it runs on, and there are many, including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X (PowerPC).

There’s no need to worry about document compatibility issues with AbiWord since it can read, and write, all industry standard document types, including Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Office Open XML (MS Word 2007), Rich Text Format (RTF), HTML web pages, and many more.

WordWeb

WordWeb is a handy utility that gives you the definition, synonyms, and antonyms of any given word without requiring you to go online, though it can connect to the Internet for expanded functionality should you want it.

If you’re a writer, a student, or you just want to find the right word to get the right message across, then the free WordWeb Thesaurus and Dictionary for Windows application will be invaluable.

PDF Tools:

PDFill PDF Tools

Included are Merge, Split, Reorder, Encrypt, Decrypt, Rotate, Crop, Reformat, Header, Footer, Watermark, Images to PDF, PDF to Images, Form Fields Delete/Flatten/List, PostScript to PDF, PDF Information, Scan to PDF, and Create Transparent Image options.

PrimoPDF

Create PDF files faster with the only free PDF creator to support one-click, drag-and-drop PDF creation. Convert to PDF from any file you can print, including Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats.

Desktop Publishing:

SerifSoft PagePlus SE

Interested in producing a family newsletter, a business newsletter, a company newsletter or an employee newsletter? Want to produce a clean, bright design that will enhance your newsletter’s message? Want to do it for FREE?

This neat little Desktop Publishing application includes a range of preset document layouts, automated templates, great color schemes and artistic effects, which will allow you to produce professional looking results.

Satisfy your creativity with drawing applications:

Inkscape

An Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Inkscape supports many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.) and great care is taken in designing a streamlined interface.

It’s very easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps and much more.

Blender 3D – Open Source Animation to the Max

Blender is an incredibly robust 3D software animation program. It’s been designed for modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulating, non-linear editing, compositing, and creating interactive 3D applications.

Google SketchUp 7

Google SketchUp is software that you can use to create 3D models of anything you like. Build models and add them to Google Earth. Most people get rolling with SketchUp in just a few minutes. Dozens of video tutorials, an extensive Help Center and a worldwide user community mean that anyone who wants to make 3D models with SketchUp, can. Redecorate your living room. Design a new piece of furniture. Model your city for Google Earth.

You can build models from scratch, or you can download what you need. People all over the world share what they’ve made on the Google 3D Warehouse. It’s a huge, searchable repository of models, and it’s free.

Working with photos:

Google Picasa

At its most basic, it’s a photo manager and viewer. Fire up Picasa, and you can browse through all of your photos, organized by folder, as well as by the year they were stored on your hard disk.

But all that is just a start. It also has a full complement of editing tools, and lets you create CDs full of photos, as well as photo collages, screensavers, and posters. It will upload your files Google’s Web albums photo site, publish your photos to your Blogger blog, and plenty more as well.

XnView

With XnView you can import more than 400 graphic file formats then convert them to other formats such as GIF, BMP, JPG, PNG, multi page TIFF. As well, you can export more than 50 graphic file formats.

XnView doesn’t stop there however; it also provides you with more advanced features such as Web page creation, contact prints, multiple conversion (format and transformation), slide shows, screen capturing and twain support for scanners and digital cameras.

Web site creation:

Weebly

If you’re looking to create that first web site using a WYSIWYG visual web page creator, and you want to do it for free, including web hosting, then this free service from Weebly will fill the bill admirably. With Weebly you control virtually every essential aspect of site design – and built-in integration with Google AdSense, allows you to deliver text and image ads that are specific to your site and your site content, if you choose.

Media applications:

Audacity

Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Definitely the best of breed.

Winamp

A multimedia player that supports numerous audio and video formats. It also plays streamed video and audio content, live and recorded, authored worldwide.

Mapping Software:

Google Earth

Google Earth lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean. You can explore rich geographical content, save your toured places, and share with others.

Mind mapping software:

FreeMind

FreeMind is an open source mind mapping software that enables you to visualize ideas, projects, concepts, brainstorming, internet research or any other task that can benefit from a structured overview. You can create nodes with child and sibling nodes and add icons, clouds, notes and custom formatting for better presentation.

The nodes can be expanded or collapsed, or interactively linked to local files, other maps, online resources and more. You can also insert encrypted nodes or create encrypted maps for sensitive projects. The finished maps can be exported to HTML, clickable XHTML, Open Office document, image file and other formats.

Control your cash:

AceMoney Lite

AceMoney Lite is a freeware personal finance manager. It has all the features of its big brother except multiple accounts management. As AceMoney, AceMoney Lite helps people organize and manage their personal finances quickly and easily. It supports all the features required for home or even small-business accounting needs.

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Filed under Audio Applications, DeskTop Publishing, downloads, Drawing Software, Free Photo Applications, Free Word Processors, Freeware, Google, Image Editors, MS Word Alternatives, Photo Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Website Builders, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Blender 3D – Open Source Animation to the Max

image Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be a James Cameron, or a Steven Spielberg, and watch your dreams and creative impulses take shape before your eyes?

Imaginary worlds, imaginary characters come to life; through the magic of computers and software.

I’m not an artist, a movie producer or director, but I like to “fool around” with creative software of every stripe and color. I suppose that goes with the “geeky” side of my nature, and I do have some experience with 3ds Max.

Last year, I came across an astonishing open source, cross platform program, capable of building complex and realistic simulations, and interactive 3D applications.

Blender is an incredibly robust 3D software animation program. It’s been designed for modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulating, non-linear editing, compositing, and creating interactive 3D applications.

The program is made up of a feature set that is characteristic of high-end modeling software such as Cinema 4D, 3ds Max and Maya. These features include advanced simulation tools including rigid body, fluid, and soft body dynamics, modifier based modeling tools, powerful character animation tools, Python for embedded scripting, and a node based material and compositing system.

Take a look at a number of movies and videos (just click on the pic), created with Blender; I guarantee that you will be astonished!

My Australian friends will love this first one!

Blender new 1

Blender new 2

Blender new 3

Blender new 4

In a review of this type, it’s  not possible to adequately describe all of the advance features that make up this incredible software package. Only selected features have been highlighted review, and there are many more features other than those noted below.

Features:

· Revolutionary non-overlapping and non-blocking UI delivers unsurpassed workflow

· Flexible and fully configurable window layout with as many screen setups as you prefer

· Undo support on all levels

· Anti-aliased fonts with international translation support

· Windows for animation curves/keys, outliner, schematic scene diagram, generic node editing system, non-linear video sequence editing, character animation action editor, non-linear animation mixer, image/UV editing, file/image selection and file management

· Built-in text editor for annotations and editing Python scripts

· Graphical user interface for Python scripts

· Custom themes

· Consistent interface across all platforms

Rigging:

Rigging

· Fast skeleton creation mode

· Interactive 3D paint for vertex weighting

· Fast envelope based skinning

· Mirror editing (bone creation and weight painting)

Animation:

· Armature (skeleton) deformation with forward/inverse kinematics

· Auto IK allows posing FK chains easily

· Non-linear animation editor for mixing individual actions created in Action editor

· Automated walk cycles along paths

· Animated constraint system

· Vertex key framing for morphing, with controlling sliders

· Edit and create new blend shapes from existing targets

· Character animation pose editor

3D/Game Creation:

Game 1

· Graphical logic editor for defining interactive behavior without programming

· Collision detection and dynamics simulation now support Bullet Physics Library. Bullet is an open source collision detection and rigid body dynamics library developed for Play Station 3

· Shape types: Convex polyhedron, box, sphere, cone, cylinder, capsule, compound, and static triangle mesh with auto deactivation mode

· Discrete collision detection for Rigid Body simulation

· Support for in-game activation of dynamic constraints

· Full support for vehicle dynamics, including spring reactions, stiffness, damping, tire friction etc

· Python scripting API for sophisticated control and AI, fully defined advanced game logic

· Support all OpenGLTM lighting modes, including transparencies, Animated and reflection-mapped textures

Modeling:

Modelling

· A range of 3D object types including polygon meshes, NURBS surfaces, Bezier and B-spline curves, metaballs, vector fonts (TrueType, PostScript, Open Type)

· Very fast Catmull-Clark subdivision surfaces with optimal iso-lines display and sharpness editing

· Full multiresolution sculpting capabilities with 2D bitmap/3D procedural brushes (Paint, Smooth, Pinch, Inflate, Grab) supporting symmetry

· Modifier stack deformers such as Lattice, Curve, Armature or Displace

Rendering:

Rendering

· Very fast inbuilt ray tracer

· Over sampling, motion blur, post-production effects, fields, non-square pixels

· Tile-based and fully threaded

· Render layers and passes

· Render baking to UV maps (full render, ambient occlusion, normal, textures)

· Render engine tightly integrated with the node compositor

· Halo, lens flares and fog effects

· Vector motion-blur post-process effect (using node compositor)

· Realistic defocus (DOF) post-process effect (using node compositor)

· Edge rendering for toon shading

· Interactive preview rendering panel in any 3d view

Shading:

Shading

· Diffuse shaders such as Lambert, Minnaert, Toon, Oren-Nayar, Lambert

· Specular shaders such as WardIso, Toon, Blinn, Phong, CookTorr

· Node editor for creating and mixing complex materials

· Material previews rendered by main render engine

· Fast, realistic subsurface scattering

Physics and Particles:

Physics

· Particle system can be attached to any mesh object. Control methods include weight painting, textures, curve guides, wind and vortex effects. Particles can be deflected by moving geometry

· Hair strands can be created by a static particle system, supporting all particle control methods

· Fluid simulator with fully animated inflow, outflow, obstacle and fluid objects. Gravity and viscosity settings can also be animated. Supports vector blur and is integrated with the particle system

The Blender Web Site is an astonishingly complete site which includes the following: Features & Gallery, Download, Tutorials & Help, Community, Development, and e-Shop.

If you’ve ever wanted to try 3D creation, then this solid, free program, will more than meet your needs.

System Requirements:

Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7 (64bit compatible).

Note: The 64bit release of Blender for Windows is still in a development stage: it doesn’t support all possible features yet, like FFMPEG, OpenAL and Quicktime.

Mac OS X (PPC and Intel)

Linux (i386)

Linux (PPC)

FreeBSD 5.4 (i386)

SGI Irix 6.5

Sun Solaris 2.8 (sparc)

Download the latest version (2.49b), from the Blender Foundation .

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Filed under Arts and Crafts, Digital Media, downloads, Drawing Software, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Multimedia Tools, Open Source, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Serif DrawPlus SE – Outstanding Free Vector Graphics Application

image SerifSoftware puts an interesting and unusual twist to the common “try this application for free for 30 days”, something with which we are all pretty familiar.

Serif releases free, older versions, of their current software for download – to entice at least some users to upgrade to current versions of their popular software. In my view, this “creative marketing” is something more software developers should consider.

I have used, and tested, Serif’s free editions for 10+ years now, and I have found that even their older software is more than up to the tasks I set.

Sure, the applications may be older than the current versions, but in terms of functionality and features, generally you are not missing much. In these older free versions there are not as many tools as one might find with more recent versions of Serif’s products, but those that are there, tend to be the ones that are most used by typical users.

Despite the slightly “older” appearance of DrawPlus SE , this is not an old program that’s been revived just for give-away. DrawPlus SE is still an amazing free drawing and graphic application, with which you can turn out vector graphics, high-impact graphics, and even web animations with tools usually only available in high end applications.

Serif SE

On top of that, DrawPlus SE is also a graphics design program that allows you to create logos, high quality print graphics, artwork, drawings, animations, labels and more.

Serif SE 2

The straightforward and intuitive interface is simple, but surprisingly powerful, so even first time users will get professional quality results.

If you like special effects, DrawPlus SE is loaded with them, so it’s easy to create high impact text for headlines, logos, banners, Web pages, or wherever your imagination takes you. You can add bitmap, conical, ellipse, plasma, radial and linear fills to your creations to produce spectacular results.

DrawPlus SE supports industry standard bitmap and vector formats including: JPEG, BMP, EMF, WMF and PNG for the Web.

Fast facts:

Drawing & Sketching – Say goodbye to complicated tools and ‘shaky hand’ drawings. DrawPlus makes drawing simple with easy to use Quick Shapes, Natural Curve Editing and Curve Smoothing.

Export Optimizer – Easily export your drawings and images optimized for email, websites, printing, or to your specific requirements in any supported image format.

Studio Resources – Choose from hundreds of pre-set lines, fills, transparencies, fonts and Wizard elements from the Studio tabs to save yourself time and still achieve amazing results.

Color Selection – Apply color fills to backgrounds, shapes and your own drawings from the simple on-screen studio palette.

Animation Mode – Bring your designs to life with the fun animation tools, which include easy-to-use, yet advanced features like onion skinning, backgrounds, overlays and frame management.

Blends – Use the blend tool to automatically ‘morph’ two images into one another. You choose the number of steps and let DrawPlus do the rest – easy!

If you’re looking for a free drawing and graphic application to test your creative skills, then DrawPlus SE will fill the bill admirably.

System Requirements: Windows XP (32 bit), Vista

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under Arts and Crafts, downloads, Drawing Software, Free Full Versions, Freeware, Photo Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Windows Tips and Tools