If I were into posting pompous axioms and slogans on this blog, I guess one would be “The image is everything.” How you created it is secondary. We’re not media chauvinists around here. (I’ve kind of stated my “manifesto” on this topic here, if you’re interested.) Not everyone knows how to perform magic with a pencil or a paintbrush, or even a digital stylus. And that’s one of the wonderful things about making art on the computer: it enables everyone to be creative–even those “who can’t draw a straight line.” (I can’t do that either, but I do enjoy painting.) A case in point is a relatively new piece of software available for free for the Mac and the PC, called PostworkShop. It allows anyone to create, play, and just plain have a ball with images. It’s purpose is not to “replace” humans as painters. Nor is it meant as a shortcut for lazy artists. Yes, it is one of those push-a-button filter programs that have, perhaps, given digital art a bad name. But it’s quite powerful and deep, with a huge potential for improvisation and innovation.
PostworkShop comes in three flavors: Free, Artist, and Pro. Free is, well, free, and comes with 50 presets. The Artist version is $49, and the Pro is $99. Both of these come with over 350 presets, called styles. But the presets are just a starting point. You can modify them and save custom versions. You can create whole new styles and upload them to share with the community. There’s a node-based editor which I assume allows you to really dig in and come up with unique stuff, but so far I’ve just been exploring the preset styles. Some of the styles are just so-so, but others are truly extraordinary. If you’re looking to add a great look to your family photos, go ahead and download the free version; you’ll be amazed at what you can do with a few clicks.
You can upload your own brushes to PostworkShop, which is one of the ways you can create truly unique styles. All versions work with layers, and layer blending modes, much like Photoshop. So you can combine the effects of two or more styles together, resulting in an unlimited number of possible permutations. The interface is a bit different, but there are excellent tutorials and videos available online. It took me about an hour to get comfortable with the basics. Those under 50 would probably take considerably less time!
PostworkShop does a good–and sometimes great–job replicating real-world artistic looks, such as watercolor, pen and ink, etching, and painting. It also has a bunch of photography filters to play with. The program seems to follow the contours of objects in the photo, or at least takes it into consideration. Most of the filters that come delivered with Photoshop don’t do that: they just apply the same effect across the whole image. PostworkShop leaves some areas blank, such as a blue sky. The $200 Snap Art 2, from Alien Skin, applies the same effect evenly across the image, like Photoshop’s filters, regardless of the subject. The results of Snap Art’s filters are, I think, quite unimpressive, and none of them look convincing. I’d suggest you save your money and give PostworkShop a try.
PostworkShop is available here for download. (Full disclosure: I am not an affiliate, though they did give me a free copy to evaluate.)
Here’s a gallery of images I created this afternoon with PostworkShop. There are three original photos, each followed by variations.