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Review: Sumo Paint

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Sumo Paint, recently released as an open beta, joins the growing list of online photo editing applications that allow you to work in your browser much like you do in a regular desktop application (see the review of Phoenix here). As its name implies, however, Sumo Paint is not just another red eye removal tool, such as Picnik, Pixlr, or Splashup. Sumo Paint is designed more for image creation rather than image editing. In other words, it’s a tool for creating art. Like most of these new “Web 2.0″ online applications, Sumo Paint is free. Unlike the other photo apps, it’s doesn’t have hooks into social sharing sites like Flickr and Facebook. It has it’s own online gallery, however, so you can see what others are doing with Sumo, and upload some of your own work. Just remember: it’s very new, just released in June 2008 as an open beta, so expect lots of quirks and oddities. For example, I didn’t have a lot of luck getting the smudge tool to work. It tended to change colors randomly on me, when it worked at all. But I’m sure they’ll get these problems ironed out shortly.

Some cool, unexpected features

Sumo Paint has the usual tools you’d expect, such as selection tools, gradient, paint bucket, and so on. Sumo supports layers and blending modes, and has some filters as well. But click on the paintbrush, and you begin to see some differences.

Sumo’s paint brushes offer a lot of variety

Not only are there a variety of brushes to choose from, there are settings for size, opacity, scatter, random rotate, and gravity (which is supposed to help you draw smooth lines, I believe, though it didn’t seem to work for me). This is a far cry from the brushes in Photoshop, I realize, but it’s much more than I’ve seen in other online editors. Sumo also has an ink tool (not a pen tool for drawing vector shapes) and a pencil tool. For vector-ish work, there are shape tools of various kinds, and a peculiar line type that lets you bend it once after drawing.

You can get some interesting effects with the shape trails option.

Each of the shapes has a “shape trail” toggle, which can lead to some interesting results (see above). The most unexpected item was Sumo’s symmetry tool, which allows you to draw some intricate mandala-like drawings very quickly. I used a Perlin noise filter to achieve the psychedelic background. Imagine what I could do if I knew what I was doing! I thought this was pretty cool, and easy to do.

Using the symmetry tool to create a very complex design in minutes.

Conclusion

Sumo Paint seems very rough around the edges at this point, which is expected with such an early beta release. This review is just meant to bring it your attention, so that you can give it a try. I’ll be keeping an eye on Sumo Paint as they continue towards a gold release. Look for another review at that point.

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