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A Short List of (Mostly) Free Digital Paint Software

Monday, June 17th, 2013

 

          The internet is a mixed bag. On the one hand it can provide a treasure trove of knowledge and information, and on the other hand it can quickly turn into a confusing array of choices. It can also be a terrific way to spend large amounts of time that you really didn’t have in the search for that one thing you’re actually looking for. Admit it, we’ve all wasted time trying to get Google to cough up relevant information. So we thought we’d save you some time in the search for a kid-friendly (mostly) free digital paint program.

          For those new to Creativity Express, our 16 online art lessons include doART  ‘Creativity Builders’. These are hands-on art projects that can be completed using both traditional art supplies as well as digital paint programs. From a parent’s point of view, a digital approach can have several advantages. Anyone who has supervised an art project involving glitter appreciates the lack of cleanup time computers offer while still encouraging their child’s creative self-expression. Looking towards you child’s future, a vast array of jobs use digital tools for real-world products; a simple example would be architects who rely on computer aided rendering software to design buildings. So it’s a good idea to give kids at least some experience with digital paint programs – it is a worthwhile stepping stone to more complex software.

          In order for us to recommend a digital paint program it needed to meet three basic rules.

  • First, the software has to be kid-friendly. This means that the child can learn to use the program either because it is simply laid out, or because there are good tutorials. This should be fun for the kids, not a burden for the parents to trouble-shoot.
  • Second, the software should be free to download, or low-cost. Though free sound great, it has its downsides. Generally software is free because it has ads in it, and with kids involved that’s not always okay.
  • Hence my third rule: any advertising must be child-appropriate.

There are quite a few digital paint programs to choose from, so let’s get started!

Traditional MyPaint toolsMyPaint – Available for PC and Linux operating systems; MyPaint has a range of functions similar to Adobe Photoshop including pressure-sensitive capabilities for use with drawing tablets. In addition to basic layering features, MyPaint has many different brush settings. Kids can even create their own brushes, allowing them to be really creative with this program!

Firealpaca – This kid-friendly art program is available for free download on both Macs and PCs. A relatively new program, it does contain advertisements. However they claim to be art-related, and only placed ion the introductory screen, along with any relevant update information or user tips. The program has layer capabilities and many different brush settings.

Copic – Another free program compatible with Macs and PCs, Copic has a user-friendly interface that incorporates Copic’s color system as well as different brush settings. Kids will love the easy look of the program, and should be able to pick it up quickly.

Sumopaint – Users can draw online or download a more comprehensive version of this easy-to-use program; it has both PC and Mac compatibility. Its tools for drawing are virtually unlimited, allowing kids to have an expanded choice for their artwork.

ArtRage ToolboxArtRage – This program is very kid-friendly and simplistic, and is our choice for digital art software. It’s available for both Windows and Mac operating systems for $49.90. Supporting all levels of artists, ArtRage is designed to be like a virtual painting space, increasing authenticity and making the experience for kids more fun and realistic.

Artweaver – Suitable for beginners, Artweaver is a freeware program that is available for Windows computers. On this program, kids can even draw from a photograph scanned into the computer – draw on paper first, then paint on Artweaver!

SpeedyPainter – SpeedyPainter has a simple and intuitive design, and is suitable for children to use. It is downloadable for free for Windows users. It includes basic features, as well as a brush library and separate viewfinder to allow kids to really see what they’re drawing.

SmoothDraw – This program has many different brushes that can be used, as well as a simplistic interface; it’s available for free download for Windows operating systems. Children will love the ease of use in this program, and will be able to use it with little basic knowledge of tools in art programs.

Qaquarelle – Part of the Sourceforge portfolio of software, Qaquarelle supports tablet functions and has a simple design that children will find easy-to-use. It’s an open-source software that has a free download.

Last but not least, a clever drawing tool….

DrawPile – Although not specifically a digital paint program, DrawPile is a freeware program that allows multiple users to share the same online drawing board. Kids can have fun doodling and creating with their friends wherever they may travel.

With such a range of choices, we look forward to user comments on these programs, and links to others we may not have discovered.

Enjoy!

The Madcap Logic Team

Design is Everywhere

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Check out that monitor you’re looking at? Ever wonder who designed it? Or how about that mouse you’re clicking? The pen sitting on your desk. The desk itself. The clothes you’re wearing, the car you’re driving. Or even still—the seats in your car, all the way down to the springs, in the seat, in the car you’re driving. All designed by someone.

Design is everywhere—we just tend to take it for granted. We really don’t notice how everything is designed, but we’re drawn to the design—either consciously, or subconsciously. We don’t really know why we want the cool new cell phone, or the latest fashions. We just do. It’s all about the design.

Try this test. Take a minute out of your day to pick an object—could be anything, a radio, tv, shampoo bottle, coffee cup, a spoon, a fork—anything. Then consider the design. The shape/contour/materials/color, etc. Then, think about how design ties into that object on multiple levels.

Example: a designer designed the plastic earpiece from the phone on my desk, which required a mold (which required a designer), made by a machine (which required a designer), which has a bunch of crazy parts (which required a designer)…. you get my point. The links become nearly infinite.

Now, consider the power of design, how it influences your life and how it ties in to creativity. Design is everywhere.

Chris Stevenson
Madcap Logic Graphic Designer

Meet the Players….Randy Parker

Thursday, November 13th, 2008


Randy Parker, Founder Madcap Logic

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after growing up.”
Pablo Picasso

How many of us start out as creative little beans, slapping colors around, mucking with clay, paste, crayons? Happy. Yet at some point, we start to feel inadequate. Maybe someone said something unkind. Maybe no one said anything at all.

This is one of the reasons Parker created Creativity Express.

“My main goal was to open that back up. Kids are wild, fearless at a young age. Yet at some point, that shuts down.” By using the animated software, kids get to learn about artists, their techniques, their tools, and become artists themselves.
“I contend that everyone has artistic abilities.”

The whole idea started as a museum guide for kids. Parker wanted to create a bridge between museums and schools, he worked with the staff at The National Gallery of Art to develop the program. . Kids would learn about the art in advance, then walk the great halls with enhanced perspective and information. However, the teachers noted the value of the software, in and of itself.  Nothing like it existed, so the project grew into a more structured tool, with a full curriculum. Parker and team brought in the Institute for Learning Innovation. Full on art 101.”I didn’t even know what the word pedagogy meant.” says Parker.
Together they built a fun tool that teaches kids everything art, from Anasazi culture to wax resist technique.
The program also encourages creativity through games and activities.
Everyone should express their inner artist, we are now finding important links between expression and the brain. Yet kids either don’t have opportunities to be creative, or feel like they have to excel, in this go go age.

“We stigmatize ourselves,” says Parker.  “Yet we all have the capability to be creative.”
Parker knows creative. At the helm of Disney’s famed computer animation department, he worked with teams of gifted graphic artists for twelve years. Although his own background was film study, he was immersed in a world of visual literacy.
The studio is known for intense preparation, each film undergoes a 3-4 year process of detailed research. For the film, Mulan, several dozen artists went to China to absorb firsthand, cultural traditions, the landscape, color palettes, quality of light. This depth of experience informs Creativity Express. Parker seeks to hone a child’s senses of observation and context through the software program. One theme running throughout is artists observing other artists, techniques, cultures and emotional states.

The current trend towards arts integrative learning is being welcome by many champions of the whole brain.
“Our education system doesn’t encourage right brain thinking, and that’s a shame.,” says Parker. Think Pink.
“However, I do think there is a wave picking up here,”says Parker, who has witnessed the teachers’ enthusiasm for early creativity.
“I have heard teachers say ‘If we don’t teach kids art in second grade, we’re going to have a really hard time teaching them physics in eleventh grade.’”
Parker agrees –our brains work holistically – the challenge for parents and teachers is how to bring these two capacities back together.
“They are both important, the left brain holds the factoids, the right brain tells it what to do with all that.” says Parker.  “Imagination, it’s more important than knowledge.”

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