Monday, March 8, 2010

Review: Graphics Toolbox

Have you ever tried to use Photoshop, only to throw your hands up or beat your head against the keyboard, and walk away in frustration?

Please say it's not just me...

I'm not graphically inclined by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I can't even design a blog button to save my life! (A task I've "heard" is super easy to do.) So when I heard I was to review a new graphics program as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was flinching big time! :o/

Developed and created by Lynda Holler and William Tsao (who have amassed 20+ years of experience within the fashion design and software development industries), Graphics Toolbox is a unique software program designed with the everyday user in mind."Graphics Toolbox was designed as a real alternative to Photoshop for all non-photo effects, graphics needs. We created an extensive range of very easy to understand and use graphics tools, for the world's daily graphic needs." ~Quote: Graphics Toolbox website.

The program boasts a plethora of features including:
  • Drawing and framing tools
  • Color tools (Don't like that black shirt? Make it green instead!)
  • Embellishments such as cute ribbons or fun textures
  • and a whole...lot...more! (Really. Waaay more!)
Graphics Toolbox is designed to be quite intuitive and extremely user-friendly, once you get the hang of it. There are several online tutorials that guide you through the process step-by-step, and the user's manual was pretty detailed as well. If you still need help, GT offers one-on-one online support for $65/hr.

I must say that even with these resources in place (and I'm speaking only of the free ones), the program still took a lot of getting used to. It's nothing like Photoshop or anything else available on the market today. Which means that even though it's "easier" to navigate, there's still a bit of a learning curve involved.

The best advice I can give is: Don't go into it blind. Meaning, you should have an idea of what you want to create instead of just jumping in with both feet and "winging it". Trust me! I was totally confused and overwhelmed until I had a plan.

My simple plan consisted of working with the children to play around with their photos. We changed their faces, changed their clothes, put their face on a dog's body and vice versa, stuck them in jungle setting, etc. It was really quite fun! :) What I'd like to do is use the program to create Abby's birthday invitations later this month. But first I had to promise not to give her a chihuahua face again. (Ahem)

Graphics Toolbox is an ideal program for putting together your own greeting cards, websites (blog banners, anyone?) or other graphically-rich creations. Homeschool co-ops can use this program for their brochures and flyers. (Need something snazzy to announce that fundraiser? Here ya go!)

And with $149 price tag, it's significantly more affordable than Photoshop, which always a "plus" in my book! ;o)

Oh yes. The ever-important System Requirements. I almost forgot:
  • Windows NT, 2000, XP or Vista 32-bit (64-bit users will be frustrated)
  • 512 MB RAM (However 1-2 GB allows for greater flexibility)
  • 80 MB free hard-disk space
To see if Graphics Toolbox is right for you, check out their free 30 day trial here. One last thing; I must give Lynda Holler tremendous thanks for being so helpful and supportive. If you ever have trouble or need any sort of assistance, she's there for you in a heartbeat. :)

In closing, I'll say that Graphics Toolbox is a very involved program that requires a lot of practice. But as you slowly get the hang of it (which I'm still doing), your amazement factor will go up.

To learn what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about this product, please click here.

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free 30 day trial of this product in exchange for my review. No additional compensation was provided and my opinions are strictly my own.*

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