Alien Skin has released Snap Art, a new version of its artistic natural media plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, which turns photos into artworks.

Users can choose from ten natural media and hundreds of styles, such as oil paint, watercolour, and pencil sketch. Detailed simulation of individual brush strokes and canvas texture gives results that Alien Skin says are indistinguishable from handmade art.

Alien Skin says that Snap Art 2 renders artwork even more naturally than before. The techniques of human artists are carefully emulated, such as multiple layers of varying stroke size and enhancement of important edges from the original photo. Snap Art simulates details down to individual bristles on curved strokes and interaction between the brush and canvas texture.

Snap Art 2 can render most of a painting abstract while adding extra detail in critical areas, such as faces, according to Alien Skin. Users control this by placing the new oval focus regions over areas that need more detail. All the hard work of finding edges and drawing thousands of brush strokes is then handled by Snap Art. The company says that because detail can be added selectively, the effects are now more suitable for portrait photography.

All of Snap Art’s presets have been improved and many more added, says Alien Skin. New in version 2, settings are grouped into categories to help you quickly find the style you are after.

Snap Art 2 takes advantage of multi-processors and multi-core CPU’s, making it significantly faster than version 1 on most computers - and the plug-in can work on images of any size, making it suitable for extremely large prints.

Snap Art 2 costs US$199 (around £150), or $99 (£75) as an upgrade. It runs as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS3/CS4, Fireworks CS4 and Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2

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