• Price: 120

  • Company: Alien Skin Software

  • Pros: Features many varieties of painting styles to choose from; works quickly; handy panel saves mouse clicks; output can be tailored to your exact specifications; new photorealistic settings; new ways to preserve detail in faces.

  • Cons: Output not good enough for high-end pro projects.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

In this version, most of the filters have photo realistic pre-sets that stylize and soften the picture without rendering it unrecognizable. So for example, in the Watercolor category (and several other categories), there are four types of filters: Abstract (low realism), Landscape (moderate realism), Portrait (most realism), and Vignette and Canvas, which vignettes the picture (fading out the edges) and offers simulations of the image on different types of paper. Then, within each of those settings, there are tabs with multiple sliders that let you adjust major aspects of the picture with variations of large, medium, and small strokes.

Within the Watercolor category for example, the tabs are Settings, Basic, Colors, Canvas, and Lighting, each with numerous additional choices and sliders that let you adjust your picture further. With that degree of choice, there are an infinite number of options available to the photographer's artistic eye.

Snap Art 2's new focus control lets you shield parts of your image from extreme paint distortion. This is mostly useful when you're making a portrait into a painting, so that the face, for example, stays fairly recognizable while the rest of the picture is more pictorial. The focus region, which you can set with the Add New Focus Region button, consists of two ovals, both of which are adjustable. You can apply as many focus regions as you want to a photo, or you can use the selection tool in conjunction with the focus region to change the shape of the region to accommodate different parts of the image.

The main window has both operational and analytical tools: a revert button lets you quickly see the original picture; a grabber hand tool lets you move a large picture around the preview window; a Zoom tool lets you enlarge or shrink the image; and Adjustment Tool lets you adjust the focus region, if you have one. The 1:1 button zooms the image to its actual size in pixels while the Fit button gets the entire picture into the preview window. The pull-down Preview Split menu gives you various perspectives on your image. You can view it entirely as a painting, or divide it horizontally, vertically, or diagonally to view the program's painterly effects. A handy Preview All Filters Gallery gives you an idea of how your picture will look in each of the 10 filters.

Snap Art performed well, which is to say that it made relatively quick work of its filtering job without crashing. I'm using Snap Art on a relatively high-level workstation -- a Mac Pro with lots of RAM. That configuration gives the program lots of muscle so users will spend relatively little time watching a progress bar. Alien Skin notes that this version of Snap Art has been optimized for multi core processors so its performance has improved from the last version.

While Snap Art is a great tool for photographers who don't have the time or skills to layer brush strokes manually, digital artists will obtain much finer results creating paintings by hand. But if you can't wait to paint your own version, Snap Art lives up to its name.