Price When Reviewed: $299
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DreamSuite is a visual enhancement program that’s designed to work with photographic images, graphics and type. It can work either as a plug-in for graphics applications such as Adobe Photoshop or Jasc Paint Shop Pro or as a standalone application in its own right. The way you use it depends on the way you prefer to work.
In common with many powerful graphics tools, DreamSuite uses its own proprietary interface with a large editing window to the right and access to the special-effects tools on the left. If you don’t like the look of the interface you can easily change the colours in the preferences. Selecting an effect from the menu activates one or more sub-menus with variations on the theme. Although there are just 18 main effects, the variations and control over effect parameters provides a virtually limitless palette of effects to choose from.
Some of the controls seem a little strange at first but using them soon becomes second nature. The Memory Dots feature enables you to quickly switch between different versions of a composition so you can compare and contrast results. Crucially, the application always works from your original image – so there’s no loss of quality when you apply effects to a graphic. One tool that many designers will find especially useful is the Effect Clone tool. This lets you create copies of any effects you generate so you can apply them to new images you import into the program, so you can create collages and spreads using the same effect throughout the composition.
Graphic designers will love the tools. Fantastic text effects can be created with the Chisel and Dimension X controls. You can specify bevel profiles by controlling the depth, surface polish and edge radius, use custom textures and adjust the lighting effects. In fact, you can specify unlimited light sources and shadows – each controlled independently. All settings you configure for any of the tools can be saved and loaded back in later, so you can define your own personal presets for each of the effects tools.
There are so many great effects in DreamSuite it’s difficult to give them more than a passing mention. Use the Focus effect to generate motion effects or depth-of-field effects; mount your images as slides using the 35mm Frame tool; use Deckle to create torn paper effects and the Liquid Metal tool enables you to brush on metal and apply other surface types to your image. And there are many more to choose from.
DreamSuite is resource hungry. It won’t even begin to install on a Mac with less than 128MB of physical RAM and it was noticeably slow when rendering effects on a PIII running at 500MHz. However, any serious designer is going to be using a powerful PC or Mac anyway – so this is probably not going to be an issue with anyone who uses it. The application is optimized for dual processor PC and Macs, is optimized for the Mac G4’s velocity engine, and is compliant with Mac OS X.
DreamSuite is an effective graphics tool that produces excellent photorealistic results and is perfect for digital artists, graphic designers, photographers and any design professional that needs to incorporate imaginative effects into their work.