|It was hard for me to write this in a way that is unbiased. I am a painter after all and this is a program in which a painter can loose himself. The fact that it only costs $45 is quite amazing. Forget about comparing it with other much more established programs, if you want to have fun painting you will find it here.
To start with, the interface looks very much like Aura and Lightwave to me and so do the panels and pallets. This is no surprise, considering that Dan Ritchie who developed it, is listed among the top Lightwave plugin makers (you will find him at www.squirreldome.com with a page dedicated to Dogwaffle). If you have worked with Aura you will be used to this look, on the other hand it might look unfamiliar if you are a Photoshop convert. You can customize your interface to whatever colour suits you, which again is rather unusual for software in this price range.
It is very easy to learn and once you get used to all of the panels it is an intuitive program. The tool panel lists the usual suspects, paint bucket, colour picker, undo redo, custom brush selector and sliders for brush size, opacity and step . The painting tools are evoked from the main tool panel by right clicking on the brush image and you will find a plethora of brushes and effects. You can use bitmaps as brushes, create your own, and save them for later use like in other paint programs. Most natural media is supported, with some great water colour brushes and all the other artists media like oils and tempera and so on. The colour panel gives four ways to choose your pallet, plus a colour mixer and several swatches, as well as the ability to make your own swatches.
The alpha panel is something in between masks and selection and it is very powerful for isolating parts of the image and applying different paint effects by varying the alpha. Then, there is an unusual gradient panel that has some very good options and a nice drag and drop from the swatches functionality that should be adopted by some of the heavyweights. Building your gradients by drag and drop is a pleasure.
The optipustics panel (some people have all the fun when it comes to inventing names) is as strange as its name. It is a particle brush that creates stringy effects, (it reminds me of all the duplicateMovieClip mouse trail effects we all used to and still create in Flash to the annoyance or amusement of our visitors).
There are some great filters, one of which, the Warp Mesh, makes me green with envy for the fact that Maxon has not thought of it for Bodypaint. Maxon have a look at this plugin, it would be great for stretching textures on to the mesh! Liquify in Photoshop has something similar when you work with the mesh showing, but this lends much better itself for texturing. It allows you to increase the vertical and horizontal lines of the mesh and the image is manipulated through the vertices. Very intuitive. Dogwaffle also has a timeline, which although basic, still gives you the chance to animate, something that more expensive painting software come without.
So, are there any down sides? Well not really. Not for the price you are paying. In London 45$ is not enough for a night out and there are a lot of misspent nights when I would have been better advised to stay in with Dogwaffle, instead of which
However, this is another story. There are things, though, which you might miss if you are used to a more expensive and substantial painting system. Layers are not supported**, though Ritchie informs me they might be in the works, neither is working with multiple files. Drag and drop files, something, which I personally use more often than not, is missing also, which means navigating to find files. Zooming could be better too. These though are more workflow misgivings than inadequacies. The bottom line is that for the price you are getting a very good natural media software.
This is a great program for the money you are paying. If you are a student, an artist or illustrator on a budget then I will definitely recommend this program. Also, if you want something that will urge you to experiment, again I would go for it. I spent a lot of time on it drawing while reviewing it, well into the small hours and in terms of usability, did not get frustrated. I cannot say fairer than that.
I give it 4 COWs!
**Editors Note: While full layer support is missing, 2 layers are currently supported.