A few years ago, I reviewed Snap Art 2. Since then I have used it frequently and decided to review Alien Skin's Snap Art 3, which is a natural media plug-in for Photoshop or Lightroom. This version works with Photoshop CS4 or later, Photoshop Elements 8 or later, or Photoshop Lightroom 2 or later. I will be using it with Photoshop CS5. The requirements are relatively minimal:

Snap Art 3 is a program that allows you to take a photo or any image and make changes to it so it looks as if it has been created using natural media materials. You can determine how realistic or abstract you want your image to look. You can work globally or on partial areas of the image. The choices are many and afford excellent flexibility. When you work on areas of an image, you do this on a separate layer. I will discuss the new features of Snap Art 3 and Snap Art as a whole.

The new features are:

According to Alien Skin's website, Snap Art 3 uses more refined brush placement for more accuracy and a natural look.

All the filters are displayed in the left panel, which is self explanatory, and you open the filters accordingly. No longer will you have to select a specific medium from the Photoshop>Filter>Alien Skin Snap Art flyout menu. Now all you do is go to Filters>Alien Skin>Snap Art 3. As you click on a medium to use and different effects pertinent to that medium such as "Abstract-Bristle Brush, you can see changes to the image in the preview (center) window as well as in the Background panel on the right. As you open the different mediums (on the left), the controls in the appropriate right panel will change accordingly.

Below are screen captures of the right panels for Oil Paint. These four tabs are for adjusting parameters of the settings.

If you look at the interface, you will see that there are a number of commands on the lower toolbar.

Now that I have shown some of the panels, I will comment on and demonstrate some of the features. A suggestion in one of the Alien Skin articles was to apply the effects to the size of the image output. It is a very useful suggestion because you will notice a difference if you create an image for print and then make a smaller one for the web. The new layer's mask is wonderful. It gives exacting control of areas. As I tested out different settings, I found that you can keep the same masks even though you switch mediums. So if you have a new image, you need to remember to clear the masks or they might be in weird places. Keeping the masks is a real help as you work with different mediums and the same image. You can save them as presets, too.

The next few images have kept the same masks.

The flowers were created to be more realistic than the background and the bees to be more realistic than the flowers. For that reason I have used two different layers masks.

Below are some examples of the new medium - Crayon. The same flower image was used as in the ones above.

The last variations are very subtle. I like subtle effects. I do not want to imitate another medium, but I like to use the "brush strokes" to augment an image. The top image (below) is the original.

Initially, when I couldn't find a manual or a searchable pdf file I was disappointed. Snap Art 3 has a resources page. There are videos and articles. The videos are excellent. The ones I watched were short, full of information, and very clear. Also, you can hover your cursor over a slider to see what it does. As I worked, I didn't find I missed the pdf or html manual as much. I did have a problem when I couldn't find an undo icon. I found it under shortcuts. You need to use shortcut keys. The link leads to the shortcut pdf. Most appear to be traditional shortcuts. Since there are few commands on the interface, you might want to print this pdf if you are not used to using shortcut keys a lot. Some people use them most of the time; others do not use them a lot.

I used Snap Art 2 for years and really liked it. Now I can even do more with my images using Snap Art 3. I really enjoy using this program and find it a very useful part of my digital toolbox. To learn more about Snap Art 3, click on the link. Snap Art 3 costs $199.00 with an upgrade price of $99.00. To download a trial version go to the download page. For more information on Alien Skin's interesting and excellent products go to their home page of http://www.alienskin.com.