When I saw Alien Skin Software's Snap Art 2, I knew I wanted to review it. I am in the process of turning some of my work into "abstract" style work to use in conjunction with a multi-media project that I am pursuing. I plan to use Snap Art 2 in conjunction with other programs, but first I needed to know that I could control my effects. I certainly could. Often, these automatic programs that convert regular photos or images into other types do not give the user much control. This one does.

Snap Art 2 can turn your work into many styles of natural media or stylized images. It is one of the few plug-ins that can be used with Photoshop CS4 in either the 64 or 32-bit version. I am using Vista 64-bit and Photoshop CS4. It installed into both programs simultaneously and automatically. Then I could download a CS4 panel as an Adobe Extension to easily access the plug-in. Make sure you look for this panel on the website. It is an excellent addition especially if you use two monitors and have all your controls on one of them.

There are a number of types of natural media styles that you can use as well as a Stylize section. Here is the panel that I can keep open in Photoshop.

The interface is easy to use with the commands at your fingertips. You can use presets, modify them, and save them as favorites. Below is the interface for the oil paints.

A closer look at the various panels can be found below. Some will differ depending on the medium selected.

You might have noticed in the interface that there is a region called Focus Region. You can use this if you want the center of your image to be without an effect. This would be good, especially for portraits, but I wanted to demonstrate it with a prominent effect called Pointillism. I'll demonstrate it later using a portrait.

Below are images I created using Alien Skin Software's Snap Art 2.

As a note, Alien Skin recommends that you resize your image to the final working size before using Snap Art 2. Whenever, I am creating these type of effects, I always try to follow this procedure and work at my printing size if possible.

In the preferences you can choose whether the plug-in will use a separate layer or automatically go to the layer below. I always use a separate layer so I can control the opacity or blending mode if I desire.

Below are some examples of various styles. The first image is the original.

The next group I will demonstrate are two examples from the watercolor category.

Below is the original for the next category of Pastel -Portraits.

Below are two more portraits showing the diversity possible.

Below are the last two images. The bottom image has the Stylize black and white layer at 55% allowing some color to show through. For more images and for those I have not demonstrated, go to the Alien Skin Snap Art 2 Gallery.

The mixed media project that I mentioned in the beginning of this review will be a combination of texturizing, painting, use of acrylic gels, etc. and multiple printing. First, though I had to create a basic image. What I wanted was an image that was somewhat abstract. More color will be added to it later as I use other processes, but I wanted some texture. The last image shown below has just the amount of texture I wanted and it was done so quickly using Snap Art 2.

The following from the Alien Skin Software's website shows what is new to Snap Art 2. "Version 2 of Snap Art can achieve higher levels of photorealism than version 1. Most filters now have a photorealism slider, so results are only abstract when you want them to be. This helps keep portraits clear and detailed.

"Focus regions have been added that let you control where detail is preserved. These oval regions are easily reshaped and moved by dragging them in the preview window. Focus regions are most often used on facial features in portraits."

The requirements are:

minimum system requirements

1024 MB RAM
1024x768 or greater monitor resolution

This product requires one of the following host applications:

Recommended System Requirements for Windows and Macintosh
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo

The cost for a full version of Snap Art 2 is US $199.00 with an upgrade price from Snap Art of US $99.00.

This is the best plug-in I have ever used for creating natural or stylized media results quickly and easily. And they look good, too! Usually, most plug-ins of this nature create phony looking results or they are very hard to control. This is an asset to any tool box and I highly recommend it.

For more great Alien Skin Software products go to http://www.alienskin.com.

To tutorial on using Snap Art 2 and multi-layers