Saturday, January 5, 2013

When a die hard Photoshop user tries new things: Part 3 - Sumo Paint

Today after much aggravation from Shockwave Flash issues I was determined to finish what I started in Sumopaint. I had a good start in it yesterday when the Flash plugin quit on me. This has happened several times but interesting enough, only in the Sumopaint editor. No other editor that I was in killed my Flash. But then, it seems as though none of the other editors are as powerful or come anywhere close to matching up with Adobe Photoshop as Sumopaint did. (Note, its still NOT Photoshop!)

As an added test, I opened it up in Firefox and was able to continue my editing without any crashes or hiccups. It seems to save and respond to edits a lot quicker in Firefox than in Chrome - at least on a Mac. I'm not sure why I didn't think of this earlier. It probably would have saved me a lot of aggravation and Shockwave Flash crashes to my browser. (It crashed 6 times on me in Chrome and I still was not able to save the final version as a .jpg to my computer from Chrome. Thankfully, my trusty Firefox came through.)

I've been introduced to Sumopaint before at other workshops in school, so I've had the delight of playing with it before but its been a while since I've used it. It wasn't even one of my first picks, but I've read some really good reviews about this editor that I decided I should at least give it a shot. I know now, though, the next time I use it, to open it in Firefox and not Chrome.

Upon opening Sumopaint from the app, the interface and workspace area has a layout similar to Adobe Photoshop, toolbar with icons down the left side; color, swatches, and layers palettes down the right side, (That's right, I said layers!) and workspace in the middle. Just like in Photoshop, you can open an image to edit or you can create a new one. There is also a top menu much like the one in Photoshop, with File, Edit, Image, Select, Layer, Adjustments, Filters, View, and Help. (The Help menu is actually quite helpful with links to video tutorials in YouTube, information about the graphic editor, and a link to the Sumo Community which is like a forum with a gallery for "Sumopaint artists" to showcase their work. I even noticed a list of different themed contests in the Sumo Community board.

The icons in the toolbar on the left are much like the ones in Photoshop, or even Paint Shop Pro, for that matter, but are all laid out, nothing hidden under the icons that you have to go search for, like in PS. That being said, I noticed some of my favorite tools were missing, like the healing tool, dodge and burn, and the pen tool for drawing your own paths. There also does not appear to be a Red Eye Removal tool that many of the other free photo editors I used did have. (Fortunately, I did not need to fix red eyes in this photo. But I'm sure with all of the tools that were available to me, I would have been able to fix the red eyes by other means in Sumopaint should I have needed to.) Most of the tools had options and modes at the top for further fine tuning like in Photoshop. Also, some of the same keyboard short cuts I use in Photoshop worked in Sumopaint, such as using the alt key to select an area to clone from or for the color dropper selector tool while using the paint brush, and the cmd + i or d for invert or deselect on the selection tool. The one tool that did not have any available options on, which surprised me, was the cropping tool. Not even a "Constrain Proportions" check box. I would have thought with all of the flexibility and tools available in this editor that the cropping tool would have had standard image sizes or an option to constrain proportions. One thing that surprised me in a good way was the selection of brushes available. Much more than the usual round and round blurred brushes. (Incidentally, be prepared to switch tools when you first open up Sumopaint as the default opening tool is a 30 pixel dry brush set on black at 100% opacity.)

The clone tool brush took a little getting used to, but after redoing my edits on the image six times after its continuous crashes, I got a pretty good feel for using the tool. (I still like the clone brush in Photoshop MUCH better, but its good to know this editor has a clone tool.) The selection tools give you the type options of rectangle, round/elliptical, lasso (and polygon lasso), and magic wand with options for straight selection, added selection and subtract from selection modes. You also have the ability to change the border color (or even hide the border) and smooth the border. Right clicking the mouse or going up to the Selection Menu presented options to Expand, Contract, Feather, change the Border size, Inverse, and Deselect. Although plentiful in choices, Sumopaint's selection tools and advanced modes lack the Smart Radius and Edge Refinement capability found in Adobe Photoshop CS5 (and now CS6), as well as PS's Content Aware fill. However, in a lot of ways, Sumopaint reminds me of the Photoshop's early days, back to version 5. (I still remember my excitement to see how much the selection technology had advanced when version 7 came out.)

Sumopaint does have a limited assortment of filters like Photoshop's prepackage filters, but the free version of Sumopaint is limited even further with teasers left in the menu only to show you that its available in the pro version. (But at $19 for the Pro Plus version which allows you to install the editor on your own computer, its only a small teaser.)

I love the layers palette. Anyone who knows me knows I work in layers, lots of layers. (Always have multiple browser windows open with multiple upon multiple application windows open and running in the background, all the time. And the layers of paper stacks on my desk... well, that's another blog article!) I did not notice a mask layer ability, but there are layer blending options (I think they call them layer effects or fx, which is really what they are.) such as drop shadow, inner shadow, bevels, gradients, stroke, and overlay. And Sumopaint does have  the ability to Save in Layers, which is a BIG plus in my craft book! (.sumo extension which opens only in Sumopaint and does NOT save your layer style settings, like multiply, darken, lighten, overlay, screen, hard light, linear dodge, and invert. This I discovered in one of my many redos while opening the .sumo file.)

Although I did not use it in my image editing with this photo, I did take a look a the Text Tool and perused through the different fonts. I was pleasantly surprised to see that although it was a web based editor, it used the fonts I had installed in my computer in the font list. I was also pleased to see that there was the ability to rasterize and transform the text. (Although, it lacks Photoshop's robust vector processor as the  transformed text becomes pixelated and blurry very quickly. Yes, I took the liberty to play around with the Text Tool to see what it was capable of. :)

Other noticeable features missing included an HDR (High Dynamic Range) preset or filter, Photo Filter under Adjustments, Highlight/Shadows or Details adjustment options, and the ability to adjust the dpi (Dots Per Inch), or change from pixels to inches. I like being able to set photos I know I will be printing to 300 dpi and adjusting the image print out size in inches. One thing I did notice was that my resized image was automatically compressed to 72 dpi from the 300 dpi image that was uploaded. I wonder if the pro plus version when installed on the computer would allow you to adjust these settings.

All in all, not a bad little editor for a free version. It's quite powerful in its own right, as far as the free and inexpensive editors go. (Take a gander through the little intro videos on the Sumopaint home page to see some of its capabilities. Its quite inspiring, really.) However, like Photoshop, I do not recommend this editor for beginners. Its many, many options and tools (with icon images rather than text) can make it confusing for newbies. Below is the (reduced) image I edited in Sumopaint. (In Firefox. )
An actual color palette with the ability to draw/select colors right from my photo, ability to create your own image from scratch, LOTS of drawing and shape tools, the layers palette and the ability to save in layers, a wide range of selection types and modes for fine tuning your selection (like selecting hair), blending options and layer effects, uses installed fonts from own computer in the Text Tool, nice assortment of preset gradients with the ability to adjust them and create new ones as needed, inexpensive pricing on pro versions ($9 for the Pro with extended tool and filter palettes, and $19 for the Pro Plus version with a desktop application and the ability to work offline)

Can be confusing and difficult for beginners and newbies to photo editing, heavy Flash based interface does not like to cooperate with Google Chrome on Mac, missing the healing tool, pen/paths tool, dodge and burn tools, and content aware fill, cropping tool does not have any adjustment options or constrain proportions, does not have the ability to change the dpi or print measurement settings (inches or cm)


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