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Utility: Graphics
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

The Artist II is not merely an enhanced version of Artist I. It is now a complete suite of graphics utilities to let you do just about anything you could wish with visual images on the Spectrum.

There are three parts to the package. Artist II proper, which is a development of Artist I, a sprite designer and a page make-up program.

The Artist was always regarded as one of the very best art programs for the Spectrum with only Art Studio from Rainbird a serious competitor.

Now the Artist iI, quite apart from the additional programs must grab the lead as best Spectrum artist program bar none.

Some features of the original Artist program are retained intact. The guide grid of light and dark squares is retained. The assorted fill designs are retained as well as the option to design your own. Also retained from Artist I are the various brush styles, the magnify-an-area-of-screen option and the overall on-screen look.

So what's new? Most of the improved elements concern the way the program allows very sophisticated cutting and pasting. There are two ways of achieving similar results. There is the standard 'box' option where you use a cursor to set the opposite corners of a rectangular box. The section of picture framed by this box can be moved around the screen at will and even placed at right angles. This facility is easy to use and fast.

The clever stuff starts happening when you start using the outline Cut. This allows you to 'grab' a shape by closely outlining it. You are not restricted to box outlines but can choose any shape you wish. There are two restrictions (at least on the pre-production copy we had for review): it has to be used black-and-white to look effective and you cannot use it any other size. However, it is still a very sophisticated feature indeed, and becomes particularly effective when you are using discs or Microdrives where other picture files may be 'pilfered' for useful designs and shapes.

The usual intelligent features are included. When you Cut and Paste the window shape will, unless you tell it otherwise, always adjust in character squares so that your cut section of picture won't pose any attribute problems. Pictures may be overlayed for unusual effects or wipe out the old background.

The program is supplied with half a dozen or so assorted fonts for labelling and will work with both the AMX and Kempston mice. Apart from the small restriction on the 'cut out' facility mentioned above, the Artist II does, it would seem, just about everything that can be done on the Spectrum.

So, how about the other two parts of the Artist II package?

The page make up system allows for images created with the Artist to be mixed with text files created with the Softechnics' other utility. Writer word processor. This link is a sophisticated facility which should be of great interest.

The sprite designer has also been written by Bo Jangeborg (author of both versions of the Artist and Fairlight) and it is extremely sophisticated. Although, in the end all sprite/character designers come down to a grid of pixels which you switch on or off, where this one scores is in the amount of information you get about the design you are currently working on and, more important still, how that design corresponds with previous designs.

The sprite designer works a little like those flick books where the impression of animation is gained by flicking the pages quickly. The individual frames on each image are created using the usual icon/joystick off/on grid pixel system. The design can be seen both magnified and at actual size. Having created a series of designs you can then instruct the computer to flick between the images and see the final animated effect.

Bo has used this system to create most of the animation effects in Fairlight II - an impressive demonstration of the systems' power.

The Artist II has been designed, I would say, very much with mice and disc/Microdrive storage systems in mind and without these extras you might not want to up-grade from the original Artist but nevertheless this is a superb program - a serious tool in fact.

A 128K version is also available which uses the extra storage available.

Label: Softechnics
Price: £14.95 (£17.95 128K)
Mice: Kempston, AMX
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor


Perhaps the definitive artist program. Easy to use but with incredibly powerful features.