I am not an artist. At least not a graphic artist. I dabble a little bit in touching up photos, but nothing serious. If I ever needed to create a picture or drawing from scratch, I would fall flat. (Just check out the screen shot for proof!) But, occasionally, when no one is looking, I do sometimes break out the paint program and draw something that amuses me. I was looking for a new paint program the other day and saw Helios Paint. It isn’t new, certainly, but it was new to me, so I tried it out.
The first thing that jumped out at me is that Helios Paint is multi-platform. It runs on Java, and is available for Mac, Windows and Linux. This is always a big deal with me. I’ve mainly been a Mac and Linux user, so for much of my computing life, it wasn’t uncommon to find “cool” stuff that wasn’t available for me. Sure, Firefox and OpenOffice and other programs run everywhere, but some of the niche programs were platform specific. Not Helios Paint. And I like that.
Helios Paint, which I tried using Ubuntu Linux, has a very simple, obvious interface. If you’ve used a painting program before, you know what to expect, as many of them have the same tools. Helios Paint offers a paint brush, pencil, lines and shapes. There is a paint can for filling large areas, and an eraser to get rid of mistakes. If using the paint brush option, you can paint with color or a variety of texture, which adds a nice effect. Helios Paint also has a scissors, lasso and wand, which allow you to select areas and move them to a different part of the picture. A text tool is included, with the ability to have anti-aliased text for smoothness.
One thing I really liked about Helios Paint was the feathering. Since I’m drawing with my finger on a trackpad, my lines can tend to be a little jumpy. The feather tool makes sure my lines fade away, which doesn’t make them any straighter, but does make them appear a bit more even.
There are other tools as well, more advanced than many simple paint programs offer. Helios Paint has transparency tools which can be applied using four different gradients, so different parts of an image can be lightened or darkened. There are also image filters, which (copying from the website), include “RGB levels, HSB levels, HSL levels, contrast, gamma, temperature and tint, invert, gray, black and white, colour filter, sharpen, blur, edge feathering, edge detection, oil painting effect, emboss, unsharp mask, chrome, sepia tone, threshold.”
When you’re finished with your masterpiece (or your piece of junk, in my case), you can save it as a PDF, or any number of graphics formats including PNG, JPG, TIF, BMP, PSD, GIF and more.
As I said, I’ve never claimed to be a painter or graphic artist, and no one is likely to ever confuse me as one! But Helios Paint was still a fun program to mess around with, and I most definitely haven’t touched on all its features. For a good example of what Helios Paint can do, be sure to check out its website, and the instructional video linked below.