Programs for Pocket PC: carrying
an infinite sketch book or Photoshop in your pocket by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief
These are definitely cool times for artists and
those into graphics Pocket PCs have become powerful and handheld
software developers so sophisticated that you really can have a pocket
version of Photoshop or Painter on your Pocket PC. And PDAs are the
perfect medium since stylus input is a given. If only we could have
256 or more levels of pressure sensitivity! I confess that I'm a
weekend oil and pastel painter, and a Photoshop jockey during the
work week, and have waited years for programs like the ones I'll
review here. Every one of them is a good choice. Note that the sample
images I've made are intentionally done in a variety of styles so
you can get an idea of what you can do with Pocket PC paint programs.
All of these programs have time-limited demos, so you can give them
a test run.
Conduits is an old pro in the Pocket PC
software market. Their Peacemaker is bundled with many PDAs as
are demo versions of their other excellent programs. I remember
trying Pocket Artist when it first came out a few years ago. It
was nice, there wasn't anything else like it out there, but I wasn't
sure it was worth $49.95. With version 2.0, I feel it's worth it:
this is a professional quality powerful image editing and paint
program. This is one of my favorites!
While Pocket Artist's screen layout is
the most barren, there are a wealth of tools to be found
by clicking on the icons at screen's bottom. You'll see paintbrush,
airbrush, clone stamp, pattern stamp, gradient and a paint
bucket when you press on the paintbrush icon. These are the
standard brush pre-sets, in addition you can select others
which are installed with Pocket Artist. If that isn't enough,
you can load Photoshop brushes too! Yeehah!
Other favorite tools standardized by Photoshop
include eraser, dodge/burn, blur and sharpen, eyedropper
and smudge. You'll get a large variety of selection tools,
including rectangle, ellipse, column, polygon (wow), lasso
and magic wand. The Photoshop standard layer effects such
as Dissolve, Multiply, Soft Light, Hard Light and etc. are
all there as well. Yes, you get layers!
The color picker, represented by the usual
superimposed squares, will expand into a second level menu
at the bottom of the screen when you click on it. You'll
see a spectrum picker, color cube picker and RBG values.
Once you've selected your color, you can click on the icon
again to hide the secondary menu, freeing up more of your
image viewing area.
File Formats and Undo
You'll have one level of undo (as with
all Pocket PC paint programs, save every time you're happy
with your most recent efforts because you won't get many
levels of undo). Pocket Artist shines when it comes to file
formats: you can open and save files in PSD, JPG, GIF and
BMP format. How cool is it to be able to work with Photoshop
PSD files! File sizes are reasonable. If you create a new
image at 240 x 240 pixels, paint away, then save it as a
PSD file, the size file will be around 150k.
Image Editing and Painting
Pocket Artist is a very good paint program.
I was hankering for more brushes to make it a truly strong
paint program. The folks at Conduits were ingenious: you
can use Photoshop brushes (.ABR format)! Just drag your favorite
Photoshop brushes to your Pocket Artist Brushes directory
in your Pocket PC and now you've got a killer custom selection.
Brush strokes are thick and juicy. . . I don't know how else
to describe it some paint programs have a nearly CAD
feel to them, with all strokes being thin and precise, while
others have a fatter feel. You can also load textures (any
.jpg or .gif file) and gradients .GRD files.
As a Photoshop substitute, you'll likely
be pleased with support for .psd file format, Photoshop brushes
and textures, layers, layer effects, and a decent selection
of image filters such as Motion Blur, Emboss, Finder Edges,
Sharpen and Convolve.
An all-around capable program that works
well for painting as well as image editing. If you're a Photoshop
person, you'll love the built-in support for Photoshop brushes,
.PSD files and layers. This is one of my personal favorites
thanks to the un-cluttered interface, Photoshop support,
number of brushes you can add and a good selection of filters.
iPaint is a newcomer to the Pocket PC paint arena.
It's affordable, has a decent set of drawing tools and can save
files in .bmp and .jpg format. The interace is intuitive, with
available tools displayed in the lower and upper tool bars (you
can hide the upper tool bar to get more screen real estate for
your drawing). This is definitely a paint program rather than a
Photoshop/image editor application. It takes up only 250k of storage
Your drawing tools include a pencil,
airbrush, paint bucket and smudge tool. You can specify
stroke thickness in pixels and select your color from a
spectrum picker (the black rectangle on the top toolbar
in the picture on the right). Drawing tools have a precise
feel, and line thickness can be set very thin compared
to Pocket Artist. I felt a I had a lot of control when
drawing. You can set opacity using a 0 - 100% slider, and
snap to a grid that offers several granularity settings
if you like.
Other tools include an eraser, a selection
tool that allows you to drag your selection anywhere on
screen or cut it, a text tool that uses any font installed
on your Pocket PC, and inputs using the operating system's
standard text input methods.
Predefined geometric shapes include filled
and unfilled rectangles and ellipses, and straight line.
File Formats and Undo
You can open, edit, create and save files
in .BMP and JPG format via the Import and Export As menu
commands. iPaint's native format is .csf. Future releases
will support other popular image file formats. There's
one level of undo.
Screen shot of "Hotdog Stand" I'd
done in iPaint
While iPaint doesn't have the wealth of brushes,
filters or file format support that more pricey competitors offer,
it is a pleasure to use none the less. The drawing experience,
including control, and color representation are very good. If you
don't need every tool under the sun, but rather need an easy to
use basic paint program, then iPaint is a strong contender.
Aidem Systems is a Taiwanese company that
makes a large selection of Pocket PC software. Pocket Painter
is a real bargin: it offers a nice selection of tools, several
color pickers and support for .JPG, .GIF and .BMP files. The
program takes up less than 400k of space.
You get 16 drawing tools, including pen,
airbrush, water pen, oil pen, carbon (graphite) pen, chalk
and smudge, lighten and darken. Lighten and darken aren't
exactly drawing tools but they are under the drawing tools
palette pop-up. In some cases, the word "brush" might
be more appopriate than pen, but you get the idea.
Not only can you specify stroke width
in pixels, but you can also specify stroke shape as circle
(default), square, horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines.
The diagonal does a good job of mimicking a loaded oil
brush stroke/chalk pastel used at an angle. Pocket Painter
also offers pen pressure simulation.
For geometric tools you get a rectangle,
ellipse and straight line. There is no autofill for geometric
shapes, you'll need to use the paint bucket if you want
to fill your shapes.
There's a nice group of selection tools
including rectangle, ellipse, freehand (lasso), magic wand
and a move selection function. More than enough for my
All the standard tools are there too:
hand, eyedropper, zoom, crop and fill. You'll get several
color pickers beyond the spectrum picker, including a grayscale
File Formats and Undo
Pocket Painter supports .BMP, JPEG and
.GIF files. There's one level of undo.
Image Editing and Painting
There are more than enough paint tools
to make veteran artists happy. How about the Photoshop
crowd? You'll enjoy many of the same controls and effects
that you've come to know and love: brightness/control adjustment,
hue/saturation, gamma, image flipping and rotation, rescaling,
inverting and individual color level adjustments. Filter
selection is excellent: a few include various blurs, sharpens,
diffuse, emboss, mosaic and color warming/cooling.
This is one excellent program for the
price! The selection of paint/drawing tools is strong and
realistic, file format support is good and there's an excellent
selection of standard Photoshop image manipulation tools
and filters. Both image editing and painting are a pleasure
with this program.
"Cock Fight" painted using
Screen shot of Pocket Painter (image
is a hacked Dejas pastel)
Photogenics is the only program in this review
which is a port of a desktop program. Photogenics for Linux, Windows
and Amiga has "grown small" if you will, and now runs
on Pocket PC. It takes up 1.5 megs of space. There are two flavors:
Photogenics LE, which is less expensive and has fewer (perhaps
a less intimidating for non-hardcore graphics folks) features and
the full version we reviewed here. This is a powerful application,
and has a unique metaphor for working with images. It has the highest
learning curve of the programs we tested, but the learning is worth
it if you're into serious image/photo editing! You'll get a desktop
help file plus there are 3 instructional videos you can watch on
the Idruna website. I'd put Photogenics into the image editing
category. While it has paint tools, its strength really lies in
its ability to manipulate images.
Instead of being limited to applying
color to a virtual canvas, Photogenics allows you to use
paint tools to paint on effects called "Modes" in
Photogenics, which are similar to the concept of Filters
in other graphics apps. Thus you can paint on effects such
as Flip X Axis or Burn, Emboss, BasRelief, various blurs
and color shifts, and many more. For example, if you select
the flip X axis mode, only the portion of the image you
paint over with the stylus is flipped!
Photogenics has "Experiment Mode":
click on the lightbulb icon on the bottom toolbar, and
whatever you paint essentially becomes a new selection.
This means you can paint one effect on, then simply select
a different effect (or Mode) to change what you've painted
to the new effect. So if you're in Experiment Mode and
paint onto your photo using emboss, then select BasRelief
from the Mode menu, all the embossed areas will instead
be BasRelief. While in Experiment Mode, you can use the
eraser tool to erase just the selection you've painted
on without changing the underlying photo. This is a dream
you're happy with your work, pressing the Fix button on
the bottom toolbar will essentially flatten your image
and fix your work to the image.
You can open multiple images with Photogenics,
and use the Image Control palette (shown at right) to select
which image is in front, primary, secondary and so on.
This is handy because there's a Rub Through filter that
allows you to rub through the top image to show the image
below. In the screen shot to the right, you can see that
I've rubbed through a white image to reveal the pumkin
You'll get a paintbrush, pencil, watercolor,
chalk pastel, sponge and smudge tool for your brushes.
You can specify transparency, size and pressure for each
of these. The default sizes are a bit large for Pocket
PC size images, so you'll probably find yourself reducing
the brush size.
There are free-form line tools,
arcs, straight lines, text, various geometrics (filled,
unfilled and gradient), a selection tool, eyedropper,
a hand tool and more.
You can scale, rotate, invert, add space,
zoom, add layers, manipulate alpha channels and collapse
layers. There are quite a large selection of common filters
(again, called Modes), and some neat ones like fire and
File Formats and Undo
Photogenics supports JPEG, GIF, BMP,
and TARGA file formats. Undo works differently compared
to other programs: in a way it's limitless when you're
in Experiment Mode. You can undo everything you've done
while in Experiment Mode if you like, or rub out only the
portions you're not happy with.
While Photogenics has some nifty new
metaphors to learn and works quite differently from Photoshop,
it offers creative power over image editing that no other
Pocket PC app does. I haven't even covered all the features
in this review. If you've been a Kai's Power Tools addict,
love filters and experimentation, or just love to manipulate
photos to make digital art, this is a program you've got
to give a test run. If you want a Paint program that lets
you draw and paint with simulated natural media, then this
program is overkill and not as extensible via brush selection
and brush add-ons as Pocket Artist.
Like these images? You can download my free
Pocket PC Themes here!