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Monday, March 8, 2010

Graphics-Toolbox Review




Anyone who knows me knows that technology seems to malfunction when I walk into the room. And any sort of advanced software is usually a recipe for disaster...not good for a professional photographer! So when the TOS Crew was asked to review Graphics-Toolbox, I have to admit my reaction was very mixed.

Graphics-Toolbox was developed by Lynda Holler and William Tsao (their complete story can be read HERE, but suffice it to say that they are both amazingly qualified) because they noticed that many people were turning to expensive photo-editing software to do graphics work because they really had no other option for their daily graphics needs.

If you are not tech inclined, you may be wondering what your daily graphics needs might be, so here are a few examples of the plethora of things that Graphic-Toolbox can do. Graphics-Toolbox can be used to edit photography. You can combine images from more than one photo, or edit images out of photos. You can flip the way a photo is oriented. You can change the color of the whole photo OR individual elements in the photo. You can easily resize your photos and increase or decrease their resolution. And you can add text to a photo, like I did below:


And you can use it to create photo art like adding text to your favorite photo. We were offered the chance to attend a webinar on creating Warhol type pictures, and it is REALLY cool-and the tutorial is available on their website so everyone can learn to do it. This is my beginning satges of htis project, and obviously, I framed too much of the workspace when I saved it so that's why Sari is soo small!



Beyond photo editing, you can use Graphics-Toolbox to make your own custom cards for any occasion. Or gorgeous flyers. Or business brochures. Or business cards. And they are totally professional looking because this is real professional level software. You can also use Graphics-Toolbox for digital scrapbooking, or creating amazing school projects. Oh, and if you've ever spent eons looking for just the right clip art because it's too big, or too small, or the wrong color, or facing the wrong direction, those days are over, because now you can change anything or everything about stock clip art that you have on your computer or even ones that you find on the internet.
The pros: As someone who uses photo editing software, I would say that this program does with ease some of the most complicated editing that professional photographers do. And the fact that Graphics-Toolbox is $149 when photo editing software can be 6 times that much makes it a great deal. And the potential is incredible. I've only scratched the surface of what G-T can do. Beyond photo editing, as a small business owner, the applications are numerous. Creating professional looking ads, flyers, or business cards are just a few of the things I plan to use it for. And as a blogger, the uses are also endless-you can create your own headers, graphics, banners, etc. And if you scrapbook? WOW, is this for you! And from a homeschool perspective, your kids can create really cool projects about ANYTHING they have studied...study China, and create a travel brochure of some of the landmarks. Study an artist and create a poster of the artist surrounded by their most famous works of art. The possibilities go on and on.



Scott's project on the relative size of the sun and the planets.


The cons: While this program is undoubtedly easier to use than professional graphics programs and professional photo-editing software, it has a STEEP learning curve. Your best bet is really to print out the manual and really spend some time getting to know the program. And use their free tutorials. In them, Lynda walks you step by step through creating several different types of projects. As a visual learner, that helped my immensely. But expect to invest some serious time in to learning how to work the program-especially if you want your kids to be able to use it too. (My biggest issue is that I forget to save at critical places until I've gone too far and realize I have no choice but to go back and undo all that I just did so I can fix my mistake.) And you will really benefit from having a trackball mouse which some people may need to go buy. I only have my laptop thumbpad, and can't use some elements (like the zoom) to the fullest because I don't have the trackball. And while the $149 is a GREAT price for a program that can do what this one can, it's still steep from many of the homeschool families I know, especially since it's not a critical component to homeschooling.
The bottom line: I am floored by all this program can do. And I will be using it for years to come. As a professional photographer, I'd recommend it to anyone who love to take pictures and wants the ability to edit them in different ways, but can't afford or has no real use for Photoshop or another program like it. I'd also highly recommend it to scrapbookers, especially if you work with a lot of digital kits, photos, or components. And if you are a small business owner...or even a large business owner...you would seriously benefit (and save a TON of money in the long run) by owning Graphics-Toolbox. As a homeschooler, I have mixed emotions. I know for me personally, $149 is a huge chunk of my homeschooling budget (that's the cost of two levels of our math curriculum, for example). BUT, you could look at it, especially with older kids, as an investment in their future, and even PART of their curriculum, because if they learn the ins and outs of graphic layout and design, it will definitely give them skills that will always be in high demand in our technology driven society.
The best part about Graphics-Toolbox is that you don't have to decide blindly if the $149 is a necessary expense. G-T offers a FREE 30 trial. I would encourage anyone reading this to give it a try. It really is a powerful graphics program with unlimited potential and so many different applications. And you should definitely check out their website HERE so you can get your free trial, but also so you can see all the other things this program can do that I might have forgotten to mention. And if you want to see what other TOS Crew members had to say, and check out some of the projects they created, go HERE.

Legal disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, we were given a free copy of Graphics-Toolbox for the purpose of being able to do this review. We also were given private group learning sessions (which are now available for free as tutorials on the Graphics-Toolbox website). The program and training sessions were the only compensation I received for my review.
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