Review: Serif DrawPlus X4

April 24, 2010 – 18:37 by in Reviews Print Share 2 Comments
Overview
Manufacturer: Serif
Price (RRP): £79.99
Best Price: £79.99
Platforms: Windows XP, Windows Vista (32/ 64-bit), Windows 7 (32/ 64-bit)
Requirements: 689MB free hard drive space
Softwarecrew Rating:
 
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Serif DrawPlus has been around for many years, a constant reminder that quality illustration software doesn’t have to be expensive, or difficult to use. And the latest DrawPlus X4 release takes the package considerably further. This isn’t just a cosmetic upgrade: it fixes a few long-standing issues, and adds even more versatility with some major new features.

Compatibility, for instance, is better than ever. Not only can DrawPlus X4 handle the basic formats (JPG, GIF, PNG, WMF, TIFF and more) and many others (PSD, PDF, EPS), but it’s also finally able to work with SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files. These can produce very small files, are supported by web browsers, and are text-based, so their content may be indexed by search engines – they’re a perfect choice for many online graphics projects.

If you still spend considerable time with bitmaps, though, you’ll appreciate the new PhotoLab, an excellent tool for editing and optimising digital images. This provides one-click fixes for brightness, lighting, colour balance, noise removal and more. Colour balance, lighting and other tweaks are just a slider away. And there are a host of genuinely effective special effects to, say, convert photos into works of art. PhotoLab is almost powerful enough to be a stand-alone application in its own right, and it’s a welcome addition to DrawPlus X4.

Drawing tools

There a whole range of new illustration options to help you deliver better results, in less time.

Blend modes provide the ability to combine objects’ colour, brightness, texture and more. Exactly how well this works depends on the sources, but it’s easy to use, and is very helpful when, say, blending brush strokes over textured backgrounds.

Extended colour tools include the colour picker, which is now able to pick an average colour from an area, perfect for dithered or noisy backgrounds. Or draw a line on the screen to sample the colour gradient – the colours in a sunset, for instance – then turn this into a custom gradient fill.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more scientific way to create a colour palette, then you could always turn to the new Colour Palette Designer. Choose a base colour, select a colour spread – monochromatic, complementary, triadic, tetradic and more – for suggestions on the most fitting palette. (Don’t worry, there’s no need to understand the underlying colour theory, it’s just as easy to select each option in turn and choose the palette that most appeals.)

If you use a graphics tablet then you’ll appreciate the new Pressure Studio, which lets you test the effect of soft and hard pen strokes, and customise a pressure profile that ensures they deliver the results you need.

And improvements elsewhere include higher quality and better organised brushes, easier text selection, a Path text tool, and a convenient Object Info Pane.

Many enhancements

The improvements in other areas aren’t quite so significant, but still work to enhance the program’s capabilities across a whole range of areas. Redesigned connector tools simplify the process of creating flow charts and tree diagrams, for instance; a new auto dimensioning tool will help you produce scale diagrams and architectural drawings; and enhanced PDF support allows DrawPlus X4 to work as a capable PDF editor.

And of course all this comes on top of the pile of features that were already in DrawPlus X3: excellent vector graphics tools, RGB, CMYK, Pantone and HSL support, the ability to create stop frame and key frame Flash animations (which you can also export as screensavers), and plenty of web graphics options (image slices, rollovers, animated navbars), amongst many others.

There are times when all this functionality can become a little too much. On a couple of occasions we launched the Help file to try and track down a missing feature, for example, only to discover it was accessible from a button that had been right in front of us, all along.

It doesn’t take too long to learn where everything is, though, and the excellent documentation, tutorials and on-screen “how to” advice will help you quickly master the basics – and many of the more advanced topics, too.

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Verdict:
Powerful enough for professional designers, yet also very accessible for the rest of us, Serif DrawPlus X4 is an impressive release that delivers worthwhile upgrades across the board. Recommended,
We Like:
SVG import, PhotoLab provides many useful photo editing options, enhanced Colour Picker and other colour-related tools, blend modes can deliver some excellent effects, quality help files, good value
We Don't Like:
There's so much functionality now that it can take beginners a while to find their way around
Softwarecrew Rating:
 

2 Comments »

  • JASON says:

    If you have the time, and it will take you time, this software will save you much more time. I started with draw plus x2. I learnt the software and use it for my business. It took the business to a level I did not expect. The features are still short of perfect. I could, if given the chance improve to the level it should be but that would spoil Serifs marketing sales steps of “a bit of improvement” up grade x5, x6, x7, x8, x9 bla bla bla…. It would leave other software way behind. but …. I work with what I have from Serif (X4).
    It lacks excel calculations (amongst other parts).
    It will leave you amazed at what you can do. To max what you can get will take you time. The drawings which can be created (on the show site Serif do not do it justice, it can handle so much more). I like to push boundaries.
    If Serif want to become THE software business they need to marry all software WEBPLUS x4,DRAWPLUS x4, others. I use them all when I design images they are not 100% usable although they do appear in copy paste different serif software, they need to appear as they do without the need to re edit (tweak).
    The good things…. it will (if in business) save you mony, more money than it costs you to buy it….much much more. So Serif you have a good product (but I could make it better) TIME is money a faster all friendly (serif software) product like one cd does it all (instead of gives you a little taste of other serif software) It leaves you buying the dedicated version of software.
    In this day and age everyone would use it all, so make your software a one cd 1 stop fully suited software. Serif would then (with just a few more add on’s) be THE software… Offer me the right wedge and I would set the milestones.
    Innovation is the only solution. Today we live in a techno world, that door needs opening wide.
    Thanks to me, serif software and designed data files (serif created) are in use in the UK and EU.

  • Denis Oudard says:

    I use Drawplus to make schematic of solar installations. I think it is saving me enormous amount of time. A little bit of a learning curve, but nothing that sent me to the help menu, which is one of my criteria for selecting a software. If I need to read the manual, it’s not intuitive enough. I particularly like the scale function. I bring a picture on one layer, then on another layer I draw a line, say at the edge of the roof, then I put the measurement on that line. At first it does not correspond to the measure I took in the field, but then I go to Tools and Scale, and I calculate the appropriate scale, and voila! mu picture is at the right scale. Sometime I do it the other way around. I put a line with dimension, and then I shrink or enlarge the image to the right size.

    I love it and highly recommend it. Great price too!!