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Homeschool Crew Review: Graphics Toolbox

 

“A picture speaks a thousand words.”  Shouldn’t your pictures speak your words? 

 

This is the premise of Graphics Toolbox, a program that allows you to make amazing graphics easily.  With this program you can manipulate photos, easily cut out parts, rotate them, fix backgrounds, add ribbons and text in any color you choose, and add texture.   On top of that, you can easily change clip art colors, change tonal colors in a photo, and match colors exactly throughout your project.

 

Graphics Toolbox can be used by children and adults alike since it is powerful enough for adults to use professionally, but it is not too complicated for children over ten, either.  The website shows how the program can be used for all sorts of school projects, but it can also be used for scrap-booking, card making, and business graphics.   

 

How it works

When the program opens, you get a huge white space which you are to treat as your work table where you assemble and manipulate the various elements of your final project.  The project itself is meant to take up just a part of this work space, just as though you were working at your kitchen table, with all your bits and pieces scattered about until they are ready to be glued to your paper.  Along the right hand side of the screen, are all your tools, designed to be intuitive and easy to access.  Once you’ve got each individual part of your final project just right using these tools, you can easily put them together, and then you can finish your projects with ribbons or a textured background.

 

Because the files you’re working with are large, the average computer can only remember a few previous steps. Therefore it’s very important to remember to save each bit and piece of your work regularly.  Miss 12 forgot that and lost 4 hours of work on her exquisite drawing of a lady in a ball gown.  Sigh!  However, the advantage of such large, high resolution files is that the printed quality is excellent.  On the other hand, your work can easily be made as small as you need it to be, for a blog avatar or whatever.

 

How we used it

This is one of the times when I regret my dial-up friendly policy, because it’s hard to show what Graphics Toolbox is like without pictures.  But I’ll do my best to describe a few of our projects.

 

After playing with Graphics Toolbox for a while, I took one of Miss 17’s tractor pictures and cut out the tractor, removing the fields and sky.  That was very easy to do.  Then I took the front  of the tractor and stretched it up diagonally so that it suddenly looked very powerful. The edges of the cut out photo looked a bit rough, but a large water-color brush gave the whole thing a lovely, slightly blurred look.  Then I reduced a copy of the tractor, made a repeated pattern with it and used it as a background for the big tractor.  After that I added some fabric texture to the whole works, and it looked stunning.  When it was all finished, we sent it to dear Miss 17, who was away at my sister’s dairy farm for a few weeks.  I had hoped to change the tractor’s color from green to blue, for the benefit of the cousins, but didn’t figure out to do that until later, after one of the training videos.

 

Mr 14, who makes photo-filled PowerPoint presentations for each of the chapters in his geography text, has a keen eye for beauty in nature.  If the presence of people on a path disturbs the composition of a photo, he can easily remove them and touch up the background.

 

I’ve also fixed up a terrible photo of Miss 12 receiving a prize, the only picture of this important event. It was all fuzzy and orangey-yellow, and the background was the same color as the people.  First, I removed the distracting background by framing out the people, and that was very easy to do. Then I adjusted the photo colors, played around with suitable background colors, and framed it all with a patterned ribbon.  I was easily able to neaten the corners of the ribbon, where the patterns met at a 45 degree angle.  With Graphics Toolbox it was almost effortless to turn this terrible photo into a pretty keepsake for my daughter.

 

Now that I feel comfortable with Graphics Toolbox, I’m thinking about using it for our Charlotte Mason picture study.  I’m not sure yet how we would use it, but I’m envisioning some of the people walking off their paintings and so forth. Chuckle.  It would certainly give the children an incentive to really study the paintings they are working with!

 

If you want to see Graphics Toolbox in action, please take a look at what Tristan has done.

  

Our Opinions

Graphics Toolbox is a great program with many possibilities.  I can’t believe all the things I can do with it!  Mr 14, my computer-savvy teenager, knows a lot about graphics programs. He was quite cynical about this one until he watched a training video and started to play with it.  Then he changed his mind completely, and now he is very impressed with Graphics Toolbox.

 

To find out if Graphics Toolbox would benefit your family, your best option, is to sign up for the free 30 day trial. There is a downloadable manual to help you get started, and I highly recommend the free online tutorials as well.  I really needed the tutorials to understand the program.  Since there is a steep learning curve, allow yourself some time before making a final decision; once you’re familiar with the program, it is very easy to use.     

 

Unfortunately, I am not qualified to give a technical review of Graphics Toolbox.  This is the only program I’ve used for graphics, and before this I had not even done anything with my photos on the computer.  In fact, I wish my old 35mm camera still worked.  (Smile.)  A quick peek at the website will give you some ideas of what the program can do and how it compares to other graphics programs.  You’ll have to check out the Homeschool Review Crew blog for more technical reviews, however.  

  

Graphics Toolbox costs $149 US.  This is a steep price just to be able to make pretty school projects, although it could be just the thing for a family that uses note-booking.  On the other hand, Graphics Toolbox is a solid investment for serious scrap-bookers and for entrepreneurs of all ages.   

 

One caution.  Graphics Toolbox seems to make our computer somewhat less stable.  (Most of the Crew members did not have issues with it, though.)  If your computer has the same issues as ours, you would discover that during the free 30-day trial, long before you bought the permanent version.  Note that we like the program enough to keep it on our computer despite these stability issues.

 

To Purchase

Graphics Toolbox is available as a download from Great Software Tools for $149.00 US.   

   

Policies

Disclosure Policy:   As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free licence for Graphics Toolbox.

 

Dial-Up Friendly Policy:  For the sake of my dial-up readers, this blog avoids visuals. 

 

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2 Comments

  1. proverbsmama says:

    Sounds very interesting, but is way out of my price range for no more than we would use it.

  2. AnnieKate says:

    Yes, the price is steep if it will be used only for schoolwork. I think this is a product for families that are very much into graphic arts or that have home businesses.

    Annie Kate

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