This upgrade of a popular art studio provides a pleasing array of standard and not-so-standard art tools to inspire young artists. Kid Pix Deluxe 3 is a creativity toolbox that allows kids to draw, paint, alter, and animate, creating static artwork or masterpieces that come alive with movement and sound. These works of art can be saved, strung together to create slideshows, and shared in various ways, including e-mail.
After sign-in, users find themselves in the Paint Zone. Here they can select from a number of art tools. Drawing tools include a pencil, chalk, crayon, and marker, with options to draw freehand, straight or curved lines, and shapes. When the painting icon is selected, children choose to use different paintbrushes, the program's unique Sound Art, or spray cans to fill up the screen. Paint modes can be realistic, with true-to-life results in which the paint tool "picks up" other colors in the picture, or wacky, allowing users to use fantastic paint effects. Portions of a picture can be filled in with the program's paint bucket using a selection of solid, patterned, or blended colors.
A wide selection of stickers can be resized, flipped, or rotated to perfection before inserting into artwork. These are organized into categories (such as animals, people, flags, etc.) as are the program's sound effects and pre-designed backgrounds. Children especially enjoyed using the animated alphabet stickers to spell their names and watched as the letters came "alive" onscreen. Kids can also add such animated stickers as a throbbing heart, blossoming flower, and a jolly laughing Santa to liven up their projects with motion. Different sounds can be added as well, including such musical selections as jazzy, baroque, and sounds from around the world. The electric mixer tool allows kids to "mix up" their entire picture or portions of it. With the exciting rubber stamp editor feature, children can edit the program's available stamps in a variety of ways, or create new ones from scratch. Text can be added to pictures, and a text-to-speech option can be turned on, allowing kids to add narration to their page.
Editing a picture or starting fresh again is easy and even fun! Kids can choose from a variety of erasers of different sizes and shapes, an "undo guy" that allows them to undo B or redo B their last action, or they can blast away their picture with a stick of dynamite and start anew.
Children loved the program's special features. Sound Art is a unique option that transforms a verbal expression into an abstract design. Children speak, sing, cough, and blow into their microphones and the program interprets the pitch and volume of these sounds as paint images! The program's text-to-speech engine was also a huge hit with testers. After typing in words and sentences, the program read the text aloud with a simple click of the "play" button. This feature is especially encouraging for children just learning to write.
There are templates included that can be used for fun onscreen and away-from-the-computer projects. Templates for paper masks, book reports, family trees, dot-to-dots, greeting cards, coloring pages, calendars, and even maps are just a few possibilities.
One of the many project starters we enjoyed was the alphabet book. First, we simply printed the pages and children pasted in pictures they had cut out from magazines to fill up each letter page with objects that started with that letter of the alphabet. Then, we approached the same project in a different way on the computer. Children scrolled through the program's stickers, found objects to represent the letters of the alphabet, resized and flipped them to their liking, and later assembled some of these pages to create an alphabet slideshow.
Investing time into fully exploring all of the program's wonderful options will have tremendous pay-offs. With experimentation, children learn they can easily add, for example, a trail of stars to their night sky or a tie-dye T-shirt to their self-portrait. Photos can be imported and inserted into artwork, or manipulated in endless ways. Kids can "pull out" pyramid shapes, add kaleidoscope effects, and create Slinky-like trails. Satisfying sound effects accompany the tools children hear a rat-a-tat sound as they lay bricks with a wacky paint mode, "boinks" accompany their trail of swirls, and they hear a heart beating as they spray a line of 3D hearts onto their painting.
Young children will need some help using the program. Computer skills beyond pointing and clicking are required - they will need to drag and drop objects and scroll through menus. Saving pictures will require adult help as well. The Small Kids Mode seemed like a good idea, but this mode is not significantly easier to use than regular mode. Instead, it hides a few features like printing and slideshows, and limits the color palette. In my experience, however, work with this type of program provides young children with the opportunity to really learn basic computer skills and is thus, an educational experience for them.
I remember a time when programs such as this one provided endless hours of fun for my eldest child before he had a library of less open-ended software programs. Perhaps because he didn't have much else to do on the computer, he explored every facet of his art programs. Now, years later when presented with this program, he wondered what was the "point" of the game! After showing him the program's options (and the wacky paint mode was the CD-ROM's biggest selling point), he rediscovered the fun of multimedia art. Those looking for a more directed approach to learning art on the computer might turn to a program like JumpStart Artist (see our review) that contains activity-based as well as open-ended options. However, Kid Pix Deluxe 3 is rich with creative opportunities and can be enjoyed by almost every member of the family.