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Create and edit images with this free, full-featured graphics package.

Chasys Draw IES Artist is a free, full-featured image editing and drawing program that does what big-box programs like Adobe Photoshop can do, with a few unique touches that set it apart and actually make it easier to use than the competition.

When you install Chasys Draw, you have the option to associate it with various file types, which is handy if you want to make it your default graphics tool; you can change these associations at any time, too. The main interface is similar to most graphics programs in its layout, its complement of tools and functions, and its use of layers. Wizard-like steps simplify the processes of creating a project and opening and editing an image, video, or other compatible file. We clicked New Project, and the program walked us through the steps of selecting a new image, video, or disk label project or scanning an image. We selected a blank document, choosing dimensions, resolution, orientation, and background colors. We started with the brush tool, drawing freehand with both the mouse and a Wacom pen. Most of the program's wide range of brushes, effects, and tools are similar to those in Photoshop and other software. Chasys Draw accepts plug-ins, too. What we like about this tool, and what sets it apart, are its customizable Windows Aero-compatible transparency, which kept unused windows and tools semitransparent until they were activated by hovering the mouse; its pop-up labels and explanations; and the way the Help file opens on the appropriate entry when you first initiate a function. Other small but useful touches distinguish Chasys Draw from the pack, such as tiny icons in the left-hand corner for rotating images from portrait to landscape orientation. This versatile bundle also includes an icon generator, a calculator, a Notepad utility, and a color palette generator. The raw photo tool offers so many options that it's essentially a separate tool, while the Image Converter tool is powerful and flexible.

Chasys Draw IES Artist does so much that it would take some time to cover it all. It's a legitimate alternative to the big-bucks, big-box image tools on its own merits, and all the more so because it's freeware.

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