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Makeup app(licator)

Apply cosmetics to pictures with this free learning and design tool.

Beauty Guide Lite is a free tool that lets you practice applying makeup to images of faces, even your own. It's basically a slimmed-down graphics editor with brushes and palettes optimized for cosmetics. You can undo, save, and print; sample and alter colors; smudge, lighten, and darken; and flip and rotate images. The software supplies faces to practice on, but you can upload your own images, too, and not just pictures of your own face but also friends, family members, even celebrities and historical figures. It's great for teaching young people how to apply makeup, and it gives aspiring cosmetologists, beauticians, designers, and models a chance to practice and try out new looks without wasting expensive cosmetics.

Beauty Guide Lite's tools resemble what's inside your makeup kit, like brushes, smudge applicators, eyeliner, and lipstick. While these tools are specifically for applying makeup, they're not limited to it, and Beauty Guide Lite includes features for resizing and cropping images, adding text, and other things you'd find in a regular graphics application. It also offers brief animated tutorials of how its tools work, such as how to alter eye color. The sample images provide good starting points, but naturally you'll want to get to your own images. Fortunately, that's as easy as browsing to your pictures folder. We opened an image, sampled some colors, selected some brushes, and started to work. A slider and tip size indicator made selecting brushes quick and easy, but there's also a selectable Expert Mode that adds Opacity and Hardness refinements. Specialized tools let us apply lipstick, eyeliner, and other color; there's even a tool just for bleaching teeth. Beauty Guide Lite's undo button made backing off easy, too.

Beauty Guide Lite is standalone freeware, but it also works as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop and other big graphics apps, which of course makes it that much more useful. It's a great example of a compact, practical application built out of more complex wares, showing that--as with makeup--sometimes less is more.

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