A powerful pixel editor for the budget artist.

Pixia is a pixel-based image editor packed with some powerful tools, especially for pen/tablet users.

Pixia looks like it came straight out of a Windows 95-era, but is one of the most popular drawing tools in Japan. Like other freeware image editors, Pixia allows you to create digital art and supports layer editing, selective undos, and an assortment of brushes and tools for artists.

When you first launch the program, you're greeted with options for filters, right-clicking tools, and a whole bunch of other tools that just flat out won't make sense at first glance. Pixia doesn't exactly win any awards for first impressions and welcoming interfaces for new users because it doesn't really give a direction. However, these pop-up menus start to make more sense once you open up a new canvas.

When creating a new canvas or session, your selection is very bare bones: set image dimension by pixels, millimeters, inches, or select a preset size from the drop-down menus. Once you start drawing, the "supplementary settings" start to make more sense. You can choose to set the right-click button as either an "undo" pen, which lets you remove specific changes from the last drawing action. Setting it as a dropper lets artists quickly switch between colors, which comes in handy when working with 2D art. A good majority of Japanese Pixia community seem to be anime artists who'd utilize this kind of setup.

Pixia uses pop-ups to configure items like filters and masks. Small buttons labelled as P, C, O, L are actually expandable windows for Palette, Color, Pen, and Layer settings. One feature I definitely appreciated as I was drawing was how quickly I can adjust brush size simply by dragging the brush preview windows. There's also a brush size label that displays the brush dimensions for more-precise editing.

Overall, Pixia is a solid alternative to Photoshop if you're looking to quickly jump into character sketches and basic 2D art. And though it includes a healthy number of useful graphic tools, it still can't compare with the sheer polish and features that premium apps like Photoshop have. But Wacom users have praised it for its simple (albeit ambiguous at first glance) interface. It's perfectly capable for all except the most graphic intensive renderings -- and of course, the price tag of "nothing" is a pretty attractive perk.

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