Project Dogwaffle Pro (PD Pro) v3.1

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, April 2005
Published by: Dan Ritchie
Requires: 700MHz CPU or faster, 256MB RAM; Windows 98 OSR2, Windows NT4.0 or higher, Windows 2000, XP home or professional; video display of 1024 x 768 x 16-bit or higher
MSRP: US$97.00, upgrades from US$35.00

Project Dogwaffle has been updated to version 3.1 and it is now called PD Pro. About a year ago I reviewed version 1.6 and was greatly impressed by it. PD Pro features some very powerful and unique drawing tools. With support for tablets, behavioral brush routines and animation it has impressed a great many artists with its capabilities. It is kind of a hybrid of Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter and Adobe Illustrator with animation features thrown in. The Brushes in this application, in particular, are extremely well thought out.

Project Dogwaffle has come a long way from it's earlier incarnations. Although much improved, it will still be very familiar to users of earlier versions. Users of version 3.0 can upgrade for free to 3.1 in the form of a download patch. In fact there are decent upgrade paths from all versions. But before we discuss what's new, lets take a look at what PD Pro offers.

PD Pro is a fully featured paint and animation program. The painting tools are deeply creative, with a heavy emphasis on a brush system called Optipustics which is founded on a highly configurable particle-based brush system. The animation features are quite powerful as well, and feature timelines, keyframing, audio and onion skin modes for emulating traditional animation methods.

PD Pro has many new features which augment the already rich capabilities of earlier versions. Additions include a filmstrip mode for animation, new timeline capabilities and enhancements, an image histogram, new digital photography filters and features, faster particle routines for the optipustics brushes, starfield and sky generation, and a lightning brush feature.

There have also been additions made to file compatibility with over 80 file formats now recognized by the import filter. File export too has been expanded but still needs more comprehensive file format support. Still notably absent is GIF support, but again as mentioned in my earlier review this has largely to do with the cost of licensing the format. There is also an integrated file browser which allows you to view files by graphics type.

The color mixing approach in PD Pro is also very well executed. Mixing can be done in RGB, Saturation and value, color wheel mode. There's also a paint mixer, which is something like an artist's mixing palette. The color controls also feature a Red Yellow Blue-based color wheel. The paint mixer is great for any artist who works in natural media—the mixer emulates real-world color mixing. The RYB mode is also well done using a subtractive color model which works like real-world paint mixing.

Filter support in PD Pro has been enhanced and the available filters are quite good. Unfortunately they are still limited to their own proprietary format. I was hoping that support for Adobe-style plug-ins had been added but this isn't the case (at least not so far). The plug-ins are still addressable through the available Software Development Kit (SDK) so as I stated previously you can design and program your own whenever you're feeling adventurous.

Features are great, but what about usability? Here's the good part. Once you come to grips with this baby it's a joy to work with. If you have a mouse, forget it. You're not a serious artist (hold on a moment—don't take umbrage). Get yourself a graphics tablet and you'll really appreciate why. The tablet support in PD Pro is excellent with settings that allow you to change either the thickness of the brushes being used or the opacity. Tablet compatibility also includes support for the eraser. The optipustics brushes are awesome and almost infinitely configurable.

PD Pro's drawing capabilities extend into the animation engine. The animation engine is quite extensively supported; there are several timeline modes. The particle system lets you create animated effects. There's also a new film strip mode, time stretching and time reversal. The animation features extend into the scanning capabilities, allowing you to scan multiple images to create animations. It's a useful feature for creating animatics and multimedia presentations.

The manual is available both online and as a download and with a few exceptions, it is quite thorough and well written. There is additionally plenty of support and extras available via the excellent Yahoo group set up by PD Pro author Dan Ritchie. Frequent updates are available in the form of "Doggy Bags" which offer new brushes, add-on features and tools. The online support offered for this application and earlier versions includes free video tutorials, a number of third party offerings and 2 purchasable video based tutorial cd's which are still pretty useful even with this new version. There really shouldn't be too many issues while learning this great little program.

Cons: I still feel that the UI could do with some cleaning up. You still have to open the program with a preset image buffer which I find a little annoying. Navigating around your art still needs a little work and is not intuitive. No support for Photoshop plug-ins. The coverage of the FX filters in the online help is non-existent.

Pros: Excellent animation and timeline features. Intelligent brush handling through the Optipustics concept which is one of this program's best capabilities. Excellent color mode and mixing support. Easy to use. Extended graphics tablet support. Layer support. Batch processing. Great online resources and support.

PD Pro is a pleasure to work with and the new features do much to improve my already enthusiastic initial perception of this useful paint program. The addition of Layers and enhancements to the animation features, filters and brushes have added immeasurable value to this great tool. Everything comes together to make this a top class offering. I highly recommend this artistic delight.

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