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Microsoft Expression 3 (formerly from Creature House)

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (2 Reviews)


Creature House Expression

Creature House Expression

The Bottom Line

Expression was the first graphics program to allow users to create brush strokes from arbitrary pictures, and remains the most artistically-oriented vector-based drawing package available.

Note: Microsoft acquired Creature House in 2003, after this review was written. Expression was offered as a free download from Microsoft for several years as they gathered input from users. Eventually, Expression was developed into Microsoft Expression Design, part of the Microsoft Expression Studio suite. The free download of Expression is no longer available from Microsoft.


  • Create scalable, editable vector-based art work.
  • Unique technology for expressing artistic vision.
  • Modest system requirements; affordable.


  • Difficult learning curve; Tutorials too advanced for beginners.
  • Acquired by Microsoft, Expression's future is uncertain.


  • Vector-based drawing and illustration software based on unique 'skeletal strokes' technology.
  • The first application to introduce the concept of drawing with strokes of objects along a path.
  • Any kind of object, whether vector- or bitmap-based, can be defined as a custom brush stroke.
  • Unique features go beyond traditional drawing software to provide ultimate artistic expression.
  • Pressure-sensitive pen support, familiar and specialized drawing tools, many import/export options.
  • Version 3 adds repositionable textures, reflection-mapped fills, user-definable fringes,
  • eraser mode, head/tail anchoring, repeatable sections, transparency and width variability,
  • new and improved drawing tools, productivity enhancements, and PSD and PNG import/export.
  • Boxed version includes a detailed, 200-page printed user guide with several tutorials.
  • Windows and Macintosh versions of Expression 3 are available for free download from Microsoft.

Guide Review - Microsoft Expression 3 (formerly from Creature House)

Creature House Expression (formerly Fractal Design Expression) is a vector-based drawing tool featuring "skeletal strokes," a 2D drawing primitive which offers complete editability and scalability. While many other computer drawing programs have tried to imitate Expression's object-stroked paths concept, none can come close to the flexibility and variety offered by Expression. The user interface, though somewhat overwhelming, is well-designed with much care taken to alleviate keyboard and mouse (or pen) swapping as much as possible. You really need to have both artistic ability and a strong desire to explore and learn this program, but it's quickly obvious that once you do, you can do truly amazing things with it.

Update February 2004: Since Microsoft's acquisition of Creature House in September 2003, sales and downloads of Expression on the Creature House Web site have been suspended indefinitely.

Update May 2004: An updated Macintosh version of Expression 3.3 is now available for download from Microsoft.

Update June 2004: Microsoft is offering Expression 3 for Windows and Macintosh as a free download after completion of a brief online survey.

Update April 2009: Eventually, Expression become Microsoft Expression Design, part of the Microsoft Expression Studio suite. The free Expression download is no longer available.

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
Great natural media vector app!, Member pugcasso

This program has a very unique function and set of characteristic that set it apart from most other rastoir or vector graphics software... with this app, you can create vector-based graphics which actually resembe ""natural media"" effects and styles. Anyone starting this program and expecting to see raster (or pixel-pushing) tools such as those you'll find in photo editing or raster software (like Photoshop or Painter) will be disappointed. So one must be aware of the point of this program otherwise it may cause people to rate the software as poor or useless. Creating 'pressure-sensitive' vector lines (ie with a graphics tablet & pen) using the various watercolour style or ink lines is very unique. The fact that you can totally edit these 'natural media' lines is something most other software doesn't have. You can draw a line and then choose various types of stylse of strokes for it that range from watery to more dry streaky lines and they look incredibly realistic. You can adjust the line width and move and rotate nodes around to alter the shape (you can even lasso multiple nodes in a line and move them around or rotate that whole group which is handy for quickly adjusting a huge segment of a curve or shape you want to alter). You can later export or save an image at any size. Working with vector graphics can be much faster and cause less program delay than working with some huge printable image in a raster ('pixel-pushing') software. And so, if you are wishing to give your vector designs (ie, ones you can edit and tweak the shapes of - as opposed to the pixel raster software tools) more natural media appearance, this is something you should check out. I added a simple sample image showing the same curve with various watery line styles applied. These are vector lines and could be easily altered and reshaped which is the whole purpose of this app.

10 out of 10 people found this helpful.

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