1. Technology

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.

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