1. Technology

What are Picture Tubes? What are TUB and PSPTUBE files?


A Picture Tube painting

A "painting" created exclusively with picture tubes.

By Arizona Kate
Question: What are Picture Tubes? What are TUB and PSPTUBE files?

What are Picture Tubes? What are .TUB and .PSPTUBE files? Can I use Tubes in other software?

Answer: "Picture Tubes", or simply "tubes," are a feature of the photo editing software Paint Shop Pro, which was originally developed by Jasc Software and is currently owned by Corel and marketed under the brand name Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo. The Picture Tube is a tool in the Paint Shop Pro software which allows users to "paint" with a series of objects. As the user drags the Picture Tube "brush" across the document, the objects are sprayed onto the page. Users can also click on the page instead of dragging to stamp objects onto the page one at a time. Qualities such as rotation, spacing, scatter, hue variations, and so on can be adjusted to vary the results of the Picture Tube strokes.

The word "tube" is also used to describe the type of files used by Paint Shop Pro's Picture Tube tool. The Picture Tube content is supplied by bitmap-based image files consisting of multiple objects with a transparent background placed in a grid pattern. Although multiple objects are contained in a single file, they can be stamped onto a document as individual objects by clicking with the mouse, rather than spraying multiple objects onto the page by clicking and dragging. This makes them very appealing as a form of clip art, and many users enjoy collecting and creating picture tube files. Until recently, the file extension for tube files was .tub, but in newer versions of Paint Shop Pro, the file extension was changed to .psptube. Paint Shop Pro's native image file format, .pspimage, is also compatible with the Picture Tube tool.

Will Paint Shop Pro Tubes work in Other Software?

Many other photo editing programs offer a similar features under a different tool name such as Corel PhotoPAINT's Image Sprays, Painter's Image Hose, Photo-Brush's Nozzles, and PhotoImpact's Stamps. In fact, I'm fairly certain that this kind of feature in other software pre-dated Jasc's Picture Tubes, but none seemed to captivate the enthusiasm of users quite like Jasc's Picture Tubes. I guess that's what a catchy name will do!

Oddly enough, graphics software giant Adobe has never incorporated a similar feature into their Photoshop product line, although Photoshop-compatible plug-ins are available to add these capabilities into Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements. Two such plug-ins I know of are Alien Skin's Splat! and Human Software's PhotoSpray.

Some of the other software mentioned here, such as Media Chance's Photo-Brush, and Alien Skin Splat!, use the same format for picture tubes as Paint Shop Pro. But if your software does not support the format, you may be able to convert the images within the tubes files for use in other software. A free tube extractor utility was released by MediaChance software, the publishers of Photo-Brush, but this tool doesn't always work on the newer tube files. Another option is to use software that opens Paint Shop Pro files and convert them to the PNG format which supports transparency. XnView and Irfanview are both free image viewers that support Paint Shop Pro files and should be able to do the conversion. Alternatively, you can ask a friend who uses Paint Shop Pro to convert them for you. All the Picture Tube files offered for download on this site are also made available as transparent PNG files.

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