1. Technology

Alien Skin Snap Art Artistic Effects Plug-In (Win/Mac)

Turn Your Photos into Works of Art in a Snap

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Alien Skin Snap Art 2

Alien Skin Snap Art 2

© Alien Skin

The Bottom Line

Alien Skin Snap Art is a collection of ten filters that can give your photos the artistic styling of colored pencil, Impasto, Pointillism, pen and ink, pencil sketch, pastels, comics, watercolor, oil painting, and Pop Art. Snap Art comes with hundreds of settings presets as well as manual controls, so users can transform photos into art work quickly and with the precise level of detail that they desire. Snap Art requires a host photo editor program such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, or Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo.


  • Provides a good balance between realistic natural media effects and instant results.
  • More than 700 settings presets provide single click effects.
  • Manual controls allow users to refine the effects to achieve a distinctive style.
  • User interface is straightforward and intuitive, with detailed online help.
  • Good value for the money. Discounts are offered for users of other Alien Skin products.
  • Focus regions enable you to preserve detail in specific areas of the image.


  • I felt that realistic art qualities were lacking in some of the filters.
  • Waiting for each edit to render in preview can be slow.
  • Not supported with older systems and host programs.

Alien Skin Snap Art Artistic Effects Plug-In

Alien Skin Snap Art is an artistic effects collection for Windows and Macintosh that runs inside a host photo editor program. Snap Art 2 works with:
  • Photoshop CS3 or later
  • Photoshop Elements 4 or later (Mac)
  • Photoshop Elements 6 or later (Windows)
  • Corel Paint Shop Pro X2
  • Fireworks CS4

Snap Art 2 Effects

  • Color Pencil - Renders hatch lines and shading to turn a photo into a color sketch.

  • Comics - Give your photos a cartoon, comic strip, or Pop Art style with half-toning and blocks of posterized colors.

  • Impasto - Transform your photos into this distinctive style of oil painting which features thick, textured paint strokes.

  • Oil Paint - Recreate a variety of oil paint styles by adjusting thickness of paint, brush size, canvas texture and lighting.

  • Pastel - Simulate the soft colors and tones of oil and chalk pastels.

  • Pen & Ink - Render your image with dots and lines to mimic stippling, cross hatching, and shading.

  • Pencil Sketch - Simulate a graphite or charcoal sketch with cross hatching and shading.

  • Pointillism - Generates dots of color in the style of George Seurat. Color variation and dot size can be adjusted.

  • Stylize - Generates smooth regions of color and bold lines for a Pop Art look. Color and line art options are available.

  • Watercolor - Simulates a soft color wash with a dry or wet brush. Varying line detail and paper type can alter the effect.

Working with Snap Art

As with all Alien Skin filters, the user interface is straightforward and intuitive, with numeric slider controls categorized by tabs for presets, effect basics, color, canvas, and lighting. Each of the ten filters in this collection a large number of preset styles which users can apply with a single click. Snap Art uses edge detection to determine the shapes and forms in the original image to preserve details, then fills the image with abstract paint engine strokes. By varying the stroke size and other attributes of the specific media and canvas settings, users can simulate a variety of artistic styles.

Snap Art has an option to render the filtered image in a new layer, so your original image is preserved, making it easy for you to compare multiple designs with the original image. Within the Snap Art window, you can easily toggle the view to show filtered and unfiltered versions of the image. Snap Art also offers a split screen preview so you can compare the filtered and original image side-by-side. In addition to the presets included with the program, users can save their own custom settings as presets, and share those presets with other users of Snap Art.

New in Snap Art 2

Snap Art 2 provides a new focus regions feature which allows you to pin-point specific areas of the source image where you want more detail. You can apply multiple focus regions and control the strength, size, and fading for each one. Also new, a photorealism slider gives you control over how abstract your result will be. New presets have been added, and the presets are arranged in categories making it easier to select a preset appropriate to portraits, landscapes, and so on.

As a special treat for Photoshop CS4 users, Alien Skin has provided a free download of the Snap Art 2 panel which provides shortcuts to each of the effects in Snap Art. It also gives you a link to tutorials, and a script that lets you preview all 10 effects on a copy of your image. Another freebie is the Snap Art Sketch panel for Photoshop CS4 which combines the pencil sketch filter with Photoshop Screen blending mode, for more variations on the sketch effect.


I've reviewed a lot of "photo art" plugins and software over the years -- some provide instant results but often have a distinctly computer generated quality to them, while others require more fine tuning but produce very realistic natural media effects. Snap Art seems to provide a nice balance between instant results and artistic realism. I wasn't impressed with every effect (pen & ink in particular), but the majority of them are very good. I think you'll definitely get your money's worth with Snap Art 2.

See Snap Art Examples

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