For many organisations, the high cost of hiring professional illustrators to design Web sites means the task is handed off to marketers and others without formal training in design.
Adobe ImageStyler 1.0 helps these casual artists create professional Web graphics. ImageStyler is almost as simple to learn as NetStudio's super-easy NetStudio, yet ImageStyler offers more creative options and control over designs. For example, any ImageStyler object can become a button, navigation bar, or banner - and can be switched in an instant by applying a new style.
The interface surrounds you with floating tool and adjustment palettes much like you'd find in Adobe's high-end Photoshop or Illustrator packages. But ImageStyler actions only take a mouse click to complete instead of many technical steps.
As a first test, I imported a photo, selected a drop shadow from the Styles palette, and the effect immediately appeared.
What's more, objects remain live throughout a design session, thereby encouraging experimentation. For example, I created a rectangle, added a glow, then positioned text on top. Because each piece was on a different layer, I changed the style and wording of the text without affecting the underlying graphic.
Cropping and scaling the composition also doesn't require special menus or commands; I merely grabbed a corner and dragged.
ImageStyler ships with 100 styles and various Web page templates, yet that number belies what's really possible because everything is infinitely variable. After selecting a graphic, I displayed various palettes to play with 3D effects, warp distortions, image filters, and opacity. In all, you can mix as many as 100 attributes on five layers.
I also liked the uncomplicated way ImageStyler handles mattes - merely place a photo, drag over a mask, and the image is immediately enclosed by the shape. I used this combination time and again by saving the effect and replacing just the underlying image.
Additionally, the software let me create graphical aliases (linked objects); when I changed one shape all the others were also updated.
ImageStyler also let me save individual objects as Photoshop, GIF, JPEG, and Portable Network Graphics files.
Because you can actively preview image qual-ity, it's easy to see the effect of switching to a different quality setting or file format.
An exclusive feature let me turn my plain text into graphics automatically. I created a style for each of the HTML heading tags (H1 through H6). ImageStyler then went through my existing Web pages, searched out every instance of the tags, and replaced the actual heading text with graphics. It even created roll-over effects and image maps on the fly.
More experienced users may wonder why Adobe didn't meld ImageReady (their graphics preparation and animation packages) with ImageStyler, because together they form a complete Web graphics toolkit. But for the majority of business users who don't want to fuss with colour compression settings and the like, ImageStyler 1.0 would be my pick. It has a better balance of features and ease of use than other Adobe products and beats competitors, too.
The Bottom Line
Adobe ImageStyler 1.0
Intended for creative business users, this package adds impressive effects to text, shapes, and images, thereby adding spark to otherwise dull Web sites.
Cons: No image animation tools.
Platforms: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0; Mac OS 7.5.5 or later.
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