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Serif DrawPlus X5 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £82
inc VAT

Masses of sophisticated tools for working in a broad range of graphic design disciplines – and it still manages to be intuitive and quick to use. It's not as fast as Xara's Photo & Graphic Designer 7, though

Vector-drawing software creates graphics from simple shapes, curved lines and fills, and it’s just the thing for designing logos, web and business graphics, diagrams and neat illustrations. That’s quite a broad remit, but judging by DrawPlus’s feature list, it’s still too niche for Serif. DrawPlus also handles bitmap editing, natural media painting, architectural plans, isometric drawing, desktop publishing and animation.

DrawPlus X5 cutout
The ability to isolate parts of a photo is extremely useful for graphic design and DTP projects

With so much crammed into a sub-£100 program, it might seem optimistic to expect the highest levels of sophistication. However, we’re pleasantly surprised not just by the quality of the results but also by how easy it is to get to grips with the interface.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 7 pulls off exactly the same trick, with vector drawing and lots more besides wrapped up in a fast, friendly interface, all for £57 including VAT. It’s been a few years since we last reviewed DrawPlus, so rather than focusing on the new features, let’s see how DrawPlus X5 stacks up against Xara’s software.

The two packages’ vector graphics features are uncannily similar, but most of the differences lie in DrawPlus’s favour. Its QuickShapes tool generates squares, spirals and clock faces, with simple controls for actions such as turning a circle into a pie chart slice. Both programs can blend two objects, creating a series of replicas that morph from one to the other, but DrawPlus can plot them along a curved path. Both can convert flat shapes into 3D, but DrawPlus let us edit the 3D object’s facade without having to turn the 3D effect off and on again. Its docked window layout is a little neater than Photo & Graphic Designer’s, and its Align functions are better implemented.

DrawPlus X5 vectors
DrawPlus’s vector-drawing tools provide plenty of scope to get the most from its palette of shapes and curved lines

Bitmap manipulation is much more sophisticated in Serif’s editor, with colour correction, heal and cloning tools and creative effects that pay homage to Adobe Lightroom. The Image Cutout Studio closely resembles Photoshop Elements’ Quick Selection Tool, and is just as effective at isolating a part of a photo.

Both programs can create keyframe animations and export them as videos or in Flash format – perfect for designing animations for a website or video production without the cost and complexity of Adobe Flash Pro or After Effects. Once again, Serif’s software has the advantage over Xara’s, as its QuickShapes parameters are easy to animate – it took us about 30 seconds to create a 3D clock with moving hands. DrawPlus also goes further than Photo & Graphic Designer by supporting some ActionScript commands for tasks such as creating internal and HTML links and playing sounds. We wonder whether Serif has bitten off too much here, though. ActionScript is heavy-duty stuff, and we struggled to get what we wanted from the controls presented here.

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Price £82
Rating *****

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