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Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 review

Ben Pitt
14 Oct 2015
Expert Reviews Best Buy Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
50
inc VAT

Page 1 of 2Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 review

Powerful new warping and brush tools take Photo & Graphic Designer to lofty new heights.

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Specifications

OS Support: Windows 7/8/8.1/10, Minimum CPU: Celeron, Sempron or newer, Minimum GPU: N/A, Minimum RAM: 500MB, Hard disk space: 300MB

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer has been a firm favourite for many years. Despite having access to both CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator, it's usually Xara we turn to whenever we need to design an invitation or logo, draw a diagram, create graphics for a video project, edit a PDF or figure out whether furniture will fit in a room. It's missing a few advanced features compared to its pricier rivals, but it's the shallow learning curve and the speed at which it handles core graphic design tasks that keeps you coming back.

The relative simplicity means there's plenty of scope for valuable new features, and that's certainly the case in this update. The Shape Painter Tool was introduced in version 9 as a way to generate vector shapes using brush strokes. In version 11 it's joined by a suite of tools for warping vector shapes by pushing them around the screen. It's similar to Photoshop's Liquify editor but for vectors rather than bitmaps, with a choice of Warp, Bloat, Pucker and Twirl brushes that move, enlarge, shrink and twist shapes. It's also similar to CorelDraw's Smear tool, but whereas CorelDraw shows the outline of shapes while they're being edited and only updates the full-colour preview after the mouse button is released, Xara constantly updates the preview as edits are being made. This is true of virtually any edit in Xara, and it's this constant feedback that makes it so rewarding and quick to use. It's a superb addition to the line-up of vector editing tools, and worth the £35 upgrade on its own.

Xara brushes

^ A few of the brushes available in Photo & Graphic Designer 11

Xara's brushes were previously limited to dashed patterns and a handful of basic natural media brushes and novelty effects such as airbrush, chalk and footprints. This time around there are far more options, and generally of a higher quality. They're grouped into categories such as Acrylic, Hair & Fur, Lines & Hatchings and Watercolour. Unlike natural media painting effects in bitmap editors and dedicated software such as Corel Painter, these brush strokes are still accessible as vectors, which makes it easy to alter their shape. However, each brush preset is largely fixed, and multiple strokes of the same type look very similar. As before, it's also possible to take any vector object and turn it into the basis of a brush – great for adding a sprinkling of stars or bubbles.

Xara warp

^ The Warp Brush is ideal for rearranging the shape of text or other vector graphics. Meanwhile, the new blend modes combine colours in complex ways

Blend modes are a common feature in image-editing software, mixing colours in overlapping objects in complex ways. Xara's blend modes now use the same names and processes widely available elsewhere, such as multiply, screen, overlay, soft light and luminosity. The results are better than the slightly crude blend modes available in previous versions. Even so, it's good to see that projects created in version 10 loaded correctly – the old blend modes are hidden but still available.

Page 1 of 2Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 review

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