Have you ever needed to do some simple photo editing or creation, but didn’t want the hassle of opening up Photoshop, or are too afraid to learn it? Then Acorn is for you! It’s a lightweight image editor that allows you to do many of the functions of more advanced programs (such as Photoshop), but doesn’t have quite the same learning curve or price.
Developed by Flying Meat, Acorn is an image editor that allows you do paint, draw and crop photos. It is also jam-packed with other features and a range of useful filters.
We reviewed an earlier version of Acorn last year, but will be covering new features and exploring the basics in greater depth today.
The canvas is a separate window, detached from the toolbox. The wonderful thing about the canvas is the simplicity that it has. The window of the canvas has few elements on it. On the bottom right, there is a zoom panel – much like in many OSX applications. This slider also functions similar to the ‘Navigator’ pane of the Adobe suite.
On the bottom left-hand side of the window, there is also information about the project you are working on. This includes canvas size and the positioning of your layers.
As you would expect the canvas window can be resized to suit your amount of screen real-estate. This gives you ultimate control of how much of your screen Acorn takes up.
To make the canvas full screen, hit ‘F’ on your keyboard.
The toolbox in Acorn is very similar to that of competing applications. I came to like the toolbox in Acorn because after selecting a tool, the advanced options show up in the same panel, right next to it (as seen below). In applications such as Photoshop, these options are part of the bar at the top and can be often hard to locate for beginners. This is a perfect example of why Acorn’s learning curve is so small.
Acorn has many tools for you to use at your will. Including; move, zoom, crop, pan, draw, select, erase, text, gradient, flood fill clone and shape. In a similar style to Photoshop, tools that have a black triangle on the bottom right of their icon, can be changed to other tools of a similar nature. This includes custom shape selections, pencil, dodge, burn, smudge and custom shapes.
One of my favourite attributes about Acorn is it’s crop tool. For those of you who love the rule of thirds (like myself!), then this is what you want. The crop tool automatically creates a grid for you so when you are cropping, you can get your image just right. It should also be noted, for those of you who want advanced grid features such as this, check out Slammer.
Acorn also has a surprisingly good type tool. It has many advanced options that allow you to set spacing between letters and lines – giving you more power than just a text box!
LayersLike most of its competitors, Acorn has a layers palette. As many of you would know, this is used to separate different elements of your design. It makes the manipulation and editing of images very easy. You are also given blending modes and opacity sliders so you can take control of your layers. New in 2.1, you can also sort your layers intro groups so that they stay organised (handy for when you are sending your work to others).
Acorn has a large range of filters. There are a fair few that users will notice from Photoshop and other graphic editing applications. The filters reside in the menu bar in a hierarchal structure.
After playing around with the filters, I must say, I have come to love the way Acorn’s interface stylises it. The window takes on an ‘Automator’ approach. You can flow filters into each other by clicking on the ‘+’ icon. The filters window also gives you a live preview of what your design will look like the the filter applied – the advanced thing about it however, is it will give you an animated preview (Very useful when doing blurs because you can see what looks good before you even add it!).
Tablet SupportUnder the pen tool, there is an option to use tablet pressure. I didn’t have a tablet myself to test this on. But after searching through the documentation, I have found all the tablet features that work with Acorn. For those of you that have a tablet, It’d be great to see your experience with this application in comments below!
Photoshop is by far the most popular image editing application for both Mac and PC. It has a solid foundation and is used by professionals all over the planet. The tools in Photoshop are advanced and offer a lot of flexibility. Problems are that it is costly and a little bloated with a great deal more functionality than most people need. Acorn, offers some of the functionality of Photoshop at a fraction of the cost, meeting the needs of many!
I would have to say my favourite alternative to Acorn in this league is Pixelmator. It feels a lot more like Photoshop and has a beautiful interface. Pixelmator takes the same approach as Acorn – using the tagline “Image editing for the rest of us”. It is available for $59.
GIMP is another popular alternative. Primarily because it is open source. I haven’t had too much to do with GIMP myself, but I have heard great things about it. It is definitely worth a look if you’re after a free solution.
Acorn is a good, solid image editing application for those who are afraid of the Photoshop learning curve and price. It does have a few bugs here and there but the developers are very active.
For what it does, Acorn comes very close with Pixelmator in terms of features and value for money. If you’re looking for a lightweight application that offers basic editing, than this is the application for you!
Acorn is a solid image editing application for those who are afraid of the Photoshop learning curve and price. It does a great job of providing simple graphics editing with a set of advanced tools.9
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