Microsoft today released the beta version of a new professional illustration, painting and graphics tool, code-named Acrylic. The software was acquired from Creature House in 2003 and was previously named Expression.
Acrylic offers users pixel and vector-based graphics creation and editing functionality. The program also seems to offer support for PDF and PSD files, making it even more clear that Microsoft is aiming to target Adobe's popular PhotoShop. Recently Microsoft already announced Metro, a rival PDF rival.
Key Feature Areas:
Vector and Pixel Tools: Paint on pixel layers, create objects and insert images on vector layers, convert between vector and pixel layer types, create selection masks by dragging vector objects to pixel layers, and more.
Expressive Pixel Painting Engine: Create realistic pixel paintings using the pixel brush engine. Create your own multi-component brushes for expressive power; use them to paint with gradients, textures, smudging, and paint thickness.
Pixel Selection Tool: Automatically create tight and accurate pixel selections on complex shaped image features with just a few simple in/out region markings.
Live Effects: Apply image effects and color correction filters on a per object or per layer basis to either vector or pixel based elements.
Variations Palette: Paint with variations in hue, saturation, lightness, strokes, stroke width, and transparency.
Image Stitching: Stitch together individual photographic or scanned images into high quality panoramic images.
HTML Workflow: Create rollover and popup buttons, preview your artwork in Pixel
Preview mode, and export to HTML format with auto-slicing capabilities.
Hint Palette: Quickly access contextual information regarding the currently moused-over tools and palettes.
The free beta version of Acrylic (77.6MB) can be downloaded here. The beta version will work until October 1, 2005. More information wasn't announced but I think Microsoft will offer the full version of this program for a small to medium cost.