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The tools of SuperPaint 2.0.

The Tools of SuperPaint 2.0

You need a graphic: will you paint it or will you draw it? Macintosh[R] computer graphics programs let you choose, but SuperPaint[TM] gives you "the best of both worlds." [1] You can "paint" and "draw." These words describe two ways to create graphics with the Mac.

Painting with the Mac prepares images composed of many tiny squares or "pixels" on the screen. Each pixel is black or white. The graphic is designated as "bit-mapped." Your electronic tools control pixels with the sweep of a brush or sketchiness of a pencil. Your brush and pencil, however, are limited to textured or fuzzy results. The edges of the square pixels show as "jaggies" on curved and diagonal lines.

Drawing with the Mac generates instructions for shapes or lines. The instructions are geometric equations for circles, squares, lines, curves, etc. Draw graphics are called "object-oriented." You control each object on the screen but not the individual pixels representing the object. Jaggies show on curves and diagonals on the screen, but the big gain comes when you print your graphics with higher resolution. The 72 dots per inch (dpi) of the Mac screen smooth out to clearly defined and sharp edges on the 300 dpi of the LaserWriter[R].


SuperPaint combines painting (bit-mapped graphics) and drawing (object-oriented graphics) in one program. There is a layer for each mode, and you switch back and forth between them with a click of the mouse on the brush/compass icon in the tool palette In the paint layer you have a broad array of tools to manipulate pixels. In the draw layer you have fewer tools. Figure 1 shows both sets of tools.

Missy McGuire at the Jeffrey Star Library is well versed in several Macintosh graphics programs. Each has its special attributes, but for versatility SuperPaint is her first choice. Version 2.0 of SuperPaint contains the basic features of the original program and offers numerous add-ons without overwhelming complexity. In the Draw mode you have a new freehand Bezier tool to draw curves. The Auto Trace command lets you trace the outline of a graphic created on the paint layer and transform it into an object-oriented graphic.

In version 2.0 you can transform selected text or objects in either layer by scaling, rotating, slanting, or flipping. If you have a color monitor or color output device, you can display or print your graphic in color.

Plug-in Tools

Probably the most novel additions to SuperPaint 2.0 are the plug-in tools in the paint layer. Although you could choose brush sizes and line thicknesses before, the new choices are much more elaborate and specialized. For example, you can paint assorted hearts and regulate their spacing with the line thickness setting. The twister tool (shaped like a tornado) smudges the outline of paint images for a softer outline.

In addition to the basic paint and draw tools, Figure 1 also shows the plug-in tools. The function of some tools is obvious. The Wet Brush paints with diminishing "paint" as the stroke uses it up. Settings and the speed of your mouse movement control the effect. The Toothpaste tool paints a line with separate shades for the edges and center to give a rounded pipe or log effect.

The 3D Box quickly converts a rectangle to a three-dimensional box with the perspective of your choice. QuickShadow automatically shadows rectangles perfectly for organization charts. Modifications to the basic tool are possible through commands, options keys, or a dialog box. The Allgon tool draws polygons to your specifications of number of sides, effects, distribution, and size range.

These plug-in tools are modular in construction, so that additional tools can be added to the program. The publisher, Silicon Beach Software, invites developers to submit new plug-in tools for inclusion in future versions.

Jeffrey Star's SuperPaint


The college Committee on Public Events sponsors a series of Thursday evening lectures. As part of its college enrichment program, the Jeffrey Star Library prepares short reading lists to accompany the lectures. The reading lists are identical in general format -- one 8.5 by 11-inch sheet folded in thirds with text in three panels on either side.

The panel used as the cover should be an eye-catcher and lead-in to the recommended reading. The print area is 3.25 by 7.5 inches. (The LaserWriter will not print too close to the edge of a sheet.) Missy McGuire's assignment is to prepare these cover panels.

She opens SuperPaint 2.0 with plans to enter text in the draw layer and to use the new plug-in tools of the paint layer for her graphics. To get her artistic juices flowing and to acquaint herself with the possibilities of these tools, Missy does a good bit of doodling. Figure 2 shows a SuperPaint screen display of her efforts. She has added the name of the tool used next to each effect.

The Spiral tool seems natural for a snail shell because spokes are produced if the Command key is pressed. The Airbrush spray is set by dot size, spray area, and density in a dialog box. She experiments with raindrops, bubbles, footprints, hearts, snowflakes, stars, and balloons. The Allgon and cycloid represent complex geometric shapes, and she decides to study them further.

The North Woods

Missy's first graphic is for a lecture on the Adirondacks. She uses the plug-in Allgon tool to create five stylized evergreens (or mountains), with textured fill and no outline. She uses the plug-in Toothpaste tool to create the letters for the word "Woods," selecting a black outline and textured fill pattern to resemble birch bark. To complement the rustic quality of these letters she uses simple sans-serif Helvetica for the rest of the text.

Stars in Shakespeare

The second reading list includes works on Elizabeth drama. In view of the specific subject of the lecture, Missy decides this is a good occasion to use the plug-in Star tool for a border. Clicking that tool, she drags the mouse and forms a string of stars, planets, and moons. She holds down the shift key as she drags to make a straight line. The line width selected determines the spacing between elements.

To form the evening sky, she draws a black oval and deletes the lower half. She forms the stars in the sky with the Allgon tool. Figure 3 shows the settings in the dialog box: 7 points, singleGon effect, pointz style, level one, and adjusted for a small center.

The galaxy of effects possible is almost overwhelming. The stars are white with black outlines, and sized according to the length of the mouse drag to form them. Missy uses a favorite display font, Black Chancery, for the text. Although Black Chancery is a bit-mapped font, it prints well on the LaserWriter.

The Cycloid lecture

Missy's third cover is for a reading list accompanying a math lecture. She forms the two graphics on the cover using the plug-in Cycloid tool, determining shape using a dialog box (Figure 4). She sets the curve factor, fixed ring, rolling wheel, and pen position as shown in the figure. The same setting produces the upper graphic as an epicycloid and the lower graphic as a hypocycloid. Missy's head reels, but her trial-and-error settings are immediately depicted in the current cycloid box. The final cycloid has two more symmetry points than the dialog box example. For text she uses FreshScript, a display laser typeface.

As she works, Missy uses the desk accessory SnapJot[TM], a screen capture program. She copies tool palette and dialog box images from the Mac screen to prepare Figures 1, 3, and 4 in this article. The basic built-in command on the Mac to prepare a screen display (a combination of Shift-Command-3) is disabled at times, particularly when a pull-down menu or a dialog box is displayed. SnapJot answers the need to prepare screen displays of such elements.

The Completed Covers

Figure 5 shows reduced versions of the three covers. They depict just a few of the myriad effects and capabilities of this superb graphics program, SuperPaint 2.0.


[1] Harriett and Richard Johnson, "The Best of Both Worlds (Peanut Butter and Jelly," Small Computers in Libraries 7 (May 1987): 23-28.

Harriett Johnson is an adjunct laboratory instructor at Hartwick College, and Richard Johnson is the director of libraries, State University College, Oneonta, New York. They are the authors of The Macintosh Press: Desktop Publishing for Libraries (Meckler, 1989).
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Title Annotation:computer software
Author:Johnson, Harriett; Johnson, Richard
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Article Type:evaluation
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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