So many devices can now produce photos – bitmapped images – it's easy to forget there's another major form of image, based on vector shapes. This is the kind of drawing produced by Adobe Illustrator, but since there's no Illustrator Elements, there's a hole in the market for a powerful vector editing tool which doesn't cost hundreds of pounds. Step forward, Serif DrawPlus X6. See all software reviews.
As the version number might suggest (which is actually 16, but following the trendy 'X' fashion), this is a mature product, so the basics of vector editing can be taken for granted. Take a look at 3D design reviews.
You can easily create a variety of shapes and edit their outlines by dragging nodes and control handles. The shapes can be coloured, using a remarkably easy-to-use, real-time colour wheel and can be cut, combined and stacked in a variety of ways. See also: Professional editing software reviews.
DrawPlus X6 goes much further, though, with features like Quick Shapes. These include simple shapes, like rectangles and circles and complex ones like clock faces and gauges and each offer slider-controlled adjustments, like the number of points on a star, or the edge shape of a shield. They can be converted to curves, too, so individual nodes can be adjusted, as if they'd been drawn from scratch.
There's pressure-sensitive graphics tablet support, so you can draw freehand using natural brush types and DrawPlus X6 includes a pressure calibrator, so you can tune the software to your light- or heavy-handedness.
Brush strokes work well, although we did notice a tendency for the software to tidy the edges on completion, which may not be what you want.
New features for this edition include Arc, Spiral and Triangle tools, which enable quick production and adjustment of these commonly needed shapes. You can use them to cut out of other objects, too and this idea has been carried further with the introduction of stencils.
Stencils are objects which also act as masks, so you can paint through them and then remove. There's a limited range to choose from, but you can add your own, by dragging objects into the stencil selector.
If you want to incorporate photos into you artwork, simple bitmap functions like white balance and lighting are available directly in the PhotoLab applet, but the program also links with Serif's companion photo editor, PhotoPlus.
You can move a bitmap component in DrawPlus directly through to the companion program for more sophisticated adjustment, before returning it to its place in the vector editor. You can already do this with PhotoPlus and PagePlus, Serif's own DTP application.
Layer handling has been improved, so you can work with objects in their relative position in the stack, rather than having to select a layer explicitly before editing.
You can also pick out the colours from an object or bitmap and create a palette from them, so picking out the same colours in other elements, like text.
The drawing engine has been rewritten for 64-bit processors and was smooth and snappy on our Windows 7 test PC, which has a modest spec: Athlon 64 X2 4200+ processor and 3GB of memory.
That's on the 2D stuff; using Instant 3D to create solids slowed everything down and even fairly simple movements of 3D objects were nowhere near real-time.