Aviary: Web Based Graphic Suite

October 7th, 2008

Aviary ListingThe internet has given the opportunity to reach new heights in productivity, so why shouldn’t we also look to it as a tool for our graphic needs?

Aviary is one such application, letting users create their own works from originals or scratch. To call it a web-based drawing program is to label it poorly – Aviary is a online graphics tool, one that soon may give Adobe a run for its money. To understand more about what you can do with Aviary, let’s take it from the top.

Once you log into Aviary, it will remind you to do a couple things to make your experience with it more meaningful. First it will ask you to upload your avatar and fill in your profile. For graphic designers looking to show off a little, this is a chance to let people know about you (and include a link to your page). For most users this is a chance to personalize your Aviary ID so if you decide to share your art within the Aviary gallery, people know who you are. The next thing Aviary recommends is to find some art that you like and mark it as your favorite. Through Aviary’s pull down menus there’s an entire menu for just this called Discover, which lets you find art by Staff Picks, Popular, Undiscovered, or you can search in the search bar (keyword or color). This is your homepage, and on it you can see what you’ve created recently, and see what’s been posted.

Aviary Screenshot

The main object of Aviary is to create work, so let’s go straight there. Under the menu of Create, three options will open up. One is a color manager called Toucan, where you can create swatches and color combinations to your taste. If you have a strong color scheme in mind you may want to make this your first stop. Next is Peacock, the Visual Laboratory. Using Peacock, users can apply a range of effects and distortions, including channel separations. Peacock is for making changes to your entire work (they call it a canvas), and you can import easily from Flickr, Picassa, Facebook, or your own computer. For creating art or making detailed changes to your photos is the mainstay of the Aviary suite, Phoenix.

When we open Phoenix the first thing we find is how similar the interface is to some expensive software based graphics programs. There’s an open area for working and on the left are some of the tools you may recognize from those same programs. Pointer tool, distortion tool, selection tools (magic wand, lasso, rectangle, circle), paint bucket, drawing tool, erasing, smudging – all with the same identifiable icons that you would find in graphics programs. For users unfamiliar with graphic programs, each of the buttons on the left lets you perform a specific function: the paint bucket fills a shape full of color, the smudge tool lets you blend areas, and the lasso lets you select an area of your choosing so you can move it or alter it.

Aviary Drawing Tools

In addition to tools, Aviary has worked in layers into their program, which lets you separate your artwork from your changes or to keep changes separate. If you were working on a picture, for example, and you wanted to experiment with a blue fill, you could create a new layer, use the fill as much as you like, and then if you didn’t like it, remove the layer. Everything’s back the way it was. Effect layers available at the bottom of the effect box (cursive ‘f’ button) allow users to create bevels, blurs, shadows, and glows. These are all advanced elements one would expect in software-based graphics programs, which was clearly the model for the web-based Aviary. In fact, there is so much similarity to the graphics programs that even keystrokes are the same. Control (or Apple) Z undoes whatever the last action was, and you can zoom in and out with Control (Apple) + or – buttons.

Aviary Effects

Though Aviary does work on a trust-based model, trusting that after you have sampled it you will contribute, Aviary does expect that users will pay for their use. There are two plans, the Green which allows for use of one of the Aviary applications at $7.99 a month, and a Blue at $14.99 which enables you to use the entire suite. The folks at Aviary like to point out that this is cheaper than the software alternatives, but as versatile an editor as it is, for high end users, the lack of brush and effects within the drawing program will leave them flat. Users are also limited when they save their work, which currently only allows flattened (no layers) formats of png, jpeg, gif, and tiff.

There’s little question that Aviary is an impressive web based drawing platform, with a wide variety of tools, and effects. To find Aviary and applications like it there is the Listio search graphics+create.

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