Miscellaneous Ramblings

Almost High-End Graphics for a Low-End Price

Charles W. Moore - 2001.02.19

Adobe Photoshop owns the cross platform bitmap graphics category even more convincingly than Microsoft Office dominates the productivity software market.

Photoshop is extremely powerful image creation and editing software, but it is also very large and expensive software that requires state of the art hardware in order to use it efficiently - at least the current version. I have a copy of Photoshop 1.0, that runs happily on my old '030 LC 520, but that's another movie.

If you're a graphics professional or an amateur with serious aspirations, you need Photoshop. The vast majority of Mac users, particularly ones without fast G3 or G4 Macs do not.

Color It! 4

I'm graphics dabbler at best, but I do occasionally like to do some photo retouching and image manipulation. Also, I frequently need to edit images for use as illustrations in articles and convert screenshot PICTs into JPEGs or GIFs for publishing on the Web. My tool of choice for all of these tasks is MicroFrontier's 32-bit image editing program, Color It! 4.0.1, which I think of as "Photoshop for the rest of us."

Color It! will do almost anything I would ever do in Photoshop, and considerably more besides, and it does it at little more than the price of average shareware. Not only that, but Color It! is fast. It launches on my not-exactly-bleeding-edge 233 MHz PowerBook in less than four seconds - great when all I want to do is quickly convert an image to another file format or clean up a downloaded JPEG. And it's a whole lot better than twiddling my thumbs while ponderous Photoshop lumbers to life.

However, the cool thing is that Color It! works a lot like Photoshop, so the skills you develop using one of these programs will, to a considerable degree, transfer to the other. There are distinctions and differences, of course, but not ones so radical that you have to climb a steep learning curve when switching.

Color It! also supports Photoshop plug-ins, which work exactly the same in both programs. For instance, my scanner software is a Photoshop plug-in that works with either program.

Another advantage of Color It! 4.0.1 will be of particular interest to many readers of this website: It supports 68k machines as well as Power PC. It runs fine on my LC 520 under System 7.5.5 and on my PowerBook G3 under Mac OS 9.1. The installer will install your choice of PPC, 68k, or a fat install of both.

Unfortunately, it appears that MicroFrontier has terminated further development of Color It! I was told a couple of years ago by a company spokesman that a version 4.2 or 4.5 was in the works, but nothing came of it. Consequently, I don't have very much hope that we will ever see a Carbonized version of Color It! for OS X, but, as noted, the program works fine for the under systems up to and including Mac OS 9.1

My first acquaintance with Color It! was Version 3.0, which came bundled with a scanner I bought about six years ago. I was impressed that the bundled image editing software was such a complete and comprehensive program, not a "crippleware" come-on to buy something more expensive. Color It! has been my main image editing and scanning program ever since.


I found that Color It! offered some features that Photoshop didn't at the time, including multiple undos and a convolution editor that applies convolutions (numerical pixel-by-pixel operations) on the fly as you paint. Color It! also has a customizable toolbox, user-friendly color controls with an intuitive slider-bar motif, anti-aliasing and feathering options, an Unsharp Mask function, and selection and masking tools.

Color It! gives you pressure-sensitive control over input (if you have a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet like Wacom's), does color corrections with its Levels and Curves commands, allows you to edit color channels separately using paint tools and special-effects filters, including CMYK separation channels.

Color It! 4.0 supports a wide variety of file formats including GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, PICT, PostScript, Photoshop, PhotoCD, and more. Up to 16 levels of undo makes experimenting or correcting mistakes easy. It can also use Photoshop 3.0- compatible plug-ins, like Alien Skin's Eye Candy and Xenofex.

Color It! 4.0 is only 2.9 MB for the application (3.4 MB for the entire installation) and will run in 2,048 KB of memory (both cited memory partitions are with Virtual Memory on).

With Color It! 4.0 you can:

Tools include:

You can edit and save customized Tools Palettes (arrange and duplicate tools as you wish!). The Colors Palette combines color wheel, sliders, customizable color set grids, scratch pad and pattern fills in one palette to save screen space. The Animation Palette makes creating and editing animated GIF images for the Web easy and intuitive. Control looping, duration and other characteristics overall or by frame Patterns can be created, edited, saved and used as fills or paint for any brush.

The Web Image Map Palette controls creating and modifying client- or server-side Web image maps. Specialized tools create regions, control relative positions and assign URLs.

Catalog Palettes are thumbnail of images you choose. Images may be opened directly by double-clicking.

The Paint Controls Palette controls paint, paste and filter operations and permits variable blending with the original image. With 8 different effects modes and selection by color ranges, the Mouse Coordinates Palette permits precise measurements and positioning, including color readouts in decimal, percent, or hexadecimal form

Other controls:


System Requirements are happily modest, making Color It! 4.0 an excellent choice for older 680x0 Macs:

The full price for new users of Color It! 4.0 is $49.95. If you have registered a previous version of Color It!, you can upgrade to Color It! 4.0 for just $29.95.

If you don't want to commit even that much cash before trying out Color It!, you can download a demo version for free. The Color It! 4.0 demo is fully functional, except that save, print, export, publish, and copy functions are disabled. Color It! has also released the older 24 bit Color It! 2.3 as freeware in CD-ROM bundles like the one included with David Pogue and Joseph Schorr's popular Macworld Macintosh Secrets.

Manuals for Color It! are downloadable from the MicroFrontier Website in either PDF or text only versions.

Education users can obtain Color It! 4.0 from Genesis Technologies for $33 for a single copy, or even less in multiple packs.

Currently, you get all seven Pattern Libraries (a $69.65 value) free with the CD-ROM version of Color It! 4.0 (over 1,100 patterns).

The Color It! 4.0.1 update with minor bug fixes is available as a free download to registered users of Version 4.0.

Changes in Version 4.0.1 from Version 4.0:

Miscellaneous Ramblings Rating: Color It! 4.X

Price Dependent: •••••
Price Independent: ••••
Hooray: Incredible value; multiple undos; small, economical of memory, fast; many high-end features that put more expensive programs to shame; user-friendly; stable, highly polished program
Boo: Some functions not as powerful or precise as they would be in Photoshop, but given the vast price difference between the two programs, this is hardly a serious complaint. Color It!'s eraser tool is a bit poky, and the text function leaves much to be desired.

For more information, visit <http://www.microfrontier.com/products/colorit40/>