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While the phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword" is dubious advice for many practical situations (fending off invading barbarian hordes, etc.), the phrase "the pen is mightier than the mouse" is almost always true when you're talking about digital painting and graphics work. Wacom Technologies has long been the market leader for pressure-sensitive graphics tablets, thanks to their innovative tablet design and excellent battery-free, cordless pen.

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Pros: Puts iPad publishing into the hands of average publishers, with access to dramatic new effects and features.

Cons: Thanks to Apple, submitting an app is a convoluted affair and requires an iOS developer account. There are also two Flash-related bugs that, while they won't apply to every user, will require some people to employ workarounds to fix the bugs' effects.

Rating: 8/10

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Pros: Selections are more precise. Interface is more streamlined. Effects look like they were created by hand, not by computer.

Cons: As in previous versions, Snap Art does not work with CMYK images, only RGB.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Some of Alien Skin's most inspiring products have been its artistic filters for Photoshop. The images they produce are artistic and organic, as if they were created by a human hand rather than a computer.

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Filter Forge is a plug-in for Photoshop that helps you create unique filters and effects inside the image-editing program. There's also a Filter Forge community that has contributed more than 8,000 of its own free filters, which you can use and modify.
Now the Filter Forge developers are releasing a beta of version 3.0. If you're the adventurous type, you can download the beta and try out its new features.
Download the Mac version of the Filter Forge 3.0 Beta (85.2 MB)
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Did you know that the ring flash, a circular flash that fits around a camera lens, was invented in 1952 for dental photography? Nowadays, it's a great way to add even lighting to all sorts of photographic situations where unwanted shadows might be a problem.
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The software that began life as iView MediaPro was bought by Microsoft in 2006 and had its name changed to Expression Media. Its star didn't rise high in the pro photography sky, and last year Microsoft sold the app to photo equipment company Phase One. Now Phase One has made some changes of its own, rebranding the app as Media Pro.
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CreativeLive is a company that, while based in Seattle, has become very successful at educating creative folks around the world. Their workshops, often one to three days long, are broadcast for free over the Internet. CreativeLive makes money by selling recordings of the videos after the fact.
Just about any CreativeLive workshop is worth the time if it matches your interest, but one in particular that caught my eye is called "Beyond Photography - Artistic Post Production with Doug Landreth". It will be broadcast one June 10 and 11, 2011.
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Many years ago, when I was first scrambling for a foothold in the publishing industry, I was a customer service rep for the oh-so-stylish Chronicle Books. Answering phones all day was boring, but it was balanced by the best perk ever for a lover of design and print: We could take home any of the products.
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AIGA members can look forward to six free webinars as part of a series called "Breakthroughs: Where Inspiration and Technology Meet." The series is offered in conjunction with Adobe, so not surprisingly, there's a heavy focus on how technology is used in today's design studios.
The webinars begin in May and run through November 2011:
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UI Sketcher from Box UK isn't just another sketching app for the iPad. It's based on principles followed by user interface experts and includes tools to help you quickly capture your initial thoughts in sketches, then develop those ideas into UI mock-ups you can share with colleagues and clients.
UI Sketcher's pen palette, which you summon with a three-finger tap on the iPad, holds five drawing tools:

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