I collect graphics utilities on my Mac. I run everything from Photoshop CS4 to GraphicConverter, and a couple of dozen utilities in between. This mixed bag of tools does everything from color matching to image manipulation to one trick ponies which capture pixel color. GraphicDesignerToolbox is an interesting tool with a unique approach to stacking features. It stacks features, like building blocks, similar to a sound synthesizer, but Leggo style.
My first thought while rolling through GraphicDesignerToolbox was, well, “Why?” It’s not like I have a shortage of graphics utilities. If anything, I have too many.
The six month closet rule should apply to my software hoarding habits. If I don’t use a utility for six months, I should throw it away or give it away. That works well for a cluttered closet.
The problem boils down to two things. An insatiable desire to find the next great thing, and large hard drives which store everything in perpetuity. Having plenty of both, I march on, looking under the rocks of software for something new and different.
New and Different
Easier said than done. New is easy. Different is easy. New, different, and useful takes some work.
GraphicDesignerToolbox, hereinafter known as GDT because GraphicDesignerToolbox is the single longest name of any Mac utility I own, approach graphic effects in a true Think Different posture.
GDT is about snapping building blocks together, just like those you can buy in the local toy store. Maybe you even have played with something like this when you were a kid. It’s simple to understand and use, yet you can make huge complex buildings. This building block idea is so versatile that it’s used in applications like: modular synthesizers, video editors, planning tools, etc.
Well, that’s what it does. Each building block is an effect of one kind or another. Even a photo is a block. Add the photo block to the GDT grid. All you’ve got is your photo.
Then, stack a block on top of the photo block to add text, or add sepia tones, or add a fisheye look, and so on. Repeat, repeat, rinse, repeat. That’s how easy it is to create a graphics masterpiece. Just stack the blocks.
Lest that sound too easy, and it is, you get to control the effects parameters of each block. Change a parameter and the output image is changed instantly, in real-time.
Blocks and parameters can be saved for future use, copied and adjusted or modified.
Building blocks are deceivingly simple to use. You just insert them! There is not much more to it. Maybe you already are familiar with layers in Photoshop which are similar. One of the benefits of building blocks vs. layers is that you can use copy/paste.
What are these blocks? They range from Text Effects to Photo Manipulation. From Signs and Textures to every combination possible with over 100 blocks in GDT.
There are plenty of building blocks available and new ones gets added frequently, so GDT is not just a hammer. It’s a whole collection of graphics tools, thus it’s named GraphicDesignerToolbox and it’s powerful!
GDT works with both bitmap and vector graphic images. Some blocks work with one, some work with the other. The left side of the screen is your output image. The right side is where you add blocks and stacks.
Select a block in the stack and extra control parameters for the block show up in the bottom right. Make adjustments and they’re instantly displayed on the output image to the left.
GDT is not unlike graphic Leggos (without the plastic or snap holes). While the output displays what effects the blocks cause, the whole process is non-destructive to the original image. Restacking blocks may provide a different effect, therefore, a different output.
In fact, once you create a stack that does what you want, simply remove the original photo or image block, replace it, and the stack instantly updates the output with the new image. That saves a bunch of time.
The biggest problem I had with GDT was the frustration caused by having so many options. Restack the same blocks and the effects and results are different.
That means there are a mind-boggling number of options and all are easy to implement. Drag and drop, stack, change parameters. The learning curve is brief. The‘ play around and try stuff curve’ has a real long tail.
GraphicDesignerToolbox won’t replace Photoshop, but if you’re not struggling up the Adobe learning curve and expense curve, GDT is a good option.