Budding Artist?
Art Academy

By Jorge Figueiredo - November 25th, 2010

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The DS family is fantastic for artistic expression; with two screens of decent size (even more decent if you own an XL), the tinyish wonder allows for some interesting creations with the right tools. A few neat programs have been created (both official consumer products and some fantastic homebrew fare), but those who may have found these titles lacking will be most pleased with Headstrong Games’ Art Academy for the DS family.

Art Academy actually began as two downloadable modules from the DSiWare Shop; advertised as two “semesters” (each composed of five lessons), Art Academy leveraged the power of the DSi to mimic a set of artists’ tools, presenting techniques in the form of a comprehensive course via a character named Vince. The application’s evolution to an actual full-retail cartridge is a smart idea; not only does it allow those with no DSiWare access to play, but is allows for people to be able to save their creations to the cart itself (DS’s and DS Lite’s have no SD Memory).

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Art Academy on a DSi XL.

Additionally, many mini lessons have been added, allowing for more practice and help with certain aspects of artistic creation. Rounding out the package is a free-painting mode, which gives you the ability to create within the confines of AA’s toolset (which is a broad canvas indeed).

I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this game. When I was younger, I was very much into painting and sketching. The AA lessons guide you through the process of creating an underdrawing (a simple pencil sketch of what you would like to paint, done using basic shapes and shading techniques), mixing your paints, choosing your brushes, and finally, painting! Grid overlay, zoom tools, and the ability to access multiple references (original image; Vince’s image; your own image) cast a fantastic safety net for you, giving you little to worry about: if you make a mistake with the pencil, you can erase; if you make a big mistake with your paint that you cannot correct, you can restart from a checkpoint, or from the beginning of the lesson again (be more careful in free-painting mode, though, as I did not find a way to do this in that mode).

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The grid tool really helps you out with your image capturing technique.

The representation of the tools themselves is very accurate; there are pencils of various hardness, and two different ways to “hold” them (points and edges) – each option yields different results on your canvas. Three different sizes of round brushes are available, and the same can be said for flat brushes, giving you a great degree of flexibility and control in your painting. Paint comes in “tubes”, and allows you mix them on a palette. There is even a colour wheel tool that shows you complimentary colours and helps you make intelligent. On top of that, you can overpaint with a dry brush (no paint at all) or a watered brush (for blending); different degrees of paint and water can be used to achieve various effects. Rounding it off, if you have a camera-enabled DSi, you can capture reference drawings and then throw them into the reference window, allowing you to paint what you see in your journey about town.

If you are looking for a great way to learn how to paint, or a good gift idea for the Holidays, this is the thing for you. Art Academy is a sub $30 game that is sure to make both budding artists and seasoned pros very happy. You can even wirelessly send the demo lesson to a friend with a DS, so you can both share in the goodness! Something that teaches you the nitty-gritty of painting, has the ability to store and share your art with friends, and fits nicely into your backpack without spilling paint all over the place and making a mess is definitely full of win!

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