Kid Pix logo

Kid's paint package * £25.99 * Electronic Arts

Conventional paintbrushes are so passé, now kids want to draw their pix electronically, and boy has Gary Lord found a children's paint program for the new generation...

ELECTRONIC ARTS ARE the people who bring you Deluxe Paint, that consistently Amiga Format-Gold winning paint and graphics package that we continually refer to as the paint program to have for your Amiga, though, EA have come across yeat another phenomenal paint program, but this time it is for the kids - well sort of!

Kid Pix was created solely with kids in mind - it was designed by a dad, Craig Hickman, for his three-year old son Ben. Apparently, Ben used to play with 'adult' paint programs but ended up in tricky situations, so what was called for was a more kid-friendly application. And Craig has certainly managed to come up with that.

Once you have launched your copy of Kid Pix you are presented with a blank screen - and then you are all ready to start painting away. There are just three menus at the top of the screen: File, Edit and a special Goodies menu, but all of these menus can be turned off if you opt for 'Small Kids Mode'- which is more or less kid-proof.

Down the left-hand side of the screen are the tools with which to explore the program. As you click on each tool you are given various different options at the bottom of the screen, these change depending on which tool you click on. The Interface is such fun to work with, kids will have no trouble becoming familiar with the way the program works, and although Kid Pix comes with a comprehensive manual, you really do not need it - you can just get straight in and play away to your heart's content, creating everything from fairly simple drawings, to quite intricate and stunning pieces of work - even if you are just five-years-old.

The first tool you are presented with is the Wacky Pencil (all of the tools have fun-looking icons that represent what the tool does). Click on the pencil and the options at the bottom include various line (or a thick circular brush) styles and widths. But it is when you first move the mouse across the screen to draw your first picture that you come across Kid Pix's pièce de résistance: sound! Yes, of course there have been other children's paint programs before, but none has managed to merge sound with vision as well as this.

It is a great laugh exploring what each tool and its various options do to the pictures on screen, and that alone will keep you amazed for hours. But Kid Pix adds another dimension, and you and your children will be eager to discover all the different noises and samples that are there to be uncovered. Everyone will have their own favourites. I love the stretching noise that the line-drawing tool makes, it matches the drawing move you are making so well, it sounds like a squeaky wooden door opening, as you stretch the line one side of the screen to another.

The graphics capabilities have not been sacrificed for the sake of sound though. You will find all that you would expect from a children's paint package and then some! There is a more than adequate colour palette - 16 colours in total - and some wonderful (some would even say quite wacky in fact) painting options once you select the Wacky Brush!

My personal faves are the Zig Zag line - the pattern is similar to the blip-blip pattern that the machine that goes 'ping' makes; Echoes - circles within circles, very reminiscent of Spiro graph sets; Trees - draws your very own fractal forest, and if you hold down Ctrl while you click the mouse button, it draws a real mighty oak of a tree; Drippy Paint - while you draw, the 'paint' dribbles down the page. Connect-the Dots - yes, you can make your very own dot-to-dot picture, who needs paper, eh?

The only drawback with the Wacky Brush tool, though, is that there are no sounds with it. The thing is it is probably the one you go to first and so you are initially disappointed - but once you go on to discover the noises in some of the other options, you do not feel at all cheated, but it is certainly something that could be considered for an update.

Once drawing has been created with any of the drawing tools, and you fancy spicing it up a bit, then it is time to have a go with the Electric Mixer tool. It is so-named because it will simply mix up your picture in some wacky, weird and even abstract ways. Kids will reap hours of enjoyment trying out all the options available to them. At the same time they will discover more and more about the program, and new ways to manipulate their drawings - I certainly have!

So when a drawing is finished what then? Well, if your kids are happy with their artistic endeavours they can save their pictures to disk and print them out for posterity. It is all very easy and what you see on screen is what prints out on paper. Obviously, a colour printer is preferable, but mono printouts can look pretty good too, the ones in the manual are black-and-white and they look great - though try explaining that to your nagging eight-year-old.

If your budding computer graphic protégés are not happy with their drawings then they can simply erase using the 'Erase' tool. Remember what a tedious task rubbing out your drawing was when you were young? Well the present generation won't find this to be the case with Kid Pix - because there are even options for erasing pictures. Firecracker is the most impressive because your screen explodes in Pop Art-style with accompanying sound; or you can go for the Hidden Pictures eraser, it rubs out the drawing but displays, albeit briefly, some of the program's hidden secrets.

Electronic Arts say of their latest paint package that "No one is too young, no one is too old", and that is certainly true, everyone in the Amiga Format office has been huddled around the screen, just wanting another quick play! It is definitely a great entry-level paint package whatever your age. It may even be better suited for an Amiga bundle than Deluxe Paint is. And what better way to get your young ones interested in the Amiga? If they learn how to use a mouse, recognise icons, print out their drawings and get an artistic slant before they even get to school age that has got to be 'A Good Thing' hasn'it?


Clip art is ready-made art, and Kid Pix has gallons of it (look at the bottom menu of this picture - and that is just a small sample). This enables kids who have not acquired proficient drawing skills yet to have a good play with real pictures - a bit like Fuzzy Felt when 'we' were young.

If you are not happy with the way the clip art looks, and you want to change the colour of a whale from purple to blue (the proper colour for whales as everyone knows) then just go to the Goodies menu and select 'Edit Stamp' and double click on the Stamp icon. You can rotate, flip and re-colour, or even create an entirely new stamp if you so desire. The main criticism of Kid Pix, and it would be great if Electronic Arts could rectify this, is that it cannot load IFFs. Seeing as EA invented the darn things, it is a bit of a let down, because you cannot import graphics from other Amiga packages, digitised pictures or creations from other paint programs. Apart from this criticism, Kid Pix will keep the young (and old) 'uns amused until the pigs, chickens, sheep and cows come home.

Kid Pix logo Top Rated

Broderbund came up with digital crayons, and Electronic Arts have brought it to the Amiga. Tony Dillon spills a lot of paint.

As you can probably tell from the title, Kid Pix is an art package for children. Developed in the US by PC Programmer and father of a three year-old, Craig Hickman, the package has been designed specifically for younger users to exercise their imagination and creative skills within an environment that is user-friendly and simple without being over-simplified or restrictive. It has been a big hit with American children, and now it comes to the Amiga courtesy of Electronic Arts and the nimble fingers of John Jones-Steele, the coder behind numerous projects including the up-and-coming Amiga version of Sim Life from Mindscape.

The first thing I need to point out is that this is not an art package in the vein of Deluxe Paint. Deluxe Paint is full of tools which you can utilise to create certain effects and other options to make your art creation less cumbersome. Kid Pix is full of tools that are designed to stimulate ideas in children, rather than help them realise pre-defined images.

By way of explanation, if you were drawing a picture in Deluxe Paint, you would select brushes and tools when you had an idea of what you were going to draw. With Kid Pix, the idea is that children will experiment with the variety of aids, which will hopefully spark an idea which they can then create.

On loading first time, you are presented with a registration screen, where the child types in his/her name. On subsequent loads the program will announce that the software belongs to that person, creating a friendly link between child and machine. Then it is on the main screen and you are away!

Along the left hand side lie all the options, and the bottom strip of the screen contains all the sub-options for each item. Clicking on an option, for example the brush icon, brings up a bank at the bottom of the screen displaying all the brushes available. This strip can be spread over eight segments, displayed in rotation by clicking on a small arrow on the right hand edge of the strip. This is how all drawing functions are selected, using the left mouse button. The right mouse button comes into play when using the menu bar at the top of the screen, and as that is only used when loading, saving or altering some part of the program (display language, preferences, etc.), the right button is not used very often, making the program even easier to get into.

The main drawing area itself is smaller than a standard screen by about 32 pixels in each direction. Although this creates a non-standard screen size, it does mean that the entire picture is displayed at all times, making this a true WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) package.

The standard options are, as ever, freehand draw, line draw, box draw, ellipse draw, erase, undo and fill. Other options include an interesting selection of brushes, talking text, a variety of screen wipes and a plethora of pen styles, the likes of which have never been seen before. Sure, you have pens of different widths, and a selection of shades, but what about ones that emulate a leaking pen, that occasionally spurts large circles of ink onto the page? Or a pen that leaves a jagged line, making it impossible to draw straight?

Other pen and brush types include a trail of pie charts of different values, small coloured dots, a trail of letters, a dot-to-dot pen that leaves numbered spots on the screen rather than a line, a drippy paint brush, where the paint runs down the screen and even a pen that creates geometric shapes - the sort of thing you used to make with a Spirograph if you were (a) unlucky enough to be expected to play one and, (b) could never figure out to use it properly. If trees are your thing, one click with the fractal tree pen and you have got a complete tree ready to be coloured and given foliage.

For those of you who would rather paste a picture together than start one from scratch, Kid Pix contains a clip art bank containing everything from tigers to trains, which can be lifted and stamped wherever you want, at three different sizes, and can be used either for the finishing touches or just for inspiration.

Editing a picture could not be easier. By clicking on the Moving Van Icon, you can draw a box around an area of the screen, and then lift it or copy it to memory. That new block can be manipulated and replaced anywhere, saving you a lot of time and effort when tailoring your picture.

There are also a bundle of full screen effects that can be called in to add that final bit of sparkle to your artwork. You can invert all the colours with a single click, or add a checked background to the whole piece, even tessellate it or split it into strips so that it resembles a Venetian blind!

'OH NO!'
One of the most interesting things about this package is the use of samples. Obviously the whole thing has been written to be as appealing to kids as possible, and what you end up with is a cross between Deluxe Paint and Sesame Street. Click on 'Undo' and a voice will say 'Oops' or 'Oh No!' before removing the offending mistake. Click on the text option, and the name of each letter will be said as you stamp it down, in the chosen language (selected from a menu of six different tongues, including Spanish and German). Even the pens make scratching noises as they are dragged across the page!

The big question here, of course, is how easy is it to use? If you can use a mouse, you can use this package, with ease. I know I am a little too old for it, but I was up and running with it inside about three minutes from loading, without reference to the manual.

The control method, only employing the left button for all tasks, is faultless and stops children from selecting options from the menu bar by accident. The menus are clearly laid out, and everything is where you would expect it to be. I cannot see any children having difficulty with this and as there are examples of artwork in the manual from kids as young as three years old, that statement reaches right down in the age range.

I wish I had Kid Pix when I was young. It is an extremely versatile tool, and one that younger children will really enjoy. It is 'messy' enough to keep you entertained even if all you want to do is doodle, but with the capacity to really work for something impressive if you want to. A superb package, and one that parents should not be without.


John Jones-Steele should be a familiar name to most of you by now. One of the longest running Amiga programmers, perhaps John's most famous work was Terrarium for Mirrorsoft - famous purely because it looked incredible and then never came out. John was also a director of the sadly defunct Goliath games, and did primary coding on both Tracksuit Manager and World Championship Boxing Manager. Since then, he has written D/Generation for Mindscape, Super Space Invaders for Domark and a number of other games. He now heads his own development company, Abersoft (co called because he lives and works in Aberystwyth, West Wales) and is putting the finishing touches to Sim Life for Mindscape, which will be available for the A1200/A4000 in the next couple of months.


Isn't it depressing when you have to clear the screen and start again? It does not matter whether you have spent five minutes or five hours on the pieces, it is still an annoying thing to have to do. To help ease your frustration, Kid Pix has a number of unusual effects used to clear the screen. There is a stick of dynamite you can lob at the screen that blows everything off, or you could call upon a black hole to such the screen clean. The most unusual option, though, is the hidden picture. When this is selected, using the eraser to wipe the screen causes another image to appear, just like brass rubbing. When you have wiped the screen completely, you have a nice black and white picture to colour in. Isn't that nice?


WSYISYG - What You See Is What You Get. An acronym for packages which display on screen exactly what you will get if you were to print out a picture or text.
Fractal - This is the name generally given to 'realistic' natural or abstract images generated by the interaction of simple mathematical equations.
Doodle - A piece of art created entirely for the therapeutic value to its construction.