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Review: Colors 3D

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I was a big fan of Art Academy on the DSi, so I was certainly intrigued to hear about Collecting Smiles' Colors 3D, a sequel for the DS app Colors this time for the Nintendo 3DS. Unfortunately, since I had Art Academy, I never actually tried Colors, so I won't be able to compare Colors 3D to its predecessor. But to find out what I thought about this new 3DS app that lets you create illustrations in 3D, make the jump!

Colors 3D is a simple art program that allows you to create illustrations with up to five levels of 3D. There is a full pallet of colors to choose from, and you can also adjust the brush size and opacity as well as its effect (plain brush, airbrush, splatter and eraser). It's super-fun to create illustrations in 3D, although to be honest, I sometimes found myself painting on the wrong layer by mistake. However, you can choose to work on the painting as a whole or select the levels individually to make things easier. This landscape was my very first attempt to create a simple illustration with some levels of depth, and while it's no masterpiece, I was surprised at how easy it was to create something.

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Right click to download this 3DS file for viewing on your 3DS: HNI_0071.MPO

The best thing about Colors 3D (aside from the 3D gimmick, obviously) is that the menu interface is very intuitive and easy to use. A click of the left trigger brings up the menu allowing you to change the color or brush. The right trigger is your undo button, and you can actually go all the way back, though after the first few strokes, there's a hefty delay for each undo. The circle pad cycles through the 3D layers by moving it left and right, and up and down zooms in and out on your drawing. The directional pad is used for color and brush shortcuts. Up and down changes the brush opacity and right allows you to quickly use the eyedropper tool to pick up a previously-used color in an instant to use again elsewhere. Left on the directional pad allows you to use the stylus to move around on your zoomed-in canvas.

You paint directly on the bottom screen, and the top one displays the full 3D painting you're creating. Unless you decide to use a photo as reference. Then you can choose to have that displayed on the top screen to work from. You can also place the photo on the touch screen to work off of. So you can even just add 3D accents to a photo if you wanted. (Unfortunately, the photos themselves are only 2D.) There's no helpful grid like in Art Academy, though, to guide your drawing. That's why I found it easier to start painting directly on the photo on the touch screen. That's how I made this painting of my brother-in-law's Jack Russell.

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Right click to download this 3DS file for viewing on your 3DS: HNI_0072.MPO

The 3D gimmick is a lot of fun, which helps make up for the fact that the paintings don't look exactly like real paintings. With Art Academy, they did an incredible job of recreating the texture of pencil strokes and oil paint strokes with both wet and dry brush techniques. Here, adjusting the opacity helps create a painterly effect, but it's not quite as realistic. Although looking at the 3D example paintings included in the app, some really impressive artwork can be created... if you have the skills (I don't!). Also, while Colors 3D doesn't have the educational lessons, you can still learn by watching how people create their paintings. Much like the popular app Draw Something, Colors 3D records your every brush stroke, and you can watch a painting come to live at three different speeds. And watching a real artist's techniques can help give you new ideas of stuff to try.

You can save your 3D artwork to your SD card in two sizes for viewing in the 3DS Camera app, or upload it to the Colors 3D site. There's already a community for Colors, and it will continue to expand in 3D! You can browse the website or use your 3DS so you can see the paintings in 3D. While there, you can like them and comment on them. It's a very lively and friendly community so far! There is also a two-player mode where you and a friend can use local play to work on the same canvas, but I was unable to test that out, so I can't really say if it's fun. It seems kind of odd, though. In addition to the 3D and 2D painting examples, there are also a series of black and white line art drawings that you can color in like a coloring book. Sadly, they're only in 2D.

While it lacks the instructional aspects and realistic texturing of Art Academy, Colors 3D is actually easier to use and a lot more fun because of the whole 3D aspect. It's hard to sufficiently demonstrate how cool the drawings look in 3D here, but if you have a 3DS, you can click the links below the artwork I included in this review to view 3D versions on your own system. Colors 3D is $6.99 and is available for download in the Nintendo eShop.

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