varian.netVarian's Dreamview

DreamTools & Toys
Main Index

This area provides a listing of my favorite graphic tools and gizmos, along with details for how to acquire them and perhaps a few hints and tricks related to using them. It is *not* intended to provide complete information on any of the tools listed; the included links will assist you in learning more about each one.

I have (and have used) *many* more graphics programs beyond those mentioned here, but to attempt a complete list would be horrendous, so I've limited this listing to the ones I rely upon most regularly or just really, really like a lot.

Dedicated Sections:
Digital Greenhouse
Poser Playtime
Terragen Dreamlands
Treasures d'Esprit



Deep Paint

(demo version available)
A wonderful natural media paint program from Right Hemisphere that enables the user to apply tools in very similar manner to the experience of working on paper or canvas with oils, acrylics, pastels, watercolor, charcoal, etc. Many unexpected features, too. Very equivalent to Painter, but the interface is laid out like Photoshop. Can be used as a plug-in to your main paint program. (Also comes in a 3D version. which I've never tried.)

Paint Shop Pro

(trial download available)
Since 1996 with v.4
Very decent and inexpensive paint program with bells and whistles that also permits Adobe Photoshop compatible plug-in use. If you can do it in Photoshop, you can probably do it in PSP. It also has a lot of online support including web rings, newgroup and numerous web tutorials. This is my mainstay paint program; almost everything I make passes through PSP at some point.


This outstanding but underrated paint program was created by SoftKey and has since been passed along to several other companies. The lack of support behind it is the only element that prevents it from being an even less expensive alternative to Paint Shop Pro. (About $10). Versions 3 and 4 can still be found in some software bargain bins -- if you're lucky.
I don't use PhotoFinish anymore (multi-gig drives intimidate it and there is no layers capability), but I'm leaving it on this list because it provided a very good experience for my initial foray into digital graphics.


Blade Pro

(trial download available)
Giving text a 3D effect is only the beginning of what this versatile plug-in can do. I've used it for so many things and even have a Dreamview section dedicated to it; visit DreamEffects to see more.

buZZ Pro

(trial download available)
Exciting set of filter plugins by Segmentis that work together in infinite combinations to give a painterly appearance to photographs or 3D imagery. I really love what buZZ can do!

DC Special

Four excellent plug-in filters sets. I especially recommend checking out DCSpecial #3, which contains Pattern Edit Do. This filter moves image pieces around in a single click, extremely convenient for checking your graphic when you're aiming for a seamless appearance.

Eye Candy

(trial download available, free version available)
Eye Candy is the filter assortment that changed the face of the web with bevels for text, drop shadows, and many other must-have effects.

Fantastic Machines
Paint Engine

FM Tile Tools

Plug-ins for Photoshop and compatibles. Paint Engine lets you instantly add a hand-painted effect to any graphic. Zillions of possible styles are available (watercolor, oil paints, pastels) with every setting at your control.

(Demo available)
Tile Tools is an assorted set of very handy filters for many uses. I frequently rely upon the "Color Emboss" effect.

Kai's Power Tools
KPT Effects

(demo available)
Professional plug-in with all sorts of goodies included. Especially useful is release 3, but 5 and 6 are great, too. I don't know what I'd do without KPT.
NOTE: These are not version numbers; each KPT# represents an entirely new set of filters.

NVR BorderMania

Simple plug-in effects filter for molded and framed borders or button edges.


(trial download available - maybe even a free version)
Filter assortment plug-in for Photoshop and compatibles. From the same folks who make Eye Candy, Xenofex delivers some very cool effects like lightning, shower door and baked earth.


If you ever make buttons or have an interest in making web page interfaces, snatch up Z-Paint! (PC)

Virtual Painter

Filter set plug-in designed to add an assortment of painterly effects. Has some good ones in here.



(Demo download available.)
I've begun exploring Mojoworld with version 2 in 2004. This newest addition to my corral allows you to explore entire planets and build or modify them as desired.


(free for non-commercial use; commercial use allowed with registration)
Since 1998 with version .06.
It's still growing. This is an outstanding landscape renderer still in its beta infancy. Terrgan was my first truly-3D program, and I know it's just going to keep getting better.
Visit my Terragen DreamLands area for Terragen goodies.

Vue d'Esprit

(Demo download available.)
Since 1999 with version 2.
This is a versatile and easy-to-use rendering program with a particularly excellent vegetation system. I love Vue! This is my flagship renderer; I use it for all things 3D.
See my Treasures d'Esprit area for all kinds of Vue stuff.


(AKA Poser Artist)

(trial download available)
Since 1995 with version 2. Skipped v.3 and moved to v.4 in 1999.
If you're unfamiliar with Poser, the main thing to know is that it was originally designed as a visualization tool for 2D work. it's not a modeler and IMHO not very good for rendering either (although some veteran users do a whiz-bang job of it). Any model you desire to articulate must be especially prepared. The real draw here is profound community support with *tons* of models made Poser-ready.
I have some Poser offerings in my Poser Playtime section.



The updated/redesigned Ray Dream. Better at some stuff, although the interface is rather awkward.


Easy to use blobs modeler with 25 primitives to work with. Lots of various options. Easily makes 3D models of a more organic nature.


(now freeware!)
Build plants in both 2D and 3D. Every element is at your control. Create images for tubes/nozzles or export DXF/3DS models. This is an excellent program well worth the $20 I paid for it back when it had a fee.
Visit my Digital Greenhouse section for PlantStudio items!

Ray Dream Studio

(commercial - no longer made)
Before Carrara, there was RDS, and I still prefer it over Carrara for some elements. See my DreamModels 3D


Really cool program that works on a kind of lathe setup for making an infinite number of 3D forms. The shapes can stand alone or be put together in another modeler. ShapeMagic is limited only by your imagination, and on top of that, it's very simple to use.

Tree Magic Shapemaker

Small, but exciting program used to create simple 3D models in a couple clicks. Originally designed for producing tree stumps of various kinds, the author expanded it for additional, similar shapes, so now the output is nearly limitless with add-on modules. (See ShapeMagic, the next generation from Shapemaker.)



Fun generator of flame fractals under ongoing development.

(& more)

Intriguing, fun and robust programs by Stephen C. Ferguson who seems to just keep making new ones. He also keeps giving them away, so I'm sure not going to complain, especially when they are so terrific to use! I keep 10 fractal programs within easy reach, and 8 of them are Stephen's work.


S-Spline Pro
AKA: Shortcut PhotoZoom Pro

This program uses a fractal algorithm to enlarge digital images without noticeable pixelation. The process has its limits, but hey, it really works!

TeraLogic Texture Maker

Stand-alone program for making seamless backgrounds, buttons and other effects. This one is a lot of fun to play with. You can use the output "as is" or you can embellish it further, making it even more a product of your creativity.

Web Tester

Handy little program for testing out tiling images to see how they look when tiled without needing to use your desktop.


Font F/X

(trial download)
Originally made by DCSI, now carried by Electric Rain. If you're interested in the 3D effects that can be achieved with TrueType fonts, you'll enjoy this program.

P3DO Explorer

(commercial, and a freeware version)
3D object viewer. What originally began as a file browser for Poser items has been continually growing to include other objects - Vue files, Wavefront and more. If you have many 3D objects around, P3DO helps you view them.

UV Mapper Pro

(commercial, but has a freeware version available)
If you build or work with 3D models, you're going to need to UV map at some point. This is an excellent program with great support, and many helps and tutorials abound for both free and pro versions.


Cool Ruler

Ever need a ruler on your screen or maybe two or three? Cool Ruler measures (for PC) in pixels, inches or centimeters.


(Trial download available.)
Excellent program for visually cataloging and managing your graphic image files -- and many other file types, too. Zillions of "extra" features as well. I couldn't function without this one.

Wacom pens & tablets

A friend gave me an Art Pad II (hi Bill!), and I've been hooked on the ease of using a pen and tablet with the computer ever since. After wearing out my gift, I moved on to the Graphire tablet -- which includes a cordless mouse! I currently have a 4x5 Graphire II. Wouldn't do painting or drawing without it!


monitor calibration

Right-click this image and download it to your desktop. Use it to calibrate your monitor and your paint programs by adjusting brightness and constrast. You should be able to see eleven distinct boxes on the top row when properly calibrated. (Don't judge the view through your web browser.) Additionally, the color tones you see should be white, black or gray - not greenish, not reddish, not bluish.

Visit Quick & Easy Monitor Calibration for more complete details (and additional charts).

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Varian's Dreamcatcher
Varian's Dreamview: DreamTools & Toys is a portion of Varian's Dreamcatcher
and is Copyright ©2004 by Varian.  All rights are reserved.

None of this material is to be redistributed on the Web or in any other form without prior consultation with and permission from the author. Exceptions to this statement, granting additional limited rights for particular selected elements, are noted and detailed in context
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