The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

CoreFX Three Level and Crayola Art Studio Software Review by Deborah Burt

Core Learning
409 Cedar Street
Jenkintown, PA 19046

Imagine being able to create multi-media projects without making a major mess! CoreFX Three Level, digital art software created by Core Learning, gives you access to crayons, markers, stamps (clip art), watercolor paint, acrylic paint, chalk, pastels, and more--with no jumble of supplies and no mess to clean up. CoreFX can be used by those of various artistic abilities, from young children just learning computer skills to grown-up graphic artists!

CoreFX makes computer art unbelievably realistic. When you pick up a crayon in the program, it draws just like you would expect a nice Crayola crayon to draw-- the harder you press, the darker the line! Paint colors mix and blend; watercolors bleed on the paper; charcoal pencils smear and smudge; paint diminishes the longer you use the brush!

You can decide which of CoreFX's three preset levels is right for your student. The Basic Level is oversimplified, allowing young users to simply draw or paint with very few tools or add stamps to their artwork. The Junior Level introduces symmetry tools, more choice in brush sizes and shape, and the ability to resize, rotate, skew, or flip stamps. It also gives you a color chooser for picking precise colors and provides ways to mix colors or assign colors varying degrees of transparency. The Third Level includes everything from the Junior Level and adds the capacity for animation and some photo editing (such as lighten/darken and sharpen/soften). The Third Level also allows you to pick the very realistic paper texture of your canvas. All three levels come with an awesome Undo/Redo button so you have freedom to change your mind (a lot). If none of the preset levels fit your student for some reason, you can simply create an individual level of difficulty since most features within the program are customizable.

CoreFX Three Level
is very intuitive, making it easy for computer-illiterate folks to learn. The menus are easy to find. The Activity Guide and Reference Guide are included within the software as PDFs (or sold separately if you'd prefer hard copies). The Activity Guide is 38 pages of detailed art lessons on topics such as perspective, drawing people, and even animation. The Reference Guide is a 219-page owner's manual for the software.

One appealing attribute of CoreFX is its ability to open almost any file format. It is possible to import a project in one particular file format, edit it, and then save it to another format to use in the program of your choice. Files can also be easily saved for use on the Web.

Core Learning has made a trial version of CoreFX accessible online so that you can try before you buy. CoreFX is available for purchase for $54.95. If that's a little out of your price range, Core Learning has the answer: Crayola Art Studio is software based on the Basic and Junior levels of CoreFX, and it is available for only $24.95. Crayola Art Studio comes with the same Activity Guide as CoreFX and its own User Guide (as PDF files within the program), and it is available as a demo for free download as well.

The first few weeks we had CoreFX, we only had a computer mouse to use with the program. The children and I enjoyed unleashing our imagination and creativity while playing with the program. However, when we bought a graphics tablet and pen, we really began to feel like artists! The graphics tablet allowed for pressure-sensitive drawing and painting, which made for more realistic artwork.

CoreFX's strength lies in its drawing, painting, and animation capabilities, not in its photo-editing component, which is simply basic. For instance, professional photo editing software may provide additional features (layers, masks, etc.). In CoreFX, you can paint on top of pictures (for instance if you want to "mark up" a photo to add clearly visible technical information to it), but it doesn't seem to have hue or saturation adjustments. So when it comes to photo manipulation, this program is great for making artistic projects out of photos, but it wouldn't work so well for professional photo editing.

Overall, our family was very pleased with CoreFX and Crayola Art Studio. I have a feeling that the longer we play with this software, the more ideas we will discover. Of course we will never give up getting dirty and playing with real art supplies, but it has been a wonderful blessing to let the kids create art and express themselves with no mess!

Product review by Deborah Burt, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2009