COMPANY: Microsoft | URL: www.microsoft.com | TYPE: Standalone | PLATFORM: Mac, Windows | PRICE: FREE (old version)
Microsoft's Expression is an innovative vector-based illustration and graphics tool that provides exciting creative capabilities for designers working in print, web, video, and interactive mediums. Microsoft acquired the Creature House technology and development team in 2003.

Fringe Textures
Expression 2 was the first vector-based drawing application to introduce real time soft-edge features and remains unsurpassed in its flexibility and efficiency. With Expression 3, artists can now add arbitrary fringe textures around any fill, creating rich organic blotting effects and wild splatters at variable width.

Real-time Reflection Mapping
With Expression 3, any path applied with an embossed fill can now be modified with any built-in or user-defined spherical reflection map to create realistic metallic effects. Whether you just want to add a decorative touch to your artwork or make a splash of quicksilver, Expression 3 gives you the most dynamic real-time reflection mapping features.

Dynamic Lifting and Scraping Using the Eraser Mode
Lifting effects can be easily achieved by using Expression 3's unique Eraser Mode. Before Expression 3, soft-erasing and vector graphics were incompatible. Some vector-based drawing applications provided eraser tools that dissect through vector paths to give a redefined complex shape which is often unmanageably complex. Expression 3 offers a very general Eraser Mode, applicable to any graphic objects, with strokes and/or fills. The erasing path remains active and editable, allowing the artist to fine-tune the most delicate lifting effect.

Anchored and Repeatable Bitmap Strokes
Skeletal Strokes allows certain parts of the stroke definition to be anchored and repeatable to give controlled variations to stroke appearance. Expression 3 now allows bitmap strokes to have anchorable head and tail sections and multi-part repeating bodies. This is great for creating realistic dry-media strokes with textures and useful for creating interesting strokes from photographic images.

A scanned real pencil stroke is turned into an anchored and repeating bitmap stroke, with a head section, a tail section, and a body section that repeats on stretching. Besides re-creating the appearance of traditional media digitally, surrealistic strokes can also be easily created.

Dazzling Effect Lines
Speedlines and complex hatch patterns are often employed in comics to convey action and emotion. Expression 3 introduces a new object class known as Effect Line Group which is particularly handy for creating and editing complex effect line patterns. The Effect Lines palette provides many convenient controls for introducing many different variations to the automatically generated effect lines.

The crisp and stylish skeletal strokes provided by Expression have always been ideal for the sharp line graphics that characterize comic artwork. With the new Effect Lines functions, you are further freed from tediously creating individual effect lines and can now handle the entire set as a whole, making as many changes as you like at any time.

Effect lines are great for creating more than just radiating electric shocks or whirlwinds. Since the start/end edges and template paths are arbitrary curves, complex intricate interference patterns can be easily created through just a few clicks. And the best thing is that such complex patterns remain editable and are always under your control.
Download the abandoned beta version of the companion Living Cells here (Mac only). Drop the application into the Expression 3 folder and enjoy vector animation within Expression!