The Mac App store holds loads of top apps to boost creativity.

Here are 10 of the best.

Aperture - £45
Apple

Aperture is a real steal, especially for iPhoto users wanting to upgrade to something more powerful.

It boasts top photo-management tools, including the ability to upload to and manage albums on Flickr, Facebook and MobileMe and manage images by Places and Faces. It also boasts intuitive RAW-editing features and a top-notch interface, making Aperture an essential buy.

Aperture

CameraBag Desktop - £8.99
Nevercenter Ltd

The Mac version of this iPhone's photo app, CameraBag Desktop is about adding old-school effects to your photos. The app is simple: open it up, load in an image and you can start applying the effects, including cross-processing, silver, instant and Helga.

All the filters are high quality, and you can combine them for even more interesting effects, creating custom filters to save and share with the CameraBag community.

CameraBag

Pixelmator - £35
Pixelmator

When you think of image-editing apps, Photoshop is the obvious one that springs to mind. But Pixelmator is certainly a worthy - and less expensive - rival for those wanting to make adjustments to their digital photographs and create digital paintings from scratch.

Pixelmator is packed with hugely powerful and familiar image-editing tools. From layers to blending modes and a host of professional tools to make complex selections, it's an extremely accomplished app that is both intuitive and refined. It's just a really good value, snappy, well-designed creative app.

Pixelmator

Live Interior 3D Standard - £30
Belight Software

Ever wanted to create your dream room on your Mac? Well now you can. In fact, you can sketch out and plan the look of your entire home in 3D. It's simple: just enter the dimensions of your room and start adding furniture, floor and wall coverings at will - before you head off to the local DIY store.

The Pro edition gives more control over lighting, amongst other things. One thing this can also be used as is a storyboarding app - you can easily set up interior scenes before exporting for further editing.

Live interior 3d

Artboard - £12
Mapdiva

The advantage of vectors (paths-based) over raster (pixel-based) imagery can be enormous - literally. Working in vectors means your artwork can be scaled to any size without any loss in quality. The best-known vector app is Adobe's Illustrator - but it's also very pricey.

For £12 Artboard offers nowhere near the functionality or control of Illustrator, but it does bring some simple and easy-to-use Bézier drawing tools. It also has the ability to create 'styles' for future use - meaning you can specify stroke, fill and other attributes and easily re-apply these to new objects. Considering it's a 50th of the price of Illustrator, it's really not all that bad.

ArtBoard

SketchMee - £4.99
Studio Mee

SketchMee is a fantastic application if you want to quickly create painterly versions of your photographs. A simple interface enables you to load in your photo, choose the crop and then specify the 'technique' (for example, coloured pencil) the amount of detail, the paper quality and the type of strokes.

The particularly clever part is that SketchMee uses vectors to create your sketch before converting it back to a JPEG format - meaning you can save out the result as a 16MP file, no matter what the size of your original was. This makes it perfect for taking into Photoshop (or indeed Pixelmator) and preparing for print to hang on your wall.

SketchMee

Hues - £2.99
Giant Comet

Hues, as the name suggests, is all about colour. More specifically, it enables you to sample (or take) a colour from any image or open app and get the HEX, RGB and HSL values. Essentially you can sample the colour of any pixel on your screen.

It's very quick to open, stores the last 25 colours sampled and you can copy the colour value to your clipboard after selection. Yes, it's very simple, but then again it's only £3!

Hues

Strata Design 3D SE - £30
Corastar

3D modelling and rendering isn't exactly the easiest skill to acquire - and usually involves buying an expensive piece of software. Strata Design 3D SE, however, at only £30, could be a great way to test your hand at 3D skills without a massive financial outlay.

There are some powerful modelling tools here, as well as great texturing and lighting functionality and a nice rendering engine. There's no animation toolset, however.

Strata design

iStopMotion Express - £60
Boinx

Here's your chance to recreate the look of Morph and Wallace & Gromit with Boinx's stopmotion movie studio. Sure, you'll need to break out the plasticine (or dig out your old Star Wars figures) but what you have here is an app you can have endless fun with.

Set up your scene, plug in your camera and use the software to take snapshots of frames before piecing it all together to load into iMovie, Final Cut or your editor of choice. A great little app.

iStopMotion express

SketchBook Pro - £45
Autodesk

First thing's first: you'll need a graphics tablet to take full advantage of Autodesk's powerful sketching and digital painting app. For digital artists, SketchBook Pro is superb. It has a beautifully designed interface and a raft of tools for sketching ideas and creating full-blown digital artworks.

Sketchbook pro

What we love about SketchBook Pro is that is feels like a digital canvas - it strips everything back but still gives you quick access to all the tools you need. In short, it's a masterpiece - and if you were lucky enough to get it when it was £18, well done you.

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First published in MacFormat Issue 234

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