Dazzle - a painting package from SEMERC

Reviewed by Helen Constable
PriorITas Advisory Services

This review first appeared in MAPE Focus on Art Summer 1998

Until recently there was a good selection of painting software for KS 1, and lots of stunning stuff for KS3 and upwards, but there was little for the top infants and juniors. Then along came Dazzle from SEMERC, and the world became a more exciting place to live in.

Dazzle's strength lies in its configurability. It has all the painting tools which one would expect from a good piece of software, but the teacher can set the program up with as few or as many of these tools as is appropriate. More of this later, but first, a whistle-stop tour around the program.

When it is first loaded, Dazzle asks you what size of painting area you would like. It is easier to accept what the program offers to begin with and just click on MAKE. You are then presented with a blank sheet of paper, a selection of colours and whichever tools you have pre-determined.

The colour palettes

The range of colours, decided by you, could be ten, (including colours which young children find difficult to mix, like brown and orange), a basic sixteen, various shades of grey or the full 265 colour palette. Colours are chosen by clicking SELECT in the usual way. If MENU is then clicked over a second colour, the two choices are mixed. Thus the child can create purple by selecting red and then clicking menu over blue. The up and down arrows on the colour palette allow shades of the chosen colour to be explored. This is a wonderfully non-messy way of experimenting with colour mixing.

The Toolbar

The tools appear on the left-hand side of the screen and you can decide how big they are, which ones you have and whether or not they are attached to the canvas.

The most commonly used tools are the square and round brushes, the fill tool (a jug) and the spray can. There is also a pencil for finer lines and a series of filled or empty shape tools such as star, rectangle, pentagon and circle. Remember - you don't have to have all these facilities if you don't want them!

Older or more experienced pupils might also want access to some of the other tools which include:

Configuring Dazzle to suit your needs

It would be useful to have the program loaded onto your computer in front of you before you attempt to read this paragraph! When Dazzle is first loaded it appears on the icon bar in the usual way. Clicking MENU over the icon will produce an option called Choices. Dazzle is set up with a default choice which is the one which appears when you first load the program. You can configure this to suit your individual class. In addition, there are several other preset configurations, including SIMPLE and SHAPE and SPRAY. It would be perfectly acceptable to use the preset options as your range of choices. However, some schools have created their own options called, for example, Reception, KS I, KS2 and Year 7. Each one is increasingly more complex in the number of' tools which are offered, thereby engineering some form of progression within the software. Tools are added to or removed from the tool bar by clicking and dragging. Spacers can be added to the selection to divide types of tools. Try creating a customised version that is appropriate to the age of your pupils. Don't forget to give it a name, and, most crucially, save your choices for future reference!

What else does it offer? Dazzle comes with a collection of pictures that can be used as starting points for children's own work, either as stimulus or for adaptation. There is also a stamp facility whereby parts of a picture can be saved into a stamp collection (!) and used later on for pattern work. You can of course print and save your pictures, and pictures can be imported into your wordprocessor, datafile or other work just as you can with ready made clipart.

Dazzle is available in both Acorn and Windows formats.
Contact SEMERC for details.

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