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Pixen, a product of the Open Sword Group, is a very powerful little piece of software. It has the best features of MS Paint and Adobe Illustrator, but it is simple enough that anyone can use it. If you ever need to edit a picture by pixels or want to make some cool little GIF animations, this is the software for you. Traditionally, this level of image editing has been the domain of expensive programs, so it's great to see this kind of functionality making its way to more affordable (and even free!) programs.
For freeware, Pixen has a lot of really cool features. For one it allows users to work with layers. Many paint programs don't come with this option for some (rather stupid) reason I can't comprehend. This excites me because it is really handy if you are making animations or drawing something slightly complex. Basically, layers are a very important aspect of graphic art, and I'm glad Pixen realized this. They make it easy to edit one layer at a time without worrying about ruining the whole file.
Pixen also has a really nice color palette. It offers a lot of variation and also allows for customization. But if you are working with a restricted palette it has a feature that will show you all the colors in your palette so you may vary them. It also has a nice zoom feature which is a must for pixel artists (since pixel art is small).
If you want to make GIF animations it is easy with Pixen. There is a simple button you press for every new slide, and once your animation is done you can save it as a GIF or a Pixen animation (which can only be opened by Pixen). The only problem is Pixen does not allow you to control your animation's timing (how many seconds each frame should appear). If you want to do that you will have to download something like Graphic Converter.
All in all, for the pixel artist, Pixen is a pretty cool piece of freeware. Check it out and make some crazy animations. It's a lot of fun!
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