Company: Core Learning;
System Requirements: PC/400 MHz; Windows 98 or later; 96 MB RAM; 125 MB hard-disk space
Price/Grade: $54.95; K-12
Pros: Customizable, kid-friendly; tools for animation; stamps and sample images to get you started; comes with both a printed user guide and activity guide
Cons: Print guides lack indexes; with some brushes, size resets when switching colors

We can't all be Picassos, but Corefx takes the fear out of creative self-expression. With a grab bag of digital bitmap paint tools designed for children (and adults) of all ages and abilities, and a customizable toolkit of toolbars, tool windows, icons, gadgets, and brushes, Corefx is sure to meet the needs of students with a range of skill levels.

Choose from one of three different work environments (Basic, Junior, and Advanced). Paint with a mouse or use a pen-based graphics tablet to take full advantage of the pressure-sensitive brushes. Select from 12 artistic media, including felt tip, pencil, wax crayon, chalk, charcoal, and oil pastel. Dip your brush in a palette of colors and hone your hue like a real painter. You can even experiment with different nib sizes or work with ready-made paintings to get you started.

Create standalone paintings or take advantage of the specialized tools in Advanced mode to convert images to frames and paint multi-image animations. An Organizer option lets you work on several pictures at once, switching easily from one to the other to copy elements. With Corefx, it doesn't matter if you're a master or a scribbler. There are enough creative paint opportunities for infinite inspiration.

Carol S. Holzberg, Ph.D., directs the technology program for the Greenfield Public Schools.