NOTE: Aquatint has not been updated in several years, and does not work on recent versions of OS X.
Aquatint assists you in creating images that go with Apple's Aqua user interface appearance. The glossy, liquid appearance of Aqua looks great, but it places a burden on users and software developers who are not trained artists, since such images are not easy to make. With Aquatint, you'll effortlessly produce your own custom Aqua icons and images.
The process is very simple. You start out with a stencil, typically just a black filled shape. For example, here's the man behind the Stick Software logo. His name is Dave:
Dave is rather large here, because the Aquatinting process works best when it can reduce the size of the original image during the process. A 4x reduction is best; a 2x reduction, as we'll do here, is usually sufficient. So suppose we wanted to make an Aqua-style icon out of Dave:
Here's a first pass, using the built-in preset in Aquatint for a standard blue Aqua look. Presets exist for all of the standard appearances in Aqua (blue or graphite, highlighted or unhighlighted, and so on), so cranking out a set of appearances for a widget is as easy as a click and a save for each appearance.
This image has had its saturation turned off, for a liquid mercury appearance. To enhance this effect, the "margin" was increased on the image to make it more "curvy" (compare the chest area with the previous example), and the contrast was cranked up.
This image combines the two examples above. A little bit of variation in the color has been introduced as well, and the shadow was modified in several ways. The darkness and diffusiveness of the shadow can be controlled, as well as the shadow's position relative to the tinted image. You can use Aquatint just to make shadows, too.
This is Dave on gummi worms. This illustrates the "rainbow" effect that Aquatint can apply to your images. It is very customizable in terms of the colors used and how they vary over your image; this is but one example. The variation in color in the previous image was achieved with a subtler rainbow effect.
This is a very different image, achieved through a much narrower "margin" to produce a flat, embossed look, combined with high contrast to make a black outline. A subtle rainbow effect is used here to produce slight color variations in one hand and one foot. A stronger shadow behind Dave enhances the sense of flatness.
As these examples show, a virtually infinite variety of images can be made with Aquatint from just one silhouette. Furthermore, all of these examples don't even begin to touch on Aquatint's capabilities with more complex "stencils" that include variation in hue, saturation and brightness. Aquatint's own icon was made using Aquatint, as were the appearances for the "circular slider" widget that you can see in the screen shot below. The possibilities are endless.
None of these images were retouched in any way. In fact, they have suffered in quality somewhat due to being converted to GIFs. By the way, Aquatint always produces images with transparency; the shadow shown here is a real shadow, and these images would look great on any background. Since the web doesn't really support TIFF, though (some browsers do, but most don't), we're limited here to 256-color GIFs. So they've been put on white backgrounds with a frame so they still look nice.
Predictably enough (it is a Stick Software product, after all), Aquatint has a whole slew of controls to let you tweak the details of the image. Here's a reduced snapshot of its document window (click here for a full-size version):
Don't worry, there's a manual that explains what all those controls do. (For the HTML version, which is about 50K plus about 450K of images that get downloaded, click here; for the 348K PDF version which can be used off-line, click here.)
Aquatint is shareware (which means we rely on you to pay for it if you use it). It costs $15 for non-commercial uses, $50 for commercial uses (defined as using it to produce art for any for-profit purpose). Feel free to try it out for a little while before paying, but please don't forget that it is ultimately your responsibility to pay for it. For details on how we handle registrations, see our main registration page. Thanks!
We'll leave you with an image generated by Fracture, a fractal screensaver by Stick Software, which we aquatinted to add a glossy look to it. This is an unretouched final image from Aquatint.