Prior to Adobe Photoshop 3.0, this paint program was the only software I was aware of on the open market that supported multiple free-floating layers of images. Ever since I encountered the concept of a paint program, I wanted a reasonable way to drop new images onto a pre-existing background so I could throw my X-Acto knife away--and Fauve Matisse is it. You can cut or copy any image or portion of an image and paste it onto another image as a discrete object with its own characteristics. These objects or layers may be blended into the background by adjusting the opacity of each layer or by removing or restoring opacity to specific portions of a layer with opacity brushes.
Basically, to create photo-compositions, you can "crop" away unwanted areas around a figure to let the background image show through by removing opacity around the image by hand. Or you can just overlay a transluscent or "embossed" image on top of another image for a more computer-like textural effect. (Any weird visual montage in Reign of Toads #4 was probably created with Fauve Matisse.) When you save a file in Fauveís .MAT format, the individual layers are preserved so you can fool with them later. After messing around with the grayscale-only freeware version of Matisse (which works quite well for any b&w publishing project), I sprang for the color version, which is [Correction: was --Ed.] commonly available (at Egghead, for instance) for $99 or maybe $149 bundled with something else (like Kaiís Power Tools, which was the deal I got).
Matisse also offers an interesting selection of "brushes" which simulate different real-world art techniques and tools, but I donít use those much at all... though I had some luck with the Pointillist brush, which saved me a lot of the mouse-clicking manual stippling requires. Some tools are underdeveloped or just donít work (the Perspective tool being a prime example... try it on a circle and see what happens); and the sliders for various filters are annoyingly small and provide no way to avoid using them by simply entering a specific value from the keyboard. The most outstanding weird thing is the lack of an Eraser tool--the manual addresses this and tells you to simply paint with a white brush, but that means you have to get the color selector functioning and fool around with the brushes to find one that does the job satisfactorily (I prefer the Oil brush myself) before you can erase anything... which may be the wholistic approach, but I wouldnít mind a ready-to-rock Eraser tool for my less patient moments.
After using Matisse for a couple of years, the major drawbacks turned out to be: uninterruptible screen redraw, piss-poor and wasteful use of available memory (which can only partially be blamed on Windows 3.1), and many annoying little interface quirks that were never corrected. I put it to use for many a graphics project, but it was always a painful experience and I am now quite delighted to be using xRes instead. --K.S.
System requirements: 386 or higher (coprocessor recommended), 4 Mb RAM (NB: from personal experience, the minimum serious system is a 486 with 16 Mb), Windows 3.1 and higher only.