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Barco Creator

Barco Creator was an image manipulation program targeted at the repro and print shop markets. It was developed by the Creative Systems (later Graphics) division of the Barco Group from 1988 to the late 1990s, and ran on several generations of Silicon Graphics computers. Barco (later Esko) ColorTone for Windows NT is considered its successor.


Up until the late 1980s digital retouching depended on specialized hardware such as the Quantel Paintbox. Barco Creator was one of the first products to break the mold by running on multi-purpose SGI workstations instead. Originally targeted at the "high end", Creator evolved into a slightly more mid-market alternative with the "personal"-edition running on the Indy. Still the price was in the $10k to $100k range depending on options, and additional hardware was sometimes needed to speed up specific operations. While Creator could rely on superior features and performance to justify its price through the mid 1990s, it became increasingly clear that each new Photoshop version made the Barco package harder to sell. In the end Creator was abandoned, like many of its conteporaries; Dalim Tango, Linotype-Hell DaVinci and Alias Eclipse. Its spiritual successor, known as Esko ColorTone, is still available.


Software modules

Creator was set up to be a modular system, tailored to the specific needs of each "shop" or user. The base for version 7.0 for example was the "CT-Brix" software library (colour selection, basic compositing, selection, transformation, shapes, basic colour correction, densitometer, layers etc.), also featured in other Barco Graphics CT (continuous tone) products, e.g. ColorTone. On top of this Creator added the "Creative functions" libraries (special effect filters; mosaic, emboss, b/w, warp etc.), "basic brush" module (size, thickness, shapes, styles, pressure sensitivity), "advanced brush" module (brush profiles, textures), "basic colour correction" module (gradation correction, pick mixer, plane mixer, colour mixer), "advanced colour correction" module (chain all of the basic correction tools, batch corrections, instant preview) and finally the "auto mask" module.

Optional software modules included "PrintView" (preview a given CMYK printing process), "BlackSmith" (modify CMYK files to reduce ink usage, better print quality) and "InkSwitch" (convert CMYK into special ink separations for packaging printing).

Barco ColorTone adds an "Image quality estimator" module (evaluate if an image is printable according to certain quality parameters), but lacks several of the other Creator modules.

Using the "Brix Organizer" software it was possible to group CT-Brix modules into "sessions" customised for the current workflow. One could for example disable both colour correction and the creative functions/filters, giving the operator an interface more focused on painting.

File formats

As of Barco Creator 7 support for foreign (non-Barco) file formats depended on a dedicated software "interface". Interfaces for TIFF and EPS/DCS were standard. Several other file formats were supported, but had to be custom ordered.



Creator originally ran on Silicon Graphics Power Series computers with one or more processors. By 1993 "Personal Creator" was available for the Indigo, while the "full" Power Creator ran on a Crimson. Later releases were available for the Indy, Indigo2, 02 and Octane computers. It is unknown if Creator will run on the later Octane2, Fuel and Tezro workstations with VPro graphics.

Due to its high end focus Barco developed several dedicated hardware options to speed up Creator.

For the Power Series and Crimson Barco originally supplied a "Colcom/VME" colour computer board. This was replaced in early 1993 with the more powerful "Chameleon" board, featuring a custom ASIC for real-time colour transformations. Its main purpose was displaying CMYK colours on the (RGB) monitor quickly, not speeding up the final colour conversion operation itself. After version 7.0 the Chameleon was also used for accelerating certain colour correction operations.

For the release of Creator 6 Barco also added a Brush-accelerator board that made retouching with large brushes on files of several hundred megabytes possible.

Turnkey workstations were additionally supplied with a Wacom tablet, a Barco Reference Calibrator self-calibrating monitor and SCSI RAID storage, though stripped down versions were also available.

Input was usually from high-end scanners, i.e. the Itek 310-I. From the Indigo/Crimson versions the Howtek D4000 (4000dpi) drum scanner was usually offered as an option. Version 7 supported both the D4000 and the D7500 (5000dpi) scanner.

Release history

Version Hardware O/S Release date Price Significant changes (selected)
Creator "1.0" ? IRIX 3.X? Fall 1988 ?

Creator CD, SP, SPX and MP Personal Iris (CD)?, Power Series (SP, SPX and MP)? IRIX 3.X? 1990 ?

  • RGB only

Repro Creator Power Series, later Crimson IRIX 4.X? 1992 $155.000 incl Crimson

  • CMYK via Colorcom/VME board

Personal Creator Indigo, 64MB RAM IRIX 5.X? 1993 $25.000

  • RGB only
  • CMYK "Repro" version available w/96MB RAM, conversion done entirely in software

Power Creator Crimson, 128MB RAM IRIX 5.X? 1993 ?

  • RGB only
  • CMYK "Repro" version available w/Chameleon board

Creator 6.0 ? IRIX 5.X? January 1995 ?

  • Introduction of the Brush Accelerator board
  • Intelligent/Automated trapping

Creator 7.0 Indy and Indigo2, except R8000 IRIX 5.3 28/06/96 (CD1375C), 09/07/96 (CD1377C) ?

  • X Window-based GUI
  • Tool bar with icons for the main tools
  • Line art module is based on a subset of Barco Strike!
  • Typesetting based on the Barco Strike! text engine
  • Unlimited amount of image and mask layers
  • Maximum brush size doubled, now 512 pixels. Faster brush drawing. Brush Accelerator is supported.
  • As of 09/07/96 IRIX 6.2 not supported, testing ongoing.

Creator 7.1 Indigo2 R10000, O2, Octane IRIX 5.3, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4 15/12/97 (CD1488C) ?

  • Higher performance overall. Between 1.5 and 4 times faster, depending on the operation.
  • Menus snap to each other
  • It is possible to control the behaviour of the Wacom tablet
  • Balloon help

Creator 7.2 Octane IRIX 6.5 08/04/99 (CD1546C) ? ?


Barco Creator was discontinued in the late 1990s, and was not picked up by Purup-Eskofot after it purchased the Graphics division of Barco. Neither Barco nor Esko have the ability to issue new licenses anymore. As Creator was only available in single nodelocked licenses, one would need to buy an original system with the license included to have a "full legal version".


See also

External links

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