Freeware: Creature House Expression 3.3

Freeware: Creature House Expression 3.3

Creature House Expression 3.3 is desktop software best described as ‘vector illustration tools meets natural media’. Apparently made by a Japanese team working with a funder in what was then British Hong Kong. Now freeware, since Microsoft purchased it way back when. Still works fine. I spotted it in a 2022 video by Benjamin Morse, a pro comic-book artist. “What’s that, kind of looks like SAI?” I wondered. I found out.

Great, so it’s good genuine freeware, formerly sold for $100. In which case it’s worth spending 30 minutes making a collection of links for it.

Creature House Expression 3.3 installer download at This is the free version Microsoft gave away after they purchased the company. Confirmed working on Windows 7, 8.1, Windows 10 Compatibility mode.

Creature House Expression 3 user manual as a PDF. No dark mode. Customisable shortcuts. Not an especially loveable UI, but it’s all logical and documented and SAI users will feel at home.

Annie Ford’s structured tutorial lessons, with exercises, for Creature House Expression 3, as a single .PDF file extracted from the Wayback Machine. Often recommended alongside the manual.

Creature House Expression 3 review in PCMag UK.

you paint just as you would with a pixel-based program, but each stroke you lay down is at root a vector line, which can be reshaped at any time … Expression puts enormous power at your disposal

Expression 3 review in Digital Arts magazine.

the real star remains the final rendering [of vector] to bitmap formats at virtually any size and resolution: Expression 3 doesn’t rush this task, and the result is always well worth the wait.

Expression 3 review in CreativePro.

an indispensable addition to any graphic design toolkit

In Microsoft’s hands it later became a buggy Microsoft Acrylic beta with a key former developer at the helm. It wasn’t great. Then briefly it was Expression Graphic Designer, then Microsoft Expression Design. They had to break it apart and try to harness it to Microsoft’s framework-of-the-month and fly-by-night file formats, of course. And then removed non-Microsoft formats. All of which took away much of the charm and functionality. But at least it got a nice dark mode. Expression Design 4 was the last of the Microsoft run, and Microsoft also then made it freeware. It loads the same strokes (brushes) as 3.3 but now stores them at C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Expression\Design\Strokes There’s a YouTube playlist for it.

As for 3.3:

File format: saves to .XPR files.

Stroke (brush) format: .SKS files, copy free brushes to C:\ProgramData\Creature House\Expression 3\Strokes

Plugins: .8Bi format.

Import: Adobe Illustrator .AI, Windows metafile, and bitmaps including .PSD.

Output: Illustrator (apparently version 9), .EPS, .PDF files. Can still save to Flash .SWF vector, though this doesn’t appear to be the type needed for Reallusion’s Cartoon Animator props.

Not many free .SKS brushes around now, though in 2020 Doug S. claimed to have a stash of hundreds. Though a Frill set is still live and free.

Also a nice free Water stroke.

And shipped as standard, things like a set of vector watercolours…

It can also do vectorisation of imported bitmaps, in a very basic way. But I had no success at all on simple line-art rendered from Poser. It always made a total mess of it in my tests, and so did its successor Expression Design 4. It can work with Vector Magic, though if you want to vectorise and creatively transform lineart from Poser then Synthetik Studio Artist 5.5.5 is worth a look (though it’s expensive).

2 thoughts on “Freeware: Creature House Expression 3.3

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s