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Painting & Drawing on Mac OS X

I'm running into some pointless frustration trying to put together simple illustrations for a talk I'm going to be giving. The software I have access to is simply too powerful for the task. I'm using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to knock out simple technical illustrations. The crapware paint program that comes with powerpoint is too crapware for the task, but the learning curve required for Illustrator and Photoshop isn't worth climbing for tasks I'll be doing maybe once every couple of months.

Back in the early nineties there was a program for the Mac called SuperPaint. It hit the spot exactly. It had a drawing layer (vector based), a painting layer (pixel based), and the ability to copy stuff from drawing to painting layers. There was a modest selection of tools, an intuitive interface, and a trivial learning curve. I can't believe that such a program doesn't still exist somewhere, but I can't seem to find it. It's such a basic and useful thing that someone has to be making it. There's no reason there should be a large gap between kiddie-style drawing programs and the full fledged professional graphical design software. I can't be the only person who occasionally needs to put together a simple illustration that looks halfway decent.

If anyone in out there knows of a suitable program, please let me know about it, either in email or comments.

[update a few minutes later] Of coursee, as soon as I post this I discover how to do something in Illustrator that I'd been assured was impossible, by people who use the program almost daily. It occurs to me that a lot of high powered software would be made vastly more usable by have a Beginners Mode, or Simple Mode, in which much of the more sophisticated functionality was pushed into the background. My Illustrator learning curve is made considerably worse just due to the sheer number of menus and options I have to dig through to find what I'm looking for. We have this problem at the lab with ProE (CAD software) - the guy who really knew how to use it left, and now we have a detailed set of drawings of the machine that we can't really work with because nobody has the time to learn the ins and outs. If ProE had a Beginners Mode we could just dive in and and at least get some basic use out of the drawings.

Posted by Andrew Case at June 19, 2004 10:01 AM
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The problem with Illustrator, and to some extent Photoshop is that many commands are hidden behind ctrl. option and apple keys.
Corel Draw has had Mac versions ( has ver. 11), and is easier to find the commands to do what you want to do.

Canvas is another program that combines both vector and raster image editing.

Superpaint I think was bought by Aldus, which merged with Adobe.....

Posted by jayrtfm at June 19, 2004 11:08 AM

You may want to look at Paint Shop Pro by JASC. I think they have a Mac version. I would call it intermediate level.

They used to have a free downloadable older version on their website.


Posted by Rich at June 19, 2004 01:09 PM

Ooops, my bad. Paint Shop Pro is Windows based.

Please disregard previous post.


Posted by Rich at June 19, 2004 01:26 PM

Omnigraffle is a pretty good drawing program, I use the professional version and it does everything I need of it.

Posted by Tony at June 19, 2004 03:51 PM

Omnigraffle is a pretty good drawing program, I use the professional version and it does everything I need of it.

Posted by Tony at June 19, 2004 03:53 PM

I don't know if you have time for tutorials, but here's a site that will run you through the basics of Illustrator. They have 19 video tutorials which you could view in about 2 hours.

Posted by B.Brewer at June 19, 2004 05:35 PM

Talking about bringing back memories--Canvas was one of the original combined vector/paint programs for consumers, introduced for the Mac in 1989 or so. (Web search: 1987) I think I've got the floppies for Canvas 1.0 around here somewhere... I hadn't realized Canvas or Deneba still existed... Hmmm, looks like they've been acquired by ACD Systems (of ACDSee fame).

Posted by Sam at June 19, 2004 05:35 PM

Thanks for the comments and pointers. I'll check out the tutorial and Canvas. Incidentally, my solution to exactly this problem for the PCs in the lab was to buy Paint Shop Pro :-)

It seems to me that in due course a lot of this kind of nonprofessional level software will end up being in Java apps you can run remotely over the web. In fact, a freind of mine was working in that direction back when the Internet bubble was going great guns. Never went anywhere, but I think the idea has merit.

Posted by Andrew Case at June 19, 2004 05:52 PM

I learned most of what I needed to know about ProE in an afternoon when I was in high school. It's really a pretty intuitive software with well laid out menus.

Posted by Matthew at June 19, 2004 05:55 PM

I'll second OmniGraffle.

Posted by Al at June 20, 2004 12:15 AM

>>lot of this kind of nonprofessional level software will end up being in Java apps you can run remotely over the web.

For any complex image editing you want to do it locally. (Club Photo, Ofoto etc. do offer web based editing to do simple things, internet lag is annoying)
What I can see happening (especially if I can get venture capital :-) is a service where you upload your image, and an artist in India/Thailand or??? would follow your instructions as you watch in realtime.

Posted by jayrtfm at June 20, 2004 12:39 AM

ConceptDraw is fantastic

Posted by Jeff Medcalf at June 20, 2004 10:32 AM

xfig is what you want.

Native under X11-based systems. For the
MAC here's a Java implementation that may work:

Posted by plum bob at June 20, 2004 03:50 PM

Have a look at GraphicConverter

This deceptively named program is really a Photoshop Lite, and it can also convert between every graphics format under the sun and the moon.

Posted by Former Belgian at June 21, 2004 01:39 PM

Ohmygosh this is embarrassing, but as a longtime Mac user (currently OS 10.3) I've always liked the combo of ClarisWorks (now AppleWorks) painting and drawing modules, with the screen-capture abilities of SnapzPro (from SnapzProX has a nifty drop shadow which you can append to any capture on the fly, which I use occasionally on my site.

In fact, every graphic I use on my site has its origins in those two programs. (Yes, I'm ignoring your giggles.) Here's one I made out of three separate elements. (I find using Snapz to grab a little rectangular region, sent to the clipboard, then pasted into the paint module, to be very easy and efficient.)

Posted by chett at June 21, 2004 07:23 PM

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