I found myself wanting to make a quick sketch to get an idea out of my mind, while I got on with something else. I could have gone and got my Moleskine, but it’s nearly full and I didn’t want to start a new project in there. I could have opened up GIMP, but it’s a bit hefty to open up every time I want to make a quick sketch. So I went on the hunt and found some interesting-looking pieces of software.
Only a few of these suit my “quick sketch” purpose, but some I already had bookmarked and some I’d never seen, so I thought I’d share them anyway. These programs are all free, or relatively inexpensive (they’re free unless stated otherwise). They’re all useful, innovative or have potential to be.
GIMP is great. As if you haven’t heard me say that before! It’s free and very powerful. What it doesn’t have that the rest of the programs on this list have is running natively on OS X: it runs under X11. Hoping they will bring out an X11-free version soon.
Acorn is a newish image editing program that uses layers, filters, gradients, text and selection tools. It costs $49.95 with a demo (from memory the demo doesn’t save images, or it watermarks them). Definitely worth a look if you don’t need the million features in Photoshop, and don’t want to spend the money.
Pixelmator is also relatively recent. It’s very attractive, if you like the dark window thing. It’s got everything you want: brushes, erasers, selects, layers, layer masks; and some stuff you didn’t know you want: colour tools, curves, levels, brightness/contrast adjustment. It costs $59 and is pretty nice; worth a play with the demo.
Chocoflop is one I hadn’t seen before today. It looks a bit lighter in features than Acorn, but has an impressive sounding live filter feature; effects can be applied directly to the image or kept as a layer (more flexible, able to be removed). This program is very young, so it probably has a fair bit of growing to do. At the moment it costs €14.99, but can be used for free if you answer a simple maths question every time you save!
Seashore looks a lot simpler than Acorn or Chocoflop, but that can be a good thing if you just want to crop, resize, fill in a background, delete a background… stuff like that. It looks like it uses some OS X built in software, like Color Picker, and it uses layers.
Paintbrush essentially looks like Paint for Mac. Very simple paint, flood fill, eraser, shapes.
Scribbles is the sort of thing I wanted today. Simple, clean, scribble down what you want and be on your way. It has some cool features: layers, “infinite canvas” — you can just keep drawing out the edge of your page… it costs $19.95, which seems pretty good. Most Moleskines cost more than that in Australia.
Update 28 May 2008: I’ve had a play with this one. It’s quite nice, the tools are pretty intuitive. It looks like you can keep using the demo until you decide to pay for it and it will ask you to register every time you open it.
Cocopad, similar to Scribbles in simplicity. It lets you draw without a whole bunch of stuff in the way. It is also versatile, allowing you to draw on top of images, on a grid, over lines. It’s free, so I’ll be trying this one to do that quick sketch I wanted to do 3 hours ago!
Sketchbox is way innovative! It’s sticky notes with typing, sketching and rearranging. I like the look of it a lot.
Update 28 May 2008: I had a chance to play with this program a bit. I liked it, but you can’t save your stickies. It seems to keep them as-is when you close the program, which is really good; you don’t lose your notes. It would be nice if you could save them into different projects too — it could be great for organising ideas and workflow.
Inkscape is open source vector software. I use it; it’s great. It has lots of options and is continually improving. I highly recommend it!
DrawBerry looks like a nice, simple vector drawing program. It’s free and based on Apple technology. The website doesn’t say much more than that, but it looks like a good “investment”.
Draw It looks pretty cool. Vector, layers, masks, clean Mac interface… it costs €29, but you can get Draw It Lite for free (no masks, plugins or some other things that I’ve never used when vector drawing).
Blender is probably the most powerful free 3D software around. It has a steep learning curve, but I think it’s worth it.
Art of Illusion is also free. It probably has a more friendly and intuitive interface than Blender, but I’m not sure that it’s as powerful or effective (I may be wrong, I’ve only used it briefly).
Doozla might not be for you, but if you have kids it looks like a very cool way to get them into digital graphics. Colouring in without the messy paint and crayons — not that crayons aren’t cool too! Doozla isn’t free, but for $24.95 it’s hardly an expensive children’s toy.
Tux Paint is award winning and free (and open source!). It has big bright buttons, not very Mac-like, but probably great for kids. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
MacOSaiX creates a mosaic of one source image from other images in iPhoto, Flickr, Google, or folders on your computer.
Metapixel doesn’t have much information on the website, but the results look quite good.
Have you used any of these? How did you like them? What imaging software do you love?