Is it the tool? Or, is it the artist? If you use your Mac to make money, then you know that success is probably a little of both. How much of each?
I was impressed by the story of Bob Staake, a talented, successful artist, a devout Photoshop user. That’s Photoshop 3.0. Photoshop as in about 15 years ago. Is it the tool, or the artist?
As I read his story—a long time Photoshop user who upgraded his Macs but not his Photoshop, yet became very successful—I wondered, “Can you do more for less?”
Even 15 years ago Photoshop was an expensive product and today ranks as the standard of the graphic design industry with a price tag to prove it. I have Creative Suite CS3, and have given thought to upgrading, for about $600, to CS4.
Now, I’m asking myself, “Why bother? Can I do what I do for much less?” Actually, it doesn’t take much effort to find a number of Mac applications which will do a professional job for nearly any graphic project for less.
Of course, there’s those pesky issues of talent and ability and experience. Still, if less is more for Bob Staake, can I do more for less? With less talent?
After all, just having Photoshop or Illustrator or Fireworks on your Mac won’t make you a graphic design guru, right?
My search for inexpensive yet highly professional and usable tools started with Picturesque. Why? Fancy, high quality results, low price, easy to use. No talent required.
Picturesque takes digital photos, adds reflections, shadows, glows, strokes, curves, and more with just a few clicks and a slider bar here and there. Photoshop not required.
CS4 is not all Photoshop. There’s also vector drawing with Illustrator and Fireworks, both staples in the art and web design community.
For even more ease of use, there’s Flying Meat’s Acorn, a handy Mac graphic tool which is more of an image editor.
Substantially less expensive than Photoshop, though much prettier, very capable, and inspiring for those of us basing a career on inspiration rather than talent, is the highly acclaimed Pixelmator, at a fraction of what Adobe charges for upgrades.
If you like tools, palettes, filters, effects, and low cost, and you have some talent and experience to add to the mix, Pixelmator becomes a poor man’s Photoshop.
Nearly every graphic design pro I know uses Photoshop or Illustrator. They also use Graphic Converter, the Swiss Army knife of graphic utilities.
GC does so much that it’s easier to count the features it doesn’t have, like an intuitive interface for those of us who want to be designers, don’t have the money for a college course in Photoshop, let alone the license fees.
One thing that always impressed me about Illustrator designers was their ability to create vector art text—customized fonts; words that were art. If you can’t afford Illustrator, and don’t have the requisite talent to use it, try Art Text.
This is the quintessential Mac utility to make text become art with point and click simplicity, no talent, taste, or experience required. You don’t even have to be a good speller. Art Text is perfect for custom headings, buttons, icons, logos all from text elements.
See? For far less than the upgrade price to Adobe CS4, you can have more file conversion tools, vector design tools, text manipulation tools, and digital photo presentation tools than you ever imagined.
If Bob Staake can make a living using Photoshop 3 from nearly 15 years ago, how good can you get with modern Mac tools that are inexpensive, yet very capable—even if you’re not much of a graphic designer?
What are your non-Adobe tools of choice for graphic design? Share your experience in the Comments section below.