When it comes to graphic designers, tools matter. What if you’re a budding graphic designer and you’re on a budget that is so restrictive that buying or renting anything from Adobe just isn’t in the immediate future?
You need these six Mac graphic tools– the best of the rest. While I use Adobe Creative Suite, I’m turned off by the need to rent future versions by the month, so the first thing you’ll notice about my list is that you can still create great designs without an Adobe app.
Best of the Rest
My experience tells me that graphic designers who use the Mac are a discriminating bunch. Yes, Photoshop and Illustrator are the basic standards of the industry, but money matters these days.
So, I posed this question to myself. ‘If I could no longer afford Adobe’s products what would I use instead?‘
One trip to the Mac App Store and you’ll have plenty of choices to produce good designs with less money.
Some are utilities, others are full fledged apps, and collectively you’ll get nearly the same capability as in Creative Suite at a fraction of the cost.
First up on the list is one of my all time favorite Mac apps. It’s one that’s always open and never fails.
xScope: This is the ultimate pixel measuring tool that combines a loupe, guides, frames, rulers, dimensions, and screens. I’ve not met a professional graphic designer who doesn’t have and use xScope.
GraphicConverter: Nearly as valuable but with even more capability is GraphicConverter. If there’s a negative, it’s the still clumsy interface, but that’s forgiven because the app does so much. Think of it as a Swiss Army Knife graphic tool that batch converts almost any kind of file (opens over 200, and saves to over 80).
Pixelmator: If you’re intimidated by Photoshop’s complexity, learning curve, and expense, try Pixelmator. This image editor looks and feels like Photoshop with powerful drawing and retouching tools, over 150 filters and effects, and even opens and saves Photoshop files with layers. CMYK support would make it perfect.
ColorSchemerStudio: Everyone needs a color wheel and plenty are available on the web, but nothing quite compares to ColorSchemer Studio. Not only do you get more color wheels than you’ll find online or in other apps, ColorSchemer Studio lets you save palettes of colors, pull color palettes from images or photos, and it plays nice-nice with RGB and CMYK.
ArtText: Fontography is a good way to create unique designs using fonts on your Mac and ArtText is the de facto standard for font art. It comes with customizable templates for headings, buttons, logos, icons, and more, including hundreds of vector images which blend in well with fills, strokes, textures, and a few hundred materials. It’s a must have to make quick work of font art.
Sketch, iDraw, and Acorn: OK, I’m cheating. To balance Pixelmator you’ll need an app that does vector graphics similar to Illustrator. All three of these lean in that direction, though not as capable or complex as Adobe’s offering. Acorn may be the most familiar and it’s been around for years but also combines image editing and vector tools. Sketch has more drawing tools but keeps most tools in a single window, and it exports CSS styles. A new favorite is iDraw. Think of it as Pixelmator with vector drawing tools, shape libraries, layers, brushes and pencils and pens and much more.
All of these apps combined will be less expensive than Photoshop or Illustrator, and with an easier learning curve. What’s missing? A font manager. I’ve just never found a font manager I like, even after trying half a dozen. Got one I should look at?