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Macintosh Graphics Software : Are We There Yet?

Macintosh Graphics Software

January 12, 2008 · Posted in graphics, Tools 

Macintosh computers ship with an astonishing array of incredibly useful media software. The iLife suite (iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, iTunes and iWeb, GarageBand) provides wonderful tools for creating and publishing media files across a variety of platforms. (Why a musician would buy any computer that did not ship with GarageBand is beyond me.) Intel-based laptops have been shipping with the incomparable Comic Life for quite some time. Even the viewer application Preview has excellent tools for cropping, resizing and adjusting photo a range of color parameters for photos.

It strikes me a strange, then, that Macintosh–the platform that included the wonderful MacPaint and MacDraw applications from its first incarnation–does not ship with simple drawing and painting software. This omission is particularly problematic in K-12 education. Kids love to draw, and their illustrations often form essential elements in their stories. Schools with limited budgets must often overlook drawing and painting applications in order to acquire word processing and spreadsheet software. What’s a third grader to do?

Fortunately, there are some solutions that fill the gap nicely. In this post, I’m going to concentrate on freeware applications that are usable by even elementary students. (I’m saving higher-end programs such as GIMP–a full-featured PhotoShop alternative–that are too complex for younger students for a future post.)

Seashore
Picture 1Seashore is a free painting program with a surprisingly strong array of tools. All the expected tools are there–paint brush (with lots of options), eraser, pencil, fill bucket, magic wand (for selecting colors) and marquee tools for selecting areas of your painting. There’s also a smudge tool for blending colors and a PhotoShop-like clone (rubber stamp) tool. You can control the transparency of your paintings and even paint with a large variety of included textures. For more advanced artists, you can add layers and manage red, green, and blue color channels.

Tools are easy to select and understand even for younger students. It’s a fine all-around painting program that should be on every K-12 Mac.

Image Tricks
seashoreIf your graphics needs run more toward the photo processing side, consider Image Tricks from BeLight Software. Image Tricks uses the Mac’s built-in Quartz imaging tools to create an easy and fun to use photo editing environment. You can open or paste in photos or scanned images from any source (a handy link to iPhoto is available) and alter them to your heart’s content. Apply filters, change colors, rotate and distort images, crop and resize photos, and save in jpg, png, tif, gif, and even pdf formats. The Masks feature lets you apply borders and frames to your images. All filters can be easily tweaked to create beautiful and unusual effects. The tools are easily accessible and encourage experimentation and exploration.

Mac users already have powerful photo editing tools in iPhoto and Preview. But Image Tricks has some new and exciting capabilities that expand the possibilities for working with photos. And–it’s tons of fun.

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