Cheaper (much, I hope) substitute for Illustrator?

Pretty much what the subject says: I’m hoping to find a paint program somewhat similar to Illustrator but that costs a great deal less. (For my 12 year old niece who will be staying with us for the summer – I have no artistic abilities.)

I realize such a program would not have anywhere the same level of abilities, but surely there’s something with basic ‘pick a color’, ‘pick a paintbrush size’ and so forth which you can use to paint/draw original art?

I stress: drawing from scratch, not manipulating photos or graphics. And the art should be resizeable, which I think means NOT .bmp’s, yes?

Try Jasc Paint Shop Pro. A graphic designer recommended it to me. I think I paid something like $50-$70 for my copy a few years ago. I think there may be a trail/demo download at the Jasc Web site.

I don’t think Paint Shop Pro has any vector artwork capabilities, which is what you want if you want scalable. There aren’t a ton of options out there, but CorelDraw is probably the cheapest.

You might look for used versions of Macromedia Freehand or Illustrator on eBay. Freehand has been pretty solid for many years, and any version of Illustrator from 7.0 onward will work well for you. These can be found in the $30-50 range on eBay much of the time.

The GIMP is free and is similar to Illustrator.

      • PSP (7) can open most any file, but can only save them if copied and pasted to a rasterized layer. Mine says it will only save EMF and WMF files as actual vector files.
  • I don’t know that this is of great importance, the actual vector-aspect of things. I’m betting that any “drawing” program will do…?

No, the GIMP is similar to Photoshop, not to Illustrator.

The OP is looking for a vector drawing program. Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, and the GIMP are for raster graphics.

If you want something free, Inkscape seems to be a good program, though I haven’t used the Windows port. Sodipodi also claims to have a Windows version. Granted these aren’t as sophisticated as CorelDraw or Illustrator would be, but it seems that your needs are comparatively basic.

      • I wouldn’t recommend GIMP as it is pretty baffling to use, and it doesn’t include instructions. At least last time I downloaded/installed it, it didn’t…

  • Also StarvingButStrong, there are some things which are not allowed to be openly discussed here. So for those things, you need to have email messages enabled. Or else some things won’t get discussed… :wink:

They make a reduced version of Corel Draw for about $80 that is probably what you want. It’s a vector drawing program that can import bitmaps for overlays and such. I use paintshop Pro 9 but there is no substitute for vector graphics when you need them.

Unfortunately you can only get a working demo of full blown corel draw but a’m going to give the “essentials” version for my own work.

No. Paint programs like Paintshop and Photoshop are primarily geared toward bitmap drawings though they have limited vector drawing abilities. Vector programs such as illustrator and Corel Draw create objects as spline curve/line drawings that can be scaled up as large as you want without ever getting jagged pixels as you would with a scaled bitmap.

You can purchase the academic license for Adobe Illustrator for $100.

Thank you all for the suggestions!

I think you’re right that we don’t need great sophication – it’s for a 12 year old, afterall. The only thing I know for sure is that Jen’s mother said she was extremely disappointed when it came time to print or use her artwork which she’d done in, um, PaintShopPro I think it was. The drawings printed way, way too small, and when she tried to enlarge them they were all jagged. She was told this would happen with any bitmap type program, and it was suggested the kid ‘needed’ Illustrator. Well, I’m NOT going to pay almost as much as I paid for the whole computer for a program for a kid to use for a couple of months.

I will start from the cheapest and work up, as in, I will look into Inkscape and Sodipodi first, see what eBay has to offer, then look into that simplified version of CorelDraw.

However, enrolling in college just to get the discount on Illustrator is right out. :wink:

I can understand that you might not want to spend a hundred bucks, but don’t discount Illustrator simply because she’s not in college. As far as I can tell, the Adobe academic licensing price is available to students and faculty of K-12 schools, so as long as the niece is in school, she’s qualified.

      • While this is technically true, you could get around it by just starting with a big canvas size–like 5000 x 7000 pixels. This guarantees that if anything, you would need to reduce the size to print it, rather than enlarge anything. …Illustrator is a totally-different technique than Paint Shop Pro; in Paint Shop Pro you “paint”, while in Illustrator you define shapes by outlining them. A young one used to PSP would be rather dissapointed with a vector-drawing program, quite possibly. And Paint Shop Pro can do EMF and WMF (vector/meta) formats just fine. Also email me.

This works but is also quite resource intensive and can bog down a computer that doesn’t have sufficient CPU and RAM.

FWIW I decided to get my own copy of Corel Essentials this evening since my wife had a rush job she needed for her business. Overall it has all the elements I need from an illustration program without all the fluff that might just be distracting. It noticably lacks an automatic outline tracing feature but to be honest I never liked how it worked anyway. I’m glad I didn’t spend the money on full blown Corel since I think it would be wasted and overall the combination of Corel Essentials and Paintshop Pro 9 give me the most bang for the buck.

I’ve spent a couple hours reading docs at Corel and Adobe, and I’d already started to wonder about that – from what her mother said, it sounded like what she was doing was closer to ‘real’ drawing – as in, pick a brush, pick a color, and make some strokes. And, just as you say, it looks to me (on short investigation) that both Illustrator and Corel Draw are ‘make a shape’ and pour them full of color. Which is a valid way of producing art, I guess, but way different.

However…I noticed there’s a program called “Corel Painter9” which DOES sound very much like what she was doing. Also pricey, but maybe I can find an older version being sold on eBay or whatever. Unless anyone has heard awful things about it?

What about ‘Freehand’ – I haven’t gone to its site yet, but a friend said it might be closer to what I need.
BTW, I did send you an email (to the address in your profile) about 7pm. It hasn’t bounced so far… If it doesn’t make it, my email is now in my profile.

It has long seemed to me that vector applications like Illustrator are useful in proportion to the user’s artistic ability, whereas raster applications like Photoshop are not (or perhaps still are, but less so). That is, Illustrator is more the domain of “real” artists, while Photoshop is accessible for both artists and non-artists. So if your niece is really a talented artist she may be exceptionally comfortable with a vector application, but if not it is likely to be worth nothing at all to her.

However, I’m not an artist or a graphic designer so I am likely to be completely wrong about this.

If you want to pick a paintbrush and make art, a paint program is what you want. Draw programs like Illustrator and so forth are too complicated and overkill.

The problem is that what looks acceptable onscreen doesn’t look good printed out. Screen resolution typically wants 72 dpi, print resolution is about 300 dpi. So if you have paint program that you can set that at (most of them) set the image size to however many inches wide and tall you want by 300 dpi. Then use the option to fit that all onscreen and paint to your heart’s content. If you want to do touch up on small parts, zoom in so only a part of the entire image takes up more room on screen.

Then when you go to print you want have the jaggies.

      • Well okay 5000 x 7000 is a bit high, try around 2400 x 3300 pixels canvas. A 24-bit PNG-format with random spray-paint scribbles saves at about 13 megs, not big at all for PC work. Paint Shop Pro is “limited” to artwork files that are smaller than your computer’s RAM (it does not use a scratch disk or virtual RAM) but you see–most PC’s now have 256 megs, many have 512 or more megs, so 13 megs is really pretty manageable. …It is too big to email or post online, but for that you’d make a copy and reduce the copy’s size, as well as save it as a jpeg.
  • Also, for doing riginal freehand artwork (where raster is acceptable), I much prefer Paint Shop Pro to Photoshop. Photoshop’s painting tools are still vector-path-based, and so they don’t really apply evenly–such as if you try to hand-paint a gradient between two colors, you tend to get a bunch of bands of slightly-different colors, where you made the paint tool strokes. Paint Shop Pro’s tools are raster-based, and they “work right” when you paint with them; the spray-paint tool applies like real spray-paint would.

To use a program like Painter at all effectively, you should also look into getting a pen tablet.

I think it’s a little narrow to say that a “real artist” would use either only a vector tool or a raster tool. Both take skill to produce good work and each is more appropriate depending on the context of the work and often both may be used together. I do not consider myself an artists but I need and use both tools. I don’t do heavy photo manipulation for the most part but I couldn’t get by without a raster tool like Paintshop to do my photo adjustments and retouching. Generally my goal is to make work look it hasn’t been retouched. Same goes for vector tools. Some artwork is much better done in a vector tool.

I’m still getting the feel for my Wacom tablet but it is much easier to work precisely with it than with a mouse or trackball.