DrawIt – power of Photoshop in non-destructive form

15 Jul 2010

DrawIt made house

I should have written something about DrawIt long time ago, as this small but powerful non-destructive vector based bitmap design tool really deserves the attention.

DrawIt was created and is maintained by its author Pieter Omvlee. While doing initial design of this application Pieter asked for help French designer Laurent Baumann (working now for Apple). Pieter’s skills and Laurent’s talent joint together created something extraordinary, the great UI of DrawIt made from scratch to give you an ability to quickly create web/bitmap designs with vector tools and stack of effects. I will not get into details here, as you can find few good articles about DrawIt over the Internet, but I will rather describe little experiment of mine I have made today and try to answer the question if DrawIt can be good Photoshop replacement for icon and web design.

Since lately I was forced to use Photoshop, I decided to give DrawIt a try and recreate one of outstanding Photoshop tutorial icons using DrawIt. My choice went for Basic House Icon from PSDTuts+ site. You can see the result of my work above and you can download the DrawIt source file here.

First of all DrawIt is non-destructive vector based program. Which means you can always revise any step and decision you have made during design process. The idea is based on shapes and effects applied onto them, something you could find in Macromedia Fireworks, Freehand (RiP) or Adobe Photoshop‘s layer’s effects.

Photoshop Layer With Effects Photoshop Layer With Effects

As seen on many Photoshop icon design tutorials, the starting point is a path filled with some gradient or simply filled with black color. Then most of the folks apply effects created out of the path’s filling. The effects panel used all over again unfortunately is buried in Layers panel and requires extra interaction to pop it up.

In my opinion this really makes me wonder what made Photoshop to be considered better than Macromedia Fireworks or Illustrator for icon design when you are working constantly applying effect, closing and opening Effects window which is simply uncomfortable.

*DrawIt* Effect Stack DrawIt Effect Stack

Here in DrawIt it is much easier to set effects for particular shape. First of all you are working only shapes, so you can always touch and redefine the shape’s shape using vector tools, while Photoshop it takes a bit more to redefine layer’s path, also when you did some manual touch to the layer then redefining its path will kill your modifications.

Also DrawIt effects may be applied in random user’s defined order. You can also double same effect, disable and reenable them on fly.

Photoshop’s touch to the image

There’s one thing that you can do in Photoshop but you can’t in vector based programs. It is some human touch to the color or shade using tools like burn, dodge. Such a “touch” can sometimes drastically improve overall effect. Unfortunately this is impossible simply using DrawIt, as everything is an object here, so dodging particular area of an object is simply impossible.

Nevertheless there is always alternative ways to achieve same effect as you would get using hand drawing Photoshop tools in DrawIt. You just need “think vector”. Sometimes experimenting with various settings can result with amazing overall look of an object.

DrawIt’s perfection killed by some flaws

Unfortunately some minor but longstanding bugs are flies in the DrawIt’s ointment. Undo/redo is the basic thing you expect to work well in any program. It does work well in Photoshop, TextMate, iWork, but NOT in DrawIt, that tends to forget some actions in its undo chain, which makes unpleasant surprise when playing with effects.

Another thing that makes you suffer it a way you change colors of gradients and other various objects, sometimes you need to click few times to make DrawIt change the color of selected property. Again, color panel tends to forget what it was attached to, especially when you change switch objects Color panel is still on screen but attached to nothing.

Resizing objects can be very painful too. First, changing objects height makes it change its vertical position, this isn’t right! Second, trying to resize the document with all objects usually leads to misplacement of those objects.

Finally vector (shape) editing mode deserves more polish, as sometimes you may get crazy if you want to delete several points (no way to drag/select few points), or if you move the point out of the canvas you cannot control it anymore its handle disappears (clipped by canvas rectangle), while you expect shape’s vector handles should be visible outside of the canvas too.

Is it worth a price?

DrawIt is absolutely worth its price and I would glad pay for it again if those few annoying bugs were removed. The author is a very kind nice young fellow willing to listen for the new ideas for his project. One of such ideas is slicing functionality that is probably a result IM chat I did with the author while ago.

However peeking recently into author’s blog it seems he is more focused on his other applications – too bad, but that’s life – you are working on something that gives you best revenue, which may be not DrawIt in this case.

What about Photoshop? In my opinion it is definitely NOT worth a price if you want just an icon design software. I really regret all competing software producers such as Corel, ACD, Xara dropped support for Mac OS X, leaving us in hands of Adobe. Thank God there is DrawIt (and maybe Vectordesigner ;P).

Posted in Design, Mac