Paint Tool SAI Review

I’ve been hearing good things about Paint Tool SAI on DeviantArt for a while now, so I decided to get off my lazy ass and actually give it a try. I shall now proceed to enlighten you on this amazing program.

First off, Paint Tool SAI is on par with OpenCanvas (another amazing digital painting program) in terms of size and ease of use. Significantly smaller than our mainstream digital media program, Adobe Photoshop, SAI is only around 6 MB, enabling those less-endowed computer junkies to draw digitally without lagging the hell out of their computers. When I used to use Photoshop, any picture over the size of 5 x 6 in would render my brush strokes into choppy segments of fail, which made drawing on Photoshop not unlike watching a stop motion sequence of, well, me drawing. Which made me very sad. On the other hand, SAI has proven its capacity of handling A4 size pictures without missing a beat. Of course, SAI doesn’t boast the digital enhancement tools  found in Photoshop, but as it is aimed mainly at artists rather than photo manipulators and photographer, the tools and brushes it offers surpasses any other program of similar size.

Speaking of brushes, the sensitivity and customizability offered by SAI is pretty much unsurpassed. Their brushes have amazing sensitivity and would probably make any tablet user very very happy for at least a few hours (until they realize they actually have to sit their butt down and draw something for that to actually be significant. Yes, I’m talking from personal experience).  These brushes also let users incorporate textures into their strokes while at the same time simulating the feel of natural brushes.  For example, when red and blue and painted near each other, the border automatically becomes a mix of varying shades of purple, an effect that is still yet to be seen in Photoshop.

Another program some people might compare SAI to is Corel’s Painter X. While both programs simulate natural media, SAI surpasses Painter in terms of size and usability. As a former Painter user, I noticed that while their water color brush was quite similar to SAI in terms of blending and sensitivity, they seemed to insist that simulated natural media meant everything from paper grain to dry streaks. Consequently, most of the stuff drawn with Painter X had ugly water streaks (which I for the life of me could not find how to disable) and paper grains, making smooth coloring pretty much impossible. And in their effort to make the program as close to real media as possible, every time I closed the file to work on it at a later time, the pervious layers would “dry up”, rendering  any new layers as hideous PS burn effects. Seriously, if I wanted that much natural effect, I’d just have resorted to using real brushes *pout*. Back on topic, SAI’s brushes renders a lot smoother than Painter, and unlike the former, the pen tip shape actually changes depending on pressure. Consequently, users are able to transition from thin to thick in one stroke without having to manually adjust any settings.

SAI is now my new favorite coloring program (with OpenCanvas at a close second). While OpenCanvas is a pretty awesome program already (and free in older version!), it often desaturates colors when the blend tool is used, while SAI keeps everything nice and bright.  On a random note though, many users keep version 1 of OpenCanvas for its paint chat utility, so that is an option to keep in mind.

The official SAI has been released in Feb. 2008 and just recently, Systemax have launched an English version of their site. The program is free to try for 31 days (which you can check out here), after which the license will expire and you’ll need to purchase the full product for 60 USD. The price is quite reasonable considering the advantages that SAI provides, and if you’d like some more info before making a decision, check out SAI’s own wiki page for moar win.

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