Macintosh drawing software compared

Below is a list of various drawing applications that are available to use with System 7 (68K).

I’m mostly interested in apps that can do both pixel and vector, and that support layers and transparency. The table below might be useful for at-a-glance comparisons. Apps run in both mono or colour, unless stated otherwise.

Deneba artWORKS can do both pixel and vector, has layers and partial transparency. The bottom layer is opaque and all layers on top are transparent. Collections of pixels are managed as a special object, and there’s a limit of 8 layers. The user interface is brilliant.

SuperPaint has two layers: pixel and vector with transparency in all but the base layer. Though it allows cut/copy and paste from the pixel layer to the vector layer at which point those collections of pixels are managed as SuperBits objects and can be edited in isolation.ref

Freehand is king of the vector apps. It really was so much better than Illustrator. Such a shame that it’s no longer around. To use it on iPad is quite something!

Also interesting is how many early versions of successful apps didn’t support layers (Photoshop, Freehand) or full transparency (Photoshop).

One small disappointment: Macromedia Fireworks requires the PPC architecture so won’t run on my iPad System 7 setup. Sad face.

APP PIXEL VECTOR LAYERS TRANSP. NOTES
artWORKS Many layers, many objects
Canvas Many layers, many objects
ClarisDraw   Pixel drawing within specific objects only
Cricket Draw        
Draw It Again Sam      
Drawing Table        
Expression      
Freehand 1.0–2.0     Layers not managed visually
Freehand 3.1–5.5      
Illustrator 88–3.0        
ImageStudio 0.6       Custom brushes
LightningPaint        
MacDraw Pro      
MacPaint        
MacroPaint     Transparent patterns
Photoshop 1.0–2.5        
Photoshop 3.0   Full alpha channel transparency
PixelPaint        
ShareDraw      
Studio/1       Animation, 1-bit
Studio/8       Animation, 8-bit
SuperPaint Two layers, many objects
UltraPaint Eight layers, many objects
Zeus       Animation

Key: ● full support, ○ partial support

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Comments: @gingerbeardman