Lightweight Vector Graphics with iDraw

We’ve discussed, on several occasions here on Mac.AppStorm, the niche of apps comprised of consumer-grade imaging and design software. It is still a fairly young app space with huge potential for hobbyists and part-time designers that may not have the funds (or the feature requirements) for the professional tools like those developed by Adobe.

I like to dabble a small bit (emphasis on “small”) in vector art, and with a brother who is a graphic designer by trade, I’ve had my time to play with the big guns like Illustrator. Not only is it way more firepower than I’ll ever need, but I’m also not willing to shell out the required cash for what amounts to a part time hobby for me. Today, I’ll take a look at iDraw, a vector drawing app by Indeeo with a more reasonable price tag and a less immensely overwhelming feature set for the small-timers like me.

Interface

First things first: I can’t say enough good things about the interface of iDraw. The tools are clean and easy to navigate, and they’re presented to you on a set of dark-colored palettes and toolbars. This makes the artboard and any color and contrast in your work really pop. Working in iDraw proved to be a very visually enjoyable experience.

The iDraw interface is dark, sleek and clean, not unlike Apple's own Aperture.

The iDraw interface is dark, sleek and clean, not unlike Apple’s own Aperture.

Now I very recently (as in, a few days ago) purchased a new MacBook Pro with Lion, so I may still be geeking out over full-screen apps. But aside from your general file commands, just about everything the app has to offer as far as creating and manipulating your work can be found on the toolbars to the left or the series of palettes that you can show/hide with ease. I found using iDraw in full screen mode exceptionally pleasant, allowing you to focus on your work and leave that menu bar hidden.

Fullscreen Mode

Fullscreen Mode

Tools & Functionality

iDraw has all of the standard functionality you’d expect from a graphics creation program. The rulers, artboard, layers manager, and object management tools are certainly all up to snuff. The pen tool, as one of the most crucial tools employed by a vector artist, is satisfactorily implemented in the app. Layers and grouping/arranging are powerful enough to give you convenient control over your objects without giving you a bunch of flow-breaking fine-tuning controls to worry about.

The palettes.

The palettes.

The palettes above are the extent of the floating windows in iDraw, and can be shown/hidden as needed, viewed individually, resized, and docked together. There is a bank for shapes can all be edited and saved for later use. This is handy, as the iDraw webpage points out, for mockups, such as a mockup of an iPhone app you might be working on.

iDraw has a powerful gradient editor, as well as all of the most useful pathfinding options for unifying, clipping, and creating compound paths. The brushes and styles banks are also editable and savable for later use, and, as expected, any brushes applied to paths maintain their malleability.

Flexibility

iDraw supports the import of several different image formats into your project–useful for tracing and text masking just to name a few. It also has adequately powerful dimensioning features. A useful tool for floor-planning, dimension lines append an auto-populated dimension bubble to the path.

Finally, and perhaps most usefully, iDraw plays well with others. It supports PDF and SVG as export formats, which means that (even if you’re using the iPad version) iDraw doesn’t have to be the only graphics editor you use. You can sketch something up here and then send it off to a heftier app, or you can even import it into another app altogether for use on a different project.

Conclusion

For those of us that remain classically un-trained in the art of graphic design, iDraw’s interface and easy-to-understand tools streamlines vector drawing without bombarding the user with complex information or finicky tools.

As I mentioned before, the writers here at Mac.AppStorm have tested and discussed many apps in this category of consumer-grade graphics. I have tried a great majority of them, and iDraw is without a doubt my favorite. Assuming they continue development and pay attention to the user feedback that they invite, I think that the folks at Indeeo have written an app that comfortably sits among the frontrunners in this market.

iDraw has a companion iPad app (which I haven’t tested) that appears to have much, if not all, of the same functionality as it’s desktop counterpart. The mobility an flexibility of iDraw give it the potential to find a permanent spot among users who have a requirement for an app like this.

Have you given iDraw a test drive? Let us know how you like it and how it stacks up compared to other vector drawing apps you’ve used.


Summary

A lightweight vector drawing app that lacks the complex bells and whistles (and price tag) of beefier apps like Illustrator.

9
  • Levi

    I wish there was a demo version I could try, to get a handle of just how different it is from Illustrator. I’ve been looking for an AI replacement for ages—Illustrator has been buggy, unstable and annoying to no end.

  • http://www.qualia.se Andreas

    Agree, it’s really bad not to offer a demo of such a program. I have recently been evaluating the similar vector drawing program Line Form in demo version and I like it a lot. It’s a very good lightweight replacement for AI and I’m very inclined to buy the full version ($79) when my trial period ends. Maybe if I had the opportunity to test iDraw, I would rather go with that one instead for less than half the price..

  • to

    No demoversion, no buy.

  • Jeffrey

    They can easily go with the Pixelmator model by offering a 30 days trial version on their website in addition to the MAS version. Hope someone from there listens.

  • Tim

    Yeah, definitely not going to buy graphics software without trying first unless it is released in a bundle package with other stuff.
    Also, not going to buy graphics software that uses the same ridiculous dashed stroke control as Illustrator. Take a look at how other software besides Adobe’s handle this.

  • Scott

    Another option for vector graphics with a downloadable trial is Sketch, for $40 on the App Store. Go here:
    http://www.bohemiancoding.com/sketch

    Also, see the App Storm review—a little dated now, but still good info—here:
    http://mac.appstorm.net/reviews/graphics/sketch-affordable-and-stylish-vector-drawing

    The developer is responsive and actively improving Sketch all the time and it has some unique features that even Illustrator lacks. I’ve adopted it as my vector illustration app for Graphic Design work before I turn to Illustrator because Adobe software really bogs down production. Sketch is very efficient. Give it a try. I wish I could try iDraw, but I’m going to try Line Form (thanks Andreas, I hadn’t heard of that one yet). Keep pressure on Adobe to fix their hideous interface and drop their absurd prices, if no other reason to try alternatives!!

  • http://twitter.com/@scottld3 Scott Danielson

    It seem like the biggest gripe you guys have is that there’s no demo version. I find this to be the case with a lot of Mac AppStore apps, since the system isn’t really built for it. I often think about this, so I’m curious: has anyone come up with what might be a good solution to this problem, provided developers (or Apple) would listen?

    • Ryan

      Many developers have the full app on the App Store and a demo version available on their own site.

  • Emerson Duran

    “Have you given iDraw a test drive?” .. where ??

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  • pavig

    As a long time illustrator user, I tried out the iDraw iPad app, just to have a tool for sketching out vector ideas. It was so powerful and useful that I bought the Mac version immediately. For basic vector work, it’s the best I’ve tried. (I’ve tried everything I could find with a demo.)

    The closest approximation I can think of to iDraw is Pixelmator. iDraw won’t replace illustrator, as pixelmator won’t replace photoshop. For 90% of jobs though (outside a pre-press context) it’s all you need. And the comparative simplicity of both apps, compared to their bigger cousins, is a strength rather than a weakness.

    The only alternative to iDraw I’ve found that suits my production workflow is Inkscape. That’s open source and free. Much more powerful than iDraw in some ways, but also clunky and somewhat baroque like illustrator. They both talk SVG though, so you can pass files back and forth.

  • Judy

    I just bought iDraw (even without the demo!) because now that I’ve taken on a volunteer role where I need to produce simple vector graphics, Photoshop Elements doesn’t cut the mustard.

    iDraw looks great. Unfortunately, there are no tutorials for the Mac, there are no instruction manuals, and there is no support forum. For a complete beginner at vector graphics like me, this is a disaster.

    I’ve managed to produce a very simple design by a combination of trial and error, and asking my programmer son – who was able to work out a few simple things for me – but every time I open it to try something new I get stuck. I get stuck on stupid, simple things like how to resize an image, how to select and subtract parts of the image (that are not in layers), and how to import an image to use with my design. And I get stuck because there is no real documentation.

    I need help, but unfortunately, there appears to be absolutely none available.

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