30+ Genuinely Useful Mac Apps for Designers

It’s hard to believe that we’re coming up on a year since the Mac App Store was first announced. It seems like only yesterday we were itching to get our hands on a marketplace full of great utilities, games and other goodies all custom tailored to the Mac platform.

While categories like Games took off dramatically right from the start, the offerings for designers and developers got off to a much slower start and are just now starting to really take off. Below is a collection of over thirty useful Mac App Store apps for designers. I’ve intentionally left out obvious favorites like Pixelmator and tried to keep the list more towards hidden gems that you may not have tried yet. Take a look!

Measuring

Sizewise

Sizewise helps you quickly test your designs on a number of resolutions. You can enter in your own size or use one of the built-in presets. Sizewise can simulate a menubar, Dock, and desktop to provide a realistic replica of what users will see.

Price: $4.99

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Sizewise

xScope

There are lots of tools that allow you to measure things on your screen but xScope easily stands out as one of the best. The on screen rulers can measure items, grab the distance between two items, span multiple monitors and even measure rotation. It’s a little pricey but justifiably so as it provides a lot more functionality than many of its competitors.

Price: $29.99

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xScope

Guideliner

In addition to measuring objects on the screen, this app allows you to drag guides out over any content similar to how you would in Photoshop. There are some nice customization features as well.

Price: $19.99

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Guideliner

Pixelstick

Pixelstick is much cheaper than the two previous options and has a pretty unique interface that helps you quickly grab distances and angles or copy colors to your clipboard.

Price: $6.99

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Pixelstick

Art Director’s Toolkit

Art Director’s Toolkit took the idea of a standard screen ruler and expanded it with a number of other utilities such as character palettes, fractions/decimal converters, color tools, and scaling calculators. Art Director’s Toolkit has been around for a number of years and is definitely a top-notch tool for designers of all kinds.

Price: $19.99

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Art Director's Toolkit

Design

Aurora 3D Maker

If you’re not into 3D modeling, it can be difficult to successfully generate accurate three dimensional graphics. Anyone can use Aurora 3D Maker to easily create extruded text, logos and more, rotate them in 3D space and apply different colors, textures and lighting setups.

Price: $29.99

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Aurora 3D Maker

ExportTools Professional

ExportTools Professional is a super powerful exporting tool for InDesign and QuarkXPress that allows you to quickly transform multiple documents into multi-page PDFs. You can also have Exportools Professional periodically scan a watched folder where you move or copy files. Every time a scan is performed, new files will be automatically added to the queue ready for processing.

Price: $99.99

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ExportTools Professional

Templates for Pages

This isn’t so much an app as it is a collection of 250 extra templates for Pages. If you’re not quite at the level of designing from scratch in Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign, Pages provides a great entry-level alternative. This set of templates will expand your options and provide great starting points for posters, brochures and more.

Price: $16.99

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Templates for Pages

Scopeworks

This one is a silly and fun utility for generating kaleidoscope images and animations. However, the results are often fairly interesting patterns that any designer could definitely find some legitimate uses for!

Price: $7.99

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Scopeworks

Icon Slate

Creating icon files can be a pain, this tool lets you easily compose, import or export icons in many formats : Apple icns, Microsoft ico, CandyBar iContainer, image (png or tiff). You can drag in multiple images, customize your background color, even view a quick preview in the dock!

Price: $4.99

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Icon Slate

Branch Designer

Every designer loves some good organic graphics, but they can be a little tricky and time consuming to pull off, especially if you’re a beginner. Branch Designer gives you the tools you need to generate custom branch graphics. The user defines the main trunk using a vector path, the offshoots and the leaves are then generated according to a set of parameters, that can easily be changed.

Price: $19.99

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Branch Designer

Prototypes

This is a really great little tool for anyone designing for iOS. You can turn your still mockup images from Photoshop, Illustrator or Fireworks into a tappable prototype that runs on iPhone or iPod Touch. There’s no coding required, just drag and drop to build your test app workflows.

Price: $39.99

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Prototypes

Page Layers

This is a fantastic little tool that allows you to enter a URL, the contents of which will then be converted to a full-layered Photoshop file. Page Layers renders every element on the whole page to a separate, transparent layer. It’s sort of like a PSD to HTML tool in reverse!

Price: $11.99

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Page Layers

VectorPro Color

VectorPro Color is an affordable autotracing tool that transforms bitmap images into high quality, scaleable vector files. This version allows you to trace black and white, grayscale and even color images, adjusting the number of colors used along the way.

Price: $19.99

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VectorPro Color

PSD Localizer

If you’ve ever worked with designers from other countries then you know that localizing a Photoshop file can be quite the process. This app claims to automatically convert the file so that any text automatically appears in the language indicated.

Price: $4.99

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PSD Localizer

Patterno

Patterno helps you create attractive patterns that tile seamlessly and therefore make perfect backgrounds for websites and other projects. The simple but effective toolset makes it easy for anyone to create tiling backgrounds by compiling multiple graphics files. Just choose your resources, adjust the parameters and you’re ready to go.

Price: $19.99

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Patterno

iArt Pro

iArt Pro is a sharp looking, super simple graphics editor for Mac. It’s a good starter app for anyone looking to do extremely basic photo editing, drawing or painting. The toolset is pretty standard and will provide a decent stepping stone to work your way up to something much larger like Photoshop.

Price: $7.99

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iArt Pro

Griddle

Griddle is a custom grid generator that can be used for all types of design work. You can adjust all kinds of settings including the size, origin, number of lines, line color and more. The resulting file has a transparent background so you can easily toss it on top of whatever you’re working on.

Price: $1.99

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Griddle

Artboard

Artboard is an impressive vector editing application with all kinds of powerful features: layers, built-in styles and clipart, bezier drawing and editing, pen tablet support, text to outlines conversion, masking and a lot more.

Price: $25.99

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Artboard

Layers

This app is just like Page Layers above but instead of capturing the items from a web page, it captures every item on your screen and outputs a layered PSD. This is extremely useful for designing custom screen mockups.

Price: $24.99

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Layers

Developer

Sprite Monkey

When creating a web design, many designers and developers prefer to combine multiple images into a single document, which can then be essentially cropped via CSS to be placed as all the various individual images. This little tool will help you quickly compile your images into a single sprite sheet. Just select a folder of png images and then select what you want to save it as.

Price: $2.99

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Sprite Monkey

Hype

With the recent popularity of CSS3 and HTML5, web animation has reached an entirely new era. With Hype you can create complex, beautiful HTML5 animations in a user friendly WYSIWYG environment that saves you hours of coding time and frustration.

Price: $29.99

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Hype

Fonts & Typography

Fontographer

Fontographer is a serious professional application for font designers. With it you’ll have access to a full suite of tools that will help you create new fonts from scratch, customize and add to existing fonts or even fix issues with poorly constructed fonts. If you’re looking to get into custom typeface design, this is an awesome place to start.

Price: $399.99

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Fontographer

Fontcase

In the world of font managers, OS X’s built-in Font Book utility ranks pretty low and leaves many professional designers feeling less than impressed. Fontcase is one attractive and functional alternative that has become quite popular in recent years. The strength here is in the interface, which provides beautiful font previews and even tagging so you can quickly and easily find the font you want and move on. I’ve heard that some Lion users are experiencing some issues, but I’m sure the developers will have it patched up in no time.

Price: $29.99

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Fontcase

Glyphs

Glyphs is a slightly more affordable alternative to Fontagrapher above. It has many of the same features, including the ability to create custom fonts or edit existing fonts. The interface looks pretty slick and definitely packs a major punch of functionality.

Price: $299.99

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Glyphs

Font Catalog Creator

If you’ve got a million different fonts, and every designer does, it can be difficult to sort through them, keep them organized, or offer your clients a few choice selections. With this handy utility you can create awesome printable catalogs of your entire font library. You’ll love the ability to physically browse through your fonts and see them in a new light.

Price: $19.99

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Font Catalog Creator

Art Text 2

Art Text 2 is a tool that helps you convert plain boring text into impressive logos, banners and the like. The interface is based on preset styles and shapes so you’ll be creating awesome pieces of art in only a few clicks. The results vary from super cheesy to fairly stunning, it’s all in who is using it!

Price: $19.99

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Art Text 2

Color

Colors

A simple but effective little color loupe that helps you capture any color on your screen and copy it to your clipboard.

Price: $2.99

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Colors

ColorChooser

ColorChooser is a menu bar utility that helps you create and grab colors. You can select colors using the standard built-in Mac OS X color pickers, or use the magnifying glass tool to pick up a color from your screen. You can then copy and paste the color using a number of different supported formats.

Price: $3.99

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ColorChooser

ColorPalette

Rather than grabbing individual colors from your screen, ColorPalette helps you build attractive color schemes by using a popular designer’s trick that involves sampling colors from a photograph (which tend to have very nature palettes). Simply drop in a photo, tweak the settings and it will be reduced to a basic grid of colors.

Price: $1.99

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ColorPalette

ColorSnapper

ColorSnapper is another menu bar color grabber app, this time with a few cool tricks like a global keyboard shortcut and the ability to see recently grabbed colors.

Price: $4.99

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ColorSnapper

Pochade

One last menu bar color utility, this one with a unique UI and some powerful features like building custom collections of colors for quick access. If you’re a serious color fan, this may be your best bet.

Price: $9.99

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Pochade

Image Compression/Conversion

JPEG4Web

Need to optimize a big batch of JPGs for web use? JPEG4Web has you covered. It allows you to compress, resize, crop and add watermarks to your images. It also includes live preview and final file size information.

Price: $9.99

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JPEG4Web

ConvertIt

This little utility makes for lightning fast conversion of images into one of eight formats: PNG, JPEG, TIFF, PDF, GIF, ICNS, BMP, ICO. Just drag a group of images to the ConvertIt icon, choose the file type and you’re done.

Price: $0.99

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ConvertIt

Imagexy Batch Photo Resizer

Imagexy Batch Photo Resizer handles really large image sizing batches with ease. Throw thousands of images at it and just watch it work. You can even resize psd’s in addition to the typical jpg, gif, png and pdf.

Price: $9.99

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Imagexy Batch Photo Resizer

Snap Converter

A super simple drag and drop file converter. Convert bitmap graphics, Mac and Windows icons, Camera RAW images, Photoshop documents, and many other formats. You can even create multi-image Mac icon files from a single image.

Price: $4.99

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Snap Converter

PNGPress

To be honest, I don’t usually give much thought to my file size for web projects if I’m using JPGs, but as soon as I start bringing PNGs into the picture then I definitely seek to keep things as small as possible. This app will help you make your PNGs as tiny as possible for web use.

Price: $0.99

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PNGPress

RightClickImages

This one is a unique spin on image conversion. You simply right click on an image or folder of images and choose between the popular format choices, the app then jumps into action and performs its task. Quick, easy and intuitive!

Price: $4.99

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RightClickImages

Tell Us Your Favorites!

Now that you’ve seen our list of awesomely useful Mac apps for designers, leave a comment below and tell us about your favorites that aren’t listed. Are there any apps that you’re surprised haven’t made it to the Mac App Store yet?

While you’re at it, let us know which of the apps above you’ve tried and what you thought of them. I’d love to hear about your experiences with each.


  • to

    You missed Slammer, my favorite measuring tool.
    http://ringce.com/slammer

  • http://airgroom.com Airgroom

    Surprised to not see Dwarf on this list, lightweight and free measuring tool.
    Also, ImageOptim, image compression with excellent support for both jpg and png, free!

  • http://enrique-ramirez.com Enrique Ramírez

    ImageOptim is the perfect tool for compressing image files. Free, reliable and supports most formats:

    http://imageoptim.pornel.net/

    For color, I really like ColorSchemer:

    http://www.colourlovers.com/blog/2009/12/01/colorschemer-studio-2-for-mac-colourlovers

    Really nice list. Will give a try to a couple of these.

    • to

      Oh, yes – ColorSchemer!

      • Sigilist

        Yes, ImageOptim is THE clean up tool for images.

    • Thomas W.

      Oh yes ColorSchemer is the best color tools! I love it.

    • JEVLON

      ColorSchemer is the best IMO.

  • http://www.thehouseofomni.com Rockin

    From my experiences I’d stay well away from Fontcase! It’s slow, buggy and a very disappointing app. I’m part of a small design business and we purchased a 5 seat licence (v01). Unfortunately it drove everyone up the wall and we ended up changing to the more expensive, but excellent FontExplorer.

    • Sigilist

      Agreed about Fontcase, it is not good at all. We went the same way as you mentioned.

      Also, Glyphs is equally buggy in some cases, and overpriced as well compared to what Fontographer can do

  • http://www.attitudedesign.co.uk/ Attitude Design Portfolio

    Brilliant collection – thanks for posting. Prototypes and Glyphs look brilliant…

  • http://rodrigosoares.me Rodrigo

    Great list. +1 for ColorSchemer

    I started to test the Gradient app to create css gradient. http://www.gradientapp.com/ it’s looking very promising.

    One more png compressor app that I use all the time http://www.shpakovski.com/png-compressor/

  • Peter

    I can’t believe you left out Dropbox ( http://db.tt/Hfh3VwC ). I use it all the time, be it to have access to additional files when I’m somewhere meeting with a client, or to collaborate with other creative people on a project.

    For instance, you can set up an InDesign/InCopy workflow within a Dropbox shared folder. Works great for small teams, no more need for a complicated Server and a VPN setup.

    • http://www.moosedesign.com MooseDesign

      He said he was “leaving off obvious favorites” in favor of “hidden gems”. Dropbox may indeed be a gem, but its certainly obvious and hardly hidden.

  • http://www.thisislevelup.com Level Up, Glasgow

    Surprised to see so many Colour picking tools when there is one which ships with your Mac: /Applications/Utilities/DigitalColor Meter.app

  • http://www.racecar.no Franck

    I actually find Adobe Kuler very usefull sometimes. Especially when I make my own color palets and then have access to them in all the other softwares I use. Not only does it make palets from photos, it also helps you choose complimentary colors and there is a big community sharing their palets.

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  • Laszlo

    Sort of a random question, but does anyone recognize the wallpaper in the Convert.It screenshot? Its quite lovely.

  • Thomas W.

    I nice similar app for Patterno is Seamless Studio Pro.
    http://www.colourlovers.com/seamless-studio

  • http://www.angelobeltran.com/blog Angelo Beltran

    This is an awesome list. Thanks for sharing the awesomeness.

  • http://www.logoblog.org Nora Reed

    Resourceful apps for Mac. i am using Mac for 2 years and working on graphics in it, really not aware about these apps. Some of these apps in the list are useful for me. Nice share

  • Hitleron

    This is the shit list … except Fontographer.

  • http://macsoftwarereviews.wordpress.com Panah Neshati

    What about Img2icns and IconBox? Glad you included Pochade, I couldn’t live without it. But it could be replaced by DigitalColor Meter…and I could write something like Colors. A lot of apps on here do the same thing (choosing colors, etc).

  • http://www.maartenvangent.nl Maarten van Gent

    Why use Icon Slate when every Mac comes with Icon Composer? It’s on Developers part of the OS X installation.

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  • http://www.tradeshack.ca TradeShack

    A very pleasant surprise to know about these apps and really appreciate your contribution here to bring awareness about some useful stuffs here. Thanks to you to share these apps with us.

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  • JohnG

    You’re forgetting Stock Keeper: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/40025/stock-keeper

    • http://phatstaxx.com/ Meghan

      Thanks John for bring this

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  • Dannie

    Am a long time user of Mac. But, need on VERY VERY basic paint and draw, like Apple Works that I can use it on my new LION. I don’t do anything high tech or photos. Is there good software that will do what I need. PLEASE HELP !
    Thanks

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  • http://www.geekersmagazine.com/2013/02/28/best-photo-editor-for-mac/ Photo editor for mac

    I am a big fan of pixelmator and aperture 3. They offer almost everything that you do with your with your pics. Ohh yeah, how can I forget GIMP, it is another best thing that even not ask you to spend a single penny. Thanks Joshua for your other suggestions, your reviews about ‘em are quite impressive. Would love to try ‘em out.

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