NOTE: They have other options, so if you want something cheaper or to do something more specific, they likely have something for you.
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The Best Illustration Software
I’m often asked what software I use for my book production and/or artwork and illustrations. I’ve tried various things, including some of the most popular and widely-used programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. I’ve also tried the free stuff, like Gimp.
There were three problems I had with all of them.
- They tend to crash. NO FUN when you have worked for however many minutes, then it all goes POOF! in an instant, and it’s gone, baby, gone. If you’re an artist-type, like I am, you get into a zone, or flow, and work is going smoothly, and the next thing you know, you look up, and several hours have gone by. Unless you remember to save your work every minute or so, you can lose a LOT of effort. I got tired of that.
- They are slow. You have to click on this, or use a command, then change your color, click okay, wait a while until it processes, and THEN you can see how your new color looks. Meanwhile, there is global warming, my stomach is growling, I have a deadline to meet…enough!
- They are hard to figure out. I’m NOT a computer type. I cannot even figure out Facebook, which is why I am so rarely on it! So trying to learn how to do something as simple as add some text or change its color, drives me nuts. And I DON’T CARE if you have a pdf manual available. If I cannot figure out which term you are using for whatever it is I want to do, I’ll never find it!
Then, somehow…it’s been years, so I do not remember…I found Xara. It’s a company in the UK, which makes a lot of us “across the pond” a bit hesitant to want to even try. But all I had to do was see a few introductory videos, and I knew that was my answer. See for yourself:
This intro video is from an older version, but the way you do things is exactly the same. See how easy? The toolbar is formatted a bit differently these days but is still easy to use.
This is a vector-based program, like Adobe Illustrator, which means it uses shapes, rather than pixels, like Photoshop or Painter do. Think of it as using cut-out pieces of tissue paper collaged together and on top of one another, to make your picture. Painter and Photoshop are more like drawing with paints, which can mix together at the molecule level.
Photo Resizing is Easy
One tremendous use for this program is that you can import a photo and then make it huge, and it will not get blurrier, like it will in those other programs. If that alone is not worth looking into it, I don’t know what is!
Here’s how to make stuff change size:
It’s super versatile
I use it as software for illustrating children’s books, to do book layout, newsletters, and you can use it to design web pages, too. Of course, it’s perfect for just making illustrations, too. And with every new version, they add more and more features comparable to Photoshop. This Xara Designer Pro version 9 has the ability to cut out backgrounds, and magically erase parts of pictures you don’t want, like that dang telephone pole in the middle of an otherwise gorgeous natural landscape.
Like this: Even I can do that!!
What about support?
It’s great! I’ve had to call and speak to them for help, and email them, with no problems. Even better, there is an international online forum. I post all my questions there if I don’t know how to do something, and get an answer within 24 hours, and most of the time, within an hour or two.
You CAN turn off the pen so that you can draw lines like cartoons, you CAN get immediate results when you make changes, you CAN easily shrink or enlarge anything and everything with this amazing program. I think the reason it’s so little used is that not too many people know about it. And colleges teach only those other “major” programs, which don’t work nearly as easily or well, in my opinion.
Are you still on the fence?
How about a free trial? And guess what…it’s a FRACTION of the price of the other stuff.
Check it out and decide for yourself.
When you get to the site, click on the videos tab up at the top to see other features.