Apple started a revolution in the graphic design industry way back in the mid-1980s with MacPaint. MacPaint? Surely I’m not comparing MacPaint to Photoshop, right? No. But MacPaint inspired digital graphic design and pointed to the future.
MacPaint was a black and white app that ran on a 9-inch display, so it might be difficult to understand how it spawned an entire industry of design and media tools, but it did. Apple kept MacPaint around a few years, even gave it a price tag which probably didn’t help sales.
What if MacPaint had lived? Would it be Photoshop? Or, something else? Let’s go with something else and call it Krita, an open-source painting tool that works much like MacPaint in the 21st century.
That’s not what MacPaint looked like. Ever. But Photoshop circa 2016 doesn’t look like Photoshop from a decade ago, either. The charcoal user interface makes Krita appear more professional, despite the open-source background and the price of free.
Like Photoshop and other modern graphic design tools, Krita’s interface can be moved around on screen to suit your own workspace, and shortcuts are user definable. Brushes have a built-in stabilizer to smooth out your drawings and brush strokes. Even advanced features like drag and mass are built in to the brushes.
Colors are managed in a 21st century way, too, with a pop-up color palette with a unique ring which also displays recently used colors.
Most paint, drawing, and graphic design tools I’ve used have brushes, and a paint-specific app should have a good set. Krita does. There are nine unique brush engines, and each one has customizable settings. Examples include a shape engine, a filter engine, a color smudge engine, and others, and each can be saved and reused quickly with Krita’s tagging system.
Krita contains an interesting resource manager which lets you import brush and texture packs from other Krita users. And, of course, The app can open PSD files, runs full layers and masks, and can save back to PSD if you need to share or edit on Photoshop or other design tools.
To be honest, I’m impressed, even more so by the free and open-source status, but the quality of the tools. Krita is not Photoshop Lite, and doesn’t have all the tools you will find in Affinity or GraphicConverter, but it’s perfect for an entry level app, and good for those who dabble but have a tight budget.