Decision: No Illustrator CS6 for now

I wanted to like Adobe Illustrator CS6. I really did. I’ve been looking for a vector drawing tool that could fit into my sketchnoting workflow. Illustrator CS6 handled my tablet PC’s pen input more smoothly than Inkscape did, creating neat curves while still letting me work with the tight circles I use for lettering. Vector-based drawing meant that I could resize and move things around easily. I liked using the Navigator to keep a bird’s eye view of the image while zooming in on details. I was excited by the possibilities of building my own symbol libraries so that I could drop in visual elements quickly.

But it keeps crashing on me, which is frustrating. Even though I’ve rigged up some AutoHotkey macros to make it easier to save (triggered by a foot pedal, no less!), I don’t want to deal with that kind of mental friction and re-work. So, no Illustrator CS6 yet, and by extension, probably no Creative Cloud subscription. It’s like the way I ended up ditching Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my Android tablet – it mostly works, except for when it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, it frustrates me.

I tried CorelDraw, too, but the eraser tool there doesn’t work the way I want it to. Artrage Studio Pro has a sticker library that might give me the ability to clip frequently-used images, but it’s not as responsive as Autodesk Sketchbook Pro is, so it’s a little frustrating too. Oh, well. I guess I’ll stick with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for another year, and maybe use Inkscape to trace my drawings if I need to resize them.

I trust things a little more if I have backup plans. For example, I’ve messed up with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my tablet PC. One time, I accidentally moved my layer instead of zooming it. Fortunately, I’ve gotten into the habit of using Camtasia Studio to record my screen during the drawing process, so it was easy to go back in time and reconstruct the missing parts. Still annoying, but at least that was more my fault than the program’s.

It’s a little frustrating investing time into learning something that didn’t pan out, but knowing that these tools aren’t a good fit for what I want to do is valuable information as well. I’ll keep an eye out for other things!

  • http://twitter.com/Behinder Sebastian Szwarc (@Behinder)

    Time for PC is over. Sacha , buy a Mac :)

  • http://twitter.com/sachac Sacha Chua (@sachac)

    Macs don’t support the tablet PC format yet, so no way! =)

  • Joel

    Maybe Autodesk will one day release the Sketchbook Ink application to other platforms (currently iPad only) for a vector-based sketch alternative.

    Regarding backup plans, have you explored any versioning utilities to take snapshots of files along the way to make it easier to roll back? I can’t recommend one myself, but I recall reading about something awhile back. The Mac people would name drop Time Machine. ;-)

    I’d love a tablet Mac which supports stylus. Of course, it should have an iPad mode to run all my iOS apps, too. Wasn’t there a Lenovo device that ran both Windows and an Android system between which you could switch?

    • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

      Someday! =) I’m looking forward to advances in both hardware and software. Exciting times!

  • Phil

    You should probably take a look at Xara’s vector illustration software. It’s changed its name a few times over the years, but currently goes by “Xara Photo & Graphic Designer” for the cheaper version, and “Xara Designer Pro” for the more expensive one. http://www.xara.com/uk/products/designer/

    I don’t have much need for an illustration package, so I’m several years behind the current release, but Xara’s product always used to compare extremely favourably with the competition in terms of speed, and consequently interactivity and efficiency of use. It was never as feature-rich as the likes of Illustrator, and I expect that’s still the case, but of course that’s only a disadvantage if you need the features.

    • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

      Phil: Thanks for the tip! I like Xara’s autosave and customizable toolbars, and I wish it were the tool for me too! I can use the push tool to pan, but zooming is a little awkward when I don’t have a keyboard handy. It doesn’t have a lasso tool, which can make on-the-fly adjustments of sketchnotes a little difficult. I can use a rectangular marquee if things are lined up, I can use a scribble selection (needs the Pro version), or failing that, I can use the mask – but all those options require a bit too much thinking at the moment, although maybe I can drill it into my muscle memory. Also, I seem to have to select all (or deselect all) before the erase tool will work as I expect it to, because shapes are selected after I draw them with a pen, and the eraser is limited to selected objects if something is selected. For the live sketchnoting scenario, I’ll probably stick with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my tablet PC.

      I’m curious about building a vector microstock business maybe two years from now, so that might be something for then. =) Thanks for the pointer!

  • http://gravatar.com/jasonjwells Jason John Wells

    Have you looked at Krita? Probably the best painting app for Linux and they recently released a Krita Sketch version for Windows tablets http://krita.org/item/124-krita-on-the-go-krita-sketch

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Krita looks interesting, but my drawings are way too jaggy. Do you know how to tweak this?