PaintTool SAI – A quick review

I’ve used Photoshop for many years now. I still have my copy of 7.0, but I also use CS5. There have been moments when I look at another person’s drawing and think, “How the Hell do they get their lines so smooth?!” The answer for a lot of digital comic artists is PaintTool SAI. So I picked it up and gave it a whirl.

The first thing to remember is that PaintTool SAI is based purely in digital drawing rather than graphic design as a whole. So it lacks a lot of the graphical manipulation tools that Photoshop has. But if you’re just doing digital painting, odds are you’re not using a lot of those tools anyway. And PaintTool SAI is only $65.00.

Upon installing, the biggest difference is the size. The entire program only requires about 512 MB of free space. That’s smaller than a feature length movie. And it boots up immediately without having to load a ton of graphical options.

PaintTool SAI is popular with Japanese comic artists. One thing it’s really got going for it is line art. It has a stabilizer ability that slows down and smooths out the motion of your hand. It’s a little awkward at first, but I found it to be really helpful. Here’s an example I did today…

PaintTool SAI also has a lot of the coloring capabilities of Photoshop, as it is tailored much more specifically for digital art. You can save any color for later use on a swatch board, so things like skin tones, hair color, and clothing can remain totally consistent for picture to picture. There are many different styles of coloring and shading, one of my favorite being the watercolor function. It basically adds a texture to the layer, and gives it a painted look. Here’s the same line art painted with this layer…


On one hand, SAI definitely has Photoshop beat for the price point. On the other, you don’t get as many features as you would with Adobe. Overall I really like PaintTool SAI, I recommend it for those who do a lot of digital illustration. But I still find myself needing to transfer things into Photoshop for tweaking every once in a while. You can check out PaintTool SAI for a 30 day free trial here.

2 thoughts on “PaintTool SAI – A quick review

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  2. DON’T BUY THIS PRODUCT! Free trial works fine, but the purchased product requires you to complete the installation on your own; the product does not self-install lke every other software I have ever downloaded. SAI support staff instructed me to do ths:
    > > > > – Let us know the path of your SAI’s program folder.
    > > > > (For example: “C:\tools\PaintToolSAI”)
    > > > >
    > > > > – Let us know “Link Target” of the shortcut of “PaintTool SAI Ver.1” on Desktop.
    > > > > (“Link Target” is written in property of shortcut)
    > > > >
    > > > > 1. Right click “PaintTool SAI Ver.1”.
    > > > > 2. Click “Property” on context menu.
    > > > > 3. See “Link Target”.
    > > > >
    > > > > – Let us know the current system ID of your PC.

    I followed the instructions, but my PC did not have the “Link Target” option, so the install never worked, and I was not given a refund.


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