Pixelmator (and Acorn)

At some point, you want to get started doing photo editing, composition, or even original digital art – definitely more than you can do in Picasa or iPhoto – but you don’t want to shell out $600 or more on a current or recent version of Photoshop (the acknowledged standard for professionals). Fortunately there are options. Pixelmator and Acorn.

Both of these programs are fast, effective, powerful enough for anything short of a “pro” workflow, and most of all, because they don’t have all of the pro features, cheap. Both also use automator scripting to do repetitive or batch processing. 

Pixelmator looks and feels more like photoshop, with floating palettes for tools, color selection, etc.. Acorn tries to get it all done in one tools window with options that change based on the current tool in use. Acorn also lets you do some very basic editing with a restricted feature set after the trial is over.

The choice is more a matter of personal style, but both are solid products I can highly recommend. 


Blender is a 3D modeling, animation, and rendering program with capabilities bordering on the professional (and certainly with features I only wish I had in my Lightwave 7/8 days) that is, nevertheless, absolutely free.

Yes, free. And it runs on a Mac, on Windows, and in Linux. 

Will you get a big career in 3D animation using Blender? Probably not, even if it was used for animatics in Spiderman2. What it will let you do, though, is learn the basics of building models, creating surfaces and textures, and animating your creations without spending thousands of dollars for Modo, Lightwave, 3DSMax, or Maya. I think the “free” price tag (compared to the thousands Lightwave cost when I bought it) and its inherent capabilities combines with the opportunity learn the thought process of 3D modeling more than make up for the learning curve of a new set of tools once you decide that you wish to pursue it further.