Paint for Mac: Learn how to Discover the Free, Hidden Paint App

Since time immemorial (aka 1985), Windows has always shipped one basic image-editing program: Paint. There is no native equivalent for macOS, regardless of whether you are using the latest or an older version. Apple removed MacPaint a long time ago.

However, Apple's standard app for opening images, PDFs, and other files – called Preview – comes close. Microsoft Paint is not mirrored, but it does have some editing tools such as drawing, adding text, and inserting shapes. Most people don't know these features are there because they are hiding behind a button they never want to click.

Note that Previewing doesn't allow you to create new graphics from scratch like Microsoft Paint – there's no blank canvas. These tools are used for annotating and highlighting photos and other files rather than creating new artwork.

Read on to find out how you can enable the Hidden Painting Features on your Mac. We'll also explain how to use the built-in tools. If you're looking for something a little easier, we're going to look at replacing colors that you can download.

Note: The following screenshots are based on MacOS Big Sur. All functions are still the same, but the appearance is slightly different. We also used macOS in dark mode and a fluffy kitten.

Find the hidden tools in the preview

Use the Finder to find the image that you want to edit in the preview. If the picture is only visible in the Photos app, right-click the photo, choose Edit With from the pop-up menu, and then click Preview.

With the Preview app open, click the button that looks like the tip of a pen inside a circle. As shown below, it's immediately to the left of the search box. This button displays the markup toolbar.

Kevin Parrish / Digital Trends

If you just want to quickly draw on your picture, click the pencil icon and bring it up. Changes are saved over time. So if you want to keep the original image intact, make a copy of the image you want to edit before dipping it.

The other tools should be pretty obvious if you've ever used an image editing app. However, read on for a quick overview of each tool, starting from the left.

Cursor tools

Selection Tools is the first tool on the left. It controls which mode your cursor is in with four individual options.

Here you can select a part of the image to be moved or edited. There is the standard rectangle for selecting an area and an elliptical selection tool. Two additional lasso tools stick to shapes when you select an area.

MacOS Preview Rectangular selectionKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

Next, you can click an area of ​​the image with the Instant Alpha tool to magically select an entire area of ​​a similar color.

You can draw freehand using the sketch tool. If you just want to quickly draw something on your existing picture, Sketch is exactly what you want. The preview even cleans up your sketch automatically.

For example, if you try to draw a circle freehand, the application will automatically smooth the curve. A rough circle like this …

MacOS Preview Sketch Tool RawKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

… Smoothes quickly as shown below. If you don't like the correction, you will see an option to delete it in the lower left corner.

Fixed MacOS Preview Sketch Tool
Note that Sketch is different from Draw in that it automatically corrects lines unless you choose otherwise. Draw doesn't do that. Sketch also doesn't register different line widths. When drawing, however, a Force Touch trackpad is used to capture different stroke widths.

Insert shape and edit tools

The next group of buttons mainly relates to adding certain shapes and text. It also includes the ability to resize photos.

MacOS preview create shapeKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

The Shapes tool lets you add shapes – rectangles, circles, balloons, and stars – directly to an image.

There is also a magnifying function called "Magnifying Glass" that allows you to enlarge something in particular. Adjust the overall size with the blue handle and the magnification with the green handle.

MacOS Preview Loupe ToolKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

The text tool inserts a text box in the center of your image. You can type in whatever you want and then move the text box where you want.

Fonts and colors are selected using the Text Style tool on the right side of the toolbar. You can set the font, size, color, and alignment of the current text field or the next text field.

Add text to macOS previewKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

You can insert a previously saved signature with the signature tool.

The Adjust Color tool opens a panel for changing the levels of contrast, saturation, and so on. Experienced designers will know what to do here, but anyone else could do worse than reaching "Auto Levels" and seeing if they like the results .

MacOS preview adjust colorKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

The Resize tool lets you resize the image from a menu.

Adjust MacOS preview sizeKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

Style and color switch

The last section of the toolbar allows you to set the thickness, colors, and fonts used by the tools described earlier. These tools are used before or while editing sketches and shapes.

The Shape Style tool lets you choose the thickness of lines created by other tools. You can also use it to add a variety of textures and add a drop shadow.

MacOS Preview Shape StyleKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

The Border color The tool shown below allows you to set an outline color for the current shape or the next shape you create.

The Fill color The tool to the right of the Frame Color Tool lets you set a hue for the inside of your current shape or the next shape you're creating.

MacOS preview frame colorKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

The menu bar

That's it for the markup toolbar. You will find that some features are missing, such as: B. Options that allow you to crop and rotate an image. You can find these options by clicking Tools in the menu bar. Also, most of the features of the Markup toolbar are listed in the Tools drop-down menu under Commenting.

MacOS Preview Crop ImageKevin Parrish / Digital Trends

Paint alternatives for Mac

Of course, some people might find Preview's hidden image editor also complicated, especially if you are a windows transplant. Maybe you want something simpler and more familiar.

We recommend checking out brush if you're looking for a stripped-down version of Paint. This bare-bones editor does everything Paint does, more or less the same way.

For similar functions with a slightly larger scope Patina is a great color alternative when you're ready to spend three dollars. We think it's worth the low price.

Overall, both of them are very close to Microsoft's popular Paint app – and the learning curve isn't as steep as navigating the preview tools.

Whether you recently migrated to a Mac or just remembering how you doodled in Paint in elementary school, there are several ways you can bring the program's features back to life. Take some time to click around in the preview before looking for other painting alternatives. You might find all the features you need there.

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