Everyday drawing

There are hundreds of painting and drawing apps on the App Store. This one is a bit different. It doesn’t want to grow up to be Photoshop, Illustrator, or Draw Anything the Next Generation. It’s not intended for professional artists. This is a drawing app for day-to-day use by people who don’t have a degree in graphic design. You can use it to create illustrations for reports, newsletters, blogs, or just to amuse your friends.

Shapes or pixels?

Since the very first digital computer, there have been two basic types of images: vector graphics (you specify how a shape should be drawn but don’t worry about the details), and bitmaps, (also called rasters, you tweak any and every pixel). Growly Draw can handle both. A painting is one kind of shape, which consists of pixels you can edit individually or in swaths. Other shapes include rectangles and ellipses, polygons drawn with curved or straight edges, freehand scribbles, text, and lines. Lines can have simple or fancy arrows on either or both sides.

Shapes can be be rotated, reflected, and shadowed. Every shape has drawing options that you can change at any time, as you can see in the format panel on the right in the image above.

Some of the interesting things you can do with shapes include changing the thickness and color of the outline, and adding a fill color or a fill gradient (like the circle in the illustration). Polygons can be open or closed, curved or straight, and you can run text along the outline, as shown above — so text can flow on any kind of curve you can imagine. Polygons can be infinitely reshaped, point by point, for fine-tuning after they’re created.

A built-in shape library contains arrows, stars, clouds, and geometric shapes that you can resize and customize with your preferred colors.

Pixel dust

Growly Draw is not a photo editing app. It does not have blending brushes, magic wands, layers, or any of that really cool stuff you can find in dedicated painting apps. But you can do straightforward touch-ups and pixel-level drawing.


The painting window lets you spread color with simple shapes, brushes, and a paint bucket. The pencil gives you pixel-at-a-time control. There’s also an eraser and a cropping tool.

Growly Draw shines at working with masks, often called alpha, that control the transparency of the image. You can see and edit the mask itself as if it were a separate bitmap, or flip back and forth quickly between the image and the mask. Draw will auto-create a mask for you if you’re starting with an opaque image like a JPEG.

Helpful menu commands make it simple to do things that can be difficult in other apps, even in Photoshop. You can shrink the painting down to just its colored pixels. Convert shapes to pixels, or grab pixels from a painting and turn them into new shapes. You can replace one color with another, or select part of a painting and replace
all the colors in the selection with another color.

Opens almost anything, writes the most common formats

Draw can import Photoshop, Illustrator, JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PDF, EPS, and almost any other combination of letters—all the common image formats used on the Mac. It can even open most Quickdraw images (from the Stone Age before Mac OS X). Scalable images such as EPS are opened as paintings, but you control how large the image should be when it’s converted.

Growly Draw can write its own format as well as JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and PDF.

Back to the past

One of the first fairly capable drawing programs on the Mac was called SuperPaint (1986). It was like a combination of MacPaint (bitmaps) and MacDraw (vectors). Growly Draw is a simple drawing program along the same lines, but the images it can create would have given SuperPaint a heart attack. Like Growly Write, it’s a modern, capable app that will remind you of simpler times. And you can learn how to use it in one lazy Sunday afternoon.

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