Is a Mac the best choice for Graphic Design?

Hello everyone!
I’ve been browsing the web about this question, but I haven’t had a clear response. I won’t make it long:

I am still in college, so my budget is not very high.
My current computer is worn out, and I need to upgrade.
I need it mostly for graphic design (Photoshop, InDesign, and very large Illustrator files), and a little 3D and video.
I don’t game anymore :pensive: (tons of wasted time). So, I am not looking to game on my computer.

I have been thinking about purchasing an Alienware. Is it good? Worth it? Can someone relate?
I LOVE the iOS. I’ve heard that you can install iOS on a Windows computer, but that it is tricky and highly glitchy. Any comments on this? Anyways, I can get used to Windows, no problem.

Overall, I want a powerful computer, but not as expensive as a Mac.

What can you advice me?

Thank you!

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Macs were the go to computers for design about fifteen plus years ago, but not any more. Windows had less options for software back then, but nowadays if you can get a certain software package for Mac, then you can usually get it for Windows as well.

Macs are great, but you’ll always get more for your dollar with a Windows machine. And if you’re looking to do a bit of 3D and video, then the video cards on Macs are usually pretty low end, unless you get the top of the line versions. Plus, the drivers come from Apple, rather than Nvidia or AMD, so you might not have as up to date versions as a Windows user with the same card. And upgrading options are usually minimal and/or expensive.

Anyway, not sure if you’re looking for a desktop or a laptop, but my last laptop and desktop have both been Asus. Very happy with both of them, and not had any problems with them. GC-10 for the desktop, think was about £1200 without monitor, and a Zenbook UX303 for the laptop which was £875.

If I hadn’t have gone for the Zenbook, then I might have gone for the Alienware 13" ultrabook… they look pretty impressive.

You’re certainly not wrong to be confused.

There’s a tremendous amount of hype regarding the right ‘platform’ for design these days. And the sad thing is most of this ‘good’ advice is coming from your professors or an entire old guard of photographers and designers who couldn’t change their workflow if they tried. The truth is that the real hardcore professionals use whatever works. They learn and adapt all the time to get their work done, beautifully and efficiently. Adobe hasn’t adapted in a decade which is why their products are an afterthought to their real product which is a digital ghetto of useless utility style services.

The most versatile operating systems are not Windows or Mac. Many large production and FX houses use Linux or BSD for most of their infrastructure. Mostly this is because there is no limit to what their developers can create. With Linux and BSD you could theoretically fork you’re own kernel if you wanted. With proprietary software, not so much. Of course there are applications that are OS specific, like BlackMagic’s DaVinci Resolve runs on OSX, but this might change too. BlackMagic just released their amazing Fusion 8 software (motion graphics) to run on Linux. Other high-end products like Foundation’s Mari and Nuke also run profoundly faster on systems that aren’t spending half their resources answering your cell phone or sending copious amounts of ‘user behavior’ data to some Mother Ship. By the way all of the products that I mentioned you can use for free. This is because the most valuable client they can possibly have is you, the student.

All that said, there are certain areas of design that I have to have MacOS for. For example, many critical font design applications are only available for Mac. e.g. Glyphs and RoboFont. Although FontForge is pretty cool, and I do use it. If you’re doing architectural work, AutoDesk applications on Windows are the sharpest tools in the shed. But in general Libré/Opensource tools might be the future because you can support and build your tools and they will never be taken away from you for any reason. If you’re not happy with the direction a tool is taking you can fork the project yourself if you like. Plus you… Yes you can improve and support your own tools.

In your situation this is what I’d recommend: System76 is shortly releasing a faster, bigger GPU, Oryx Pro laptop. It’s a beast of a laptop and cheaper than Alienware. Run a debian based operation system, like CentOS or Ubuntu Gnome. If you’re really clever you can dual boot your system into OSX or Windows when you need to run the odd * apps. Pixls has some great info for photography. LibreGraphicsProduction is a very old site, but still useful info. The important thing for you is to dive into the PDF standards. You need to really understand post-script, pdf production. These are truly portable documents that any printer can rip. Strangely LaTeX, LuaTeX and ConTeXt are making a comeback. You can create stunning documents programmatically, and layout sophisticated maths, etc. using these old typesetting methods. Very powerful for school papers! It also is very flexible, you can render your document out to many formats, PDF, Markdown, ePub, HTML etc.

Other software I would highly recommend. Blender is absolutely amazing. Even huge production companies use it for the odd job. Used in conjunction with MakeHuman for starter avatars. Use Mari painting objects, and Nuke or Natron for compositing.

Krita is an astonishingly powerful painting application, but you can even use it for image editing in a pinch. Gimp has a long way to go, but it opens in two seconds, so if it’s a quick image resize and crop, it will save you time. If you really want to save time use ImageMagick whenever you can. Believe me when I say nothing will impress your boss more than you resizing, rotating and converting to sRGB a hundred images before he or she can get back to their desk with a simple $ mogrify -resize 500x500 -colorspace srgb -rotate 90 *.jpg — might just blow their minds. PS actions can suck-it! RawTherapee and Darktable are great for RAW processing.

I love Inkscape, but it needs XQuartz on the Mac to run, and I find it a bit buggy. However it runs like a monster on a Linux. There are many things it does that I haven’t been able to replicate on any other vector drawing application. Especially for linear calculating, shape interpolations, drawing with objects on the clipboard, etc. I couldn’t live without Scribus any longer. It has a bit of a learning curve to it, but it’s terrific once you get used to it.

If you do find yourself with all your school books and a pantry full of Top-Ramen, you might consider AffinityDesigner (All the cool kids are using), and AffinityPhoto is getting better and better. Pixelmator and Google Web Designer are great for UI stuff. Mischief is fantastic for sketching.

You get the idea. Long story longer, don’t be fooled by people telling you have to do it this way because everybody does it that way. Those people are automatons who gave up thinking for themselves years ago. The truth is the designer tells the boss what he or she is going to use. That’s why everyone wants to turn you into an Adobot. :slight_smile:

I agree that you shouldn’t do something just because everybody else does something, but sometimes there’s a very good reason why everybody else does something.

Adobe hasn’t adapted in a decade which is why their products are an afterthought to their real product which is a digital ghetto of useless utility style services.

Not entirely sure that you’re getting at here, but having used eight different versions of After Effects over the years, there’s been some pretty impressive evolution of the product.

Although ideally you should be the one telling the boss what software/hardware you should use… maybe if it’s a startup or you’re heading up a department. But more often than not, if you’re getting a job at a certain company then they will use certain products. And if you want the job, you’re going to have to use that too, and know how to use it already. Maybe once you’re in you can start some kind of paradigm shift, but at present… head into a design studio and tell them you know Gimp inside and out, but haven’t got a clue how to use Photoshop, Coral or Illustrator, they’re probably going to show you the door.

Another thing to keep in mind… using a ‘popular’ software package has additional benefits. Search Google for ‘After Effects Tutorials’ and you’ll get 5,900,000 results. Search for ‘Natron Tutorials’ and you’ll get 138,000 results. Sure, that’s still plenty, but think of books, video tutorials, groups, certifications, courses, events etc. You might become some Natron grand master and you might get work and be able to create better work than others, but if someone sees your work and invites you to an interview at a vfx studio… there’s going to be a few awkward moments when they ask you what version of Nuke do you use? Or maybe After Effects, Fusion, Motion etc.

And just to finish… whenever I see discussions on the old Mac vs PC debate, although they sometimes get a bit heated, they are usually just people providing their own advice on what they think is best. That’s pretty much exactly what you’re doing. It’s very rare that they are telling people they have to do it a certain way or they’re trying to assimilate them into becoming ‘Adobots’.

So yeah, buying Windows or a Mac and buying Adobe products isn’t exactly selling-out or bowing down to ‘the man’. It just makes sense for the majority of people, if forking kernels isn’t at the top of their list of priorities. Although other options can make sense as well, just as a disclaimer.

Thanks SpaceStockFootage, you make some really good points and I think you round out this conversation nicely. After all there is a practical side to this; which you articulate perfectly. I didn’t bother because, one; I already wrote a novel, and two; I assumed StockDesignMan already knows what he or she is ‘expected’ to know. What he might not know, is that there are amazing, inexpensive choices out there for a student. Great creative teams are always looking for new and innovative ways to do better work. Even if it means making their own tools where none exist.

That said, if StockDesignMan were to come to me with a portfolio, I might ask, “What were the design challenges?” and “how did you come to this design solution?” I’d ask, “What do you think you could have done better?” I personally would never ask “So, what did you do it in?” Absolutely nothing matters more than the quality of work. The thought behind the work. Anyone can be an information jockey. A thoughtful articulate designer; that is quite another story. Don’t you agree? :slight_smile:

I personally would never ask “So, what did you do it in?” Absolutely nothing matters more than the quality of work.

In certain situations I’d completely agree with this. If it’s smaller projects that the individual can complete themselves on a freelance basis, then the client doesn’t care how the end product is made, just that the end product is of a really high standard.

When you start getting to bigger projects when you have to integrate with a team, then they’re going to want you to be using software and hardware that is compatible with their workflow. Certain exceptions might be made if you’re work is that exceptional, but unless you’re being hired to run a department, then you’re usually going to have to slot into their practices rather than them having to slot into yours. That could be very costly.

There’s really talented people out there who have trouble getting in at the bottom while using the popular software!

Sorry, I don’t understand your last point, quoted above. Translation? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

StockDesignMan; just remember a tiff is a tiff, an obj is an obj, a pdf is a pdf. How does it matter what made them? Remember to think for yourself.

Just that if you’re looking to work in ‘the industry’, whether it be filmmaking, vfx studios, design places etc… it’s pretty hard to get your foot in the door, even at entry level positions. More competition, less openings etc. So my point is that it’s usually best not to do anything that might hinder your chances.

I mean, going for an entry level position and working your way up isn’t the only way to go. If you’ve got the skills to pay the bills, then you can go straight into freelancing. Then it’s a lot more about the quality of your work, and less about your software, hardware, qualifications etc. Or just set up your own studio… go straight in at the top!

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It depends! Why you love Mac so much? Windows has more graphic tools than Mac provides. Recommend you try GIMP to replace PS and Blender for 3D creation. These two software are totally open source software, totally free yet still powerful.

Worked as a 2D graphic designer in typography office few years ago. Used some ditributives of Linux on Desktop, Asus Zenbook with Windows, now works on Macbook Pro.
IMHO: Linux apps isn’t ready for professional using. GIMP, Inkscape, Krita - very interesting and perspective, but have bugs and haven’t many necessary options (few years ago I should to recompile Linux kernel for install Wacom drivers :sweat_smile:)
Windows is ok. Small bugs or lags is exist, but if your budget isn’t too big - good choice.
OS X: Expensive, but very stable. Really, I’m not an Apple fan, but stable work is very important. Yes, OS X isn’t ideal (for example, I didn’t find good free app for view images), but for 2d design work I will select it, just because I can buy it, power on and start work without wasting time.