We realize that many of you who are interested in designing custom-made items through Ponoko may not necessarily be experienced designers, or well versed in graphics software. In fact, it may scare off a few – but it really shouldn’t. As we’ve recently completed our first round of closed beta testing, there were quite a few non-technically inclined users – absolute beginners, to say the least with vector art software packages. They were able to produce some very unique and personalized products.
So, if you’re keen to create and design, here is a brief guide to the basics of graphic software that you’ll need to draw up your designs. While this is by no means a completely comprehensive guide, it’s a good start. I’ve included links to some other more substantial and detailed reviews of the standard graphics software out there.
Vector Program. What is it? Software program that allows you to draw and edit technical drawings, generating EPS files which is particularly important for Ponoko users as EPS files are needed to use the system.
Where can you find them? There are industry standard shrink-wrapped graphics suites you purchase with all sorts of bells and whistles to free, open-source programs you can find online.
Now, as I mentioned for your use with Ponoko, you’ll be able to use any vector program (packaged, online, licensed or open-source) that can generate an EPS file to upload onto our platform. The following is a list of some of the more popular vector editor programs that we’re familiar with:
Adobe Illustrator: The review on this industry standard is that it’s the top of the line graphics program. Check About.com’s Adobe Illustrator Tutorials for Basics and Tools for a list of free online tutorials to help users.
Macromedia FreeHand/Adobe FreeHand MX: As of May 2007, Adobe is no longer continuing development for FreeHand. But for those who continue to use or have access to Freehand, user resources for tutorials, downloads, tips and help can be found here at About.com.
Xara Xtreme is a top-notch graphics tool, no matter what your level of graphics experience. With its amazing speed, small size, reasonable system requirements, moderate price, and powerful feature set, it’s hard to go wrong with Xara Xtreme. Although it’s currently only for Windows, Xara has announced plans to make Xtreme open source and to develop Macintosh and Linux versions.
Aviary (Raven Vector Editor): Yet to be released, but will be coming soon this year from Aviary (see earlier post). This free online tool is part of a design platform consisting of 13 other tools that can work together. To get updates on when these tools will be released check their blog.
Google Sketchup: This is pretty easy to use if you’ve never worked with 3D modelling before. Good for modeling such as woodworking projects. Google provides a lot of support through their Sketchup blog, with tutorial videos and podcasts available from Go-2-School. There’s a free version you can download as well as a pro version for $495.
UPDATE: The free version of Sketchup will NOT export .EPS format.
References and Reviews to check out: