It’s a common question for new Mac users: Where is Paint? Windows has come with a basic image-editing program since the dawn of time, aka 1985, but there’s seemingly no equivalent when it comes to MacOS, whether you’re running the latest version or an older one.
Or is there? Preview — the default Mac app for opening images, PDFs, and other files — comes with a few editing tools. You can draw in a similar fashion to Microsoft’s Paint, and you can add text boxes and shapes. Most people don’t know these features exist though, because they’re hidden behind a button they never think to click.
Here’s how to find that button and enable the paint features hidden on your Mac. We’ll also go over how to use the built-in tools, and if you’re looking for something simpler, we’ll go over a one-for-one Paint replacement you can download.
Finding the hidden Paint in Preview
Open the image you’d like to edit in Preview and look closely at the toolbar at the top of the window. Do you see the toolbox icon, to the left of the search bar? It looks like the tip of a pen inside a circle. Click it to open the Markup Toolbar, which offers all kinds of image-editing features.
If all you want to do is quickly draw on top of your image, simply click the pencil icon and get to it. Changes are saved as you go, so if you want to keep the original image intact, consider making a copy of the image to edit before diving in. The other tools should be fairly obvious if you’ve ever used an image-editing app, but below is a quick rundown of each toolbar function, starting from the left, for those unfamiliar.
The first tool controls what mode your cursor is in, with three individual options.
Selection Tools allow you to pick a section of the image to move or edit. There’s the standard rectangle for selecting an area, along with an elliptical selection tool. There are also two “lasso” tools, which cling to shapes as you select an area.
The Instant Alpha tool lets you click an area of the image to “magically” select an entire region of a similar color, while the Sketch tool allows you to draw freehand. If all you want to do is quickly draw something on top of your existing image, Sketch is what you’re looking for. Preview will even automatically tidy up your sketch. If you attempt to draw an oval, for example, the application automatically transforms it into something tidier. So a rough circle like this …
… quickly becomes the image below. And if you don’t like the correction, an option to eradicate it will appear on the toolbar.
Insert shape and edit tools
The next section of buttons mostly relates to adding specific shapes and text to images. It also includes the ability to resize photos.
The Shapes tool lets you add shapes — i.e. rectangles, circles, speech bubbles, and stars — directly to an image. There’s also a magnifying feature if you want to zoom in on something specific.
The Text tool will, as you might expect, add a text box to the center of your image. You can type whatever you want, then move the text box to its desired location. Font and color choices are handled with the Text Style tool on the right-hand side of the toolbar, which lets you set the font, size, color, and alignment of the current text box or the next text box.
The Signature tool lets you insert a previously saved signature, while Adjust Color brings up a panel where you can change things such as the contrast and saturation levels of an image. Experienced designers will know what to do here, but everyone else could do worse than hitting “Auto Levels” and seeing if they like the results.
The Adjust Size tool lets you change the size of the image, using a menu.
Style and color toggles
The final section of the toolbar lets you set the thickness, colors, and fonts used by the tools we previously outlined. 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.
The Border Color tool lets you set an outline color for the current shape or the next shape you create, while the Fill Color tool lets you set a color for the inside of your current shape or the next shape you create.
That’s just about every editing tool Preview offers, but you’ll notice a few features are missing, such as those that allow you to crop and rotate an image. These are found under the aptly titled Tools menu accessible via the top menu bar.
Paintbrush: A one-to-one Paint alternative for Mac
Of course, some people might find Preview’s hidden photo editor to be too complex. If you want something stripped down and simple (basically Paint but for Mac), we recommend you check out Paintbrush. This bare-bones editor does everything Paint does in more or less the same way. If this isn’t quite what you’re looking for, however, Patina is a great alternative to Microsoft Paint if you’re willing to shell out a few bucks. Both are very close approximations of Microsoft’s much-loved Paint app.
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