Paint Tool Sai vs. FireAlpaca - Review
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Published: April 1, 2015
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Artist's Toolbox


Hi guys! Welcome to another one of my articles, this time I'll be giving you a thorough review about two very similar art programs, Paint Tool SAI and FireAlpaca.
FireAlpaca User Stamp by Demire             Stamp - Paint Tool Sai User by firstfear

Anyone who's just starting out with digital art might be asking themselves, Should I pay for Photoshop? Should I use a crack? Should I look for a free art program?

There are some of those like me, who kinda can't really afford expensive programs, I luckily got my PS in a package that came with my Bamboo Tablet. Luckily, FireAlpaca is free, and Paint Tool Sai has a portable version which is free.

Portable Paint Tool SAI

FireAlpaca Link

These two programs have some of what is already a good enough Photoshop. There are many artists who use Paint Tool SAI and Fire Alpaca, and create beautiful art.


Paint Tool SAI -  Commission: Tokiko by ZenithOmocha  Paint tool SAI /Speed paint video by ryky <da:thumb id="429911119"/>  Spirited Away by moni158

FireAlpaca - FireAlpaca was tried. by yumeyu  FireAlpaca by KaceyMeg  snowy by grimay  Cinyu SUPER LATE BIRTHDAY GIFT by illuminatedflower

And for those who probably have a crack/trial version of Paint Tool SAI and feel guilty, or have/will be buying a Mac (which cannot run Paint Tool SAI without a Windows crack), safe to say they're almost alike, and you won't have any problem switching over. Here's the layout of both programs.
FireAlpaca by illuminatedflower

Paint Tool SAI layout by illuminatedflower

To some people who have seen other's livestreams or whatnot, the layout will probably look different. (hence the featured pictures, they have different positions. I just like to keep mine in one line.)

So really, what's the same in both programs?

  • Smoothing (PTS) & Correction (FA) Tool
This comes in handy if you don't have a steady hand, mostly used for inking purposes.
  • Select Pen & Erase
When you have your outline and don't really feel like painting, you can use these to outline a part of your drawing, and color that in.
  • Importing and Creating Brushes
 Different artists have different brushes, luckily, if they have offered their brushes, you can import/create them.
  • Lock Opacity (PTS) & Lock Alpha
Instead of clipping layers, you can paint on the same colored layer, and not paint over other parts. It's helps the colors blend a lot more easier.

Great! Now tell me what's different about each other?


  • Textured paper (PTS)
I don't think many people use this, but it just gives the canvas a pretty cool look.
  • Transform (PTS)
There will be times something just doesn't look right, and you'll need to resize something or move it farther or further inside the picture.
  • Vectoring (PTS)
For mouse users, this is glory in Paint Tool SAI, you can almost ink anything, and look like you did it with a tablet. 
  • Fringe (PTS)
I know may artists who use the Fringe tool, it's very nice, and gives a cool look once you've used it correctly with shading.
  • Fixed Angles/Mirrored (PTS)
Sometimes you want to change the angle of how you're drawing something, cause it might look weird if you tried doing it upright.
  • Inserted Text (FA)
Some pictures require text been shown on the drawing, example being you'd need to put some text but you can't draw it cause you think it's ugly, or its not even your language. (Ahem, my handwriting is very ugly)
  • Shapes (FA)
It can be a pain trying to draw perfect shapes, and especially in backgrounds that use shapes. SAI is not equipped with this unfortunately. It's such a struggle.

So, which one would you suggest, Hikari?


I personally recommend both programs! Both have the full potential for creating art, and can probably help out anyone who is starting digital art! Just for a safe bet, stick with Paint Tool SAI (The Full Liscense version is like $56 USD) since there's many people who give out tutorials, guides, brushes out for free (or Patreon). But if you cannot do without certain relatable PS items, stick with FireAlpaca, as it has most of what PS kind of has.

Anyways, I really hope this review helped out some people! See you next time!

SUGGESTED TUTORIALS/BRUSHES
<da:thumb id="512552974"/>    Omocha's Advanced Sketch step by step by ZenithOmocha     Hair, Skin, and Eyes SBS by Sakon04    Coloring Tutorial and Sai Tips by DyMaraway    Full Shading Tutorial by AtsusaKaneytza  FireAlpaca: Layered Shading and Coloring Tutorial by ChoppinStix  Firealpaca Brush Pack by candydesufox <da:thumb id="518952502"/>  Fire Alpaca Brush Pack #3 by cheapkrabs  Brush Settings- Paint Tool Sai by ShintaRee  Paint Tool Sai Custom Airbrush by Deckboy <da:thumb id="198284016"/>
IMPORTANT COMMENTS/QUESTIONS

:iconatsusakaneytza:

FireAlpaca has Fixed Angles/Mirroring functions as well. The keyboard shortcuts are the up, down, left and right buttons. Or if you have the Navigation subwindow open in FireAlpaca, you can press those buttons. For arbitrary rotation, you use Shift+Spacebar, and Click+Drag the canvas.


:icondeckboy:

There's a workaround for using text in SAI, btw, you just have to use the external program (more info here: deckboy.deviantart.com/art/Add…)




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Comments122
anonymous's avatar
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susska's avatar
susskaHobbyist Digital Artist
I own both Paint Tool Sai and FireAlpaca, for the longest time, I used FireAlpaca (I didn't have SAI) and I found myself getting SAI. I ended up going back to FA, it's possibly because of gradients (whom I use alot), the animation, or the fact I have the longest experience with FA more then any other art program, or me not generally enjoying SAI. I personally believe it's the artist that creates the program, not the program creating the artist. Even if I don't personally use SAI, or the fact I enjoy using it, I still recommend SAI, if you wanna spend cash on an art program that can possibly do better things, if you are on a tight budget or unable to spend money, do use FireAlpaca, both are a great program.
Joltaro's avatar
sai 2 has gradients AND can be downloaded free if you bought sai 1. Just saying
susska's avatar
susskaHobbyist Digital Artist
oof I forgot SAI 2 was a thing. 
Flareheart8's avatar
Flareheart8Hobbyist Digital Artist
I want to try FireAlpaca so badly. Paint Sai is very cool too and is one of the most popular art software. But, I'll stick to using FireAlpaca since it has good potential and it's completely free.
SailorFluttershyAJ's avatar
i'd rather use firealpaca because ima beginner and it really helps me out owo and also it's free, unlike PTS with it's trial ;w;
and it has more brushes
Ale-xii's avatar
Ale-xiiHobbyist Digital Artist
I also agree, it's pretty good! I'm not a beginner, but it's worth the program for beginner's (:

That is true, though, they is some crack's, I got my's (if you wan't it, i can link it) and it has no virus, but it's only worth it if you already been drawing on digital for quite a while (1-6 months to get the hang of it) because it's quite different, there's many stuff that's not in FA or is, but in different name's, but the stab in FA is longer than sai, which only goes to s-4 (i think)

and it is true, FA does have more brushes, but it's lacking due to Sai has more custom brushe's than FA, because sai is a popular program than FA. But it's easy to install brushes on FA than sai ^^)

But i'm just pointing out that i agree with you, I wish you luck on your journey to becoming an expert/professional artist! (if you're looking forward to that type of level)

Have a wonderful day <33
StreamlineWorkshop's avatar
StreamlineWorkshopHobbyist General Artist
Both programs are useful, and while I would prefer SAI over FireAlpaca, I believe it is simply because I am lazy. 

It's much easier to create new brushes on FireAlpaca, but all the textures and customization that SAI comes with wins over my lazy habits.

But I believe that the Artist, makes the program, not the other way around. 
LetsMemeYT's avatar
I mostly use FireAlpaca And... FireAlpaca is an amazing drawing program evar!!
flowerkitscatch's avatar
flowerkitscatchHobbyist Digital Artist
I agree
danishtreats's avatar
danishtreatsStudent Digital Artist
fire alpaca is better bcus you don't have to spend money on it
MsWaffleKitty's avatar
MsWaffleKittyStudent Filmographer
I mostly use SAI because I personally like how better shading is on it than Photoshop. Comparing it to Photoshop, I like how easy it was to make pixel art, which is what I made my icon with, but what's unfortunate is that it doesn't have a way for me to make it into an animated GIF (so I had to use photoshop for that part). It's layout is also really easy to follow and it's not too complicated or difficult for me to find my brushes while for PS I feel like I'm in a gigantic library; having to look in each shelf until you find the book you've been looking for.

I just recently got a Macbook Pro that I've been trying to find a way to get Paint Tool SAI on, even though it's only for Windows. I've heard of these "cracked" "free" versions that are apparently "supportive for Mac" but personally, I don't believe that they actually work like they say they do. I don't exactly trust those websites.

I'm currently doing some research on "Virtual Machine" programs that'll allow me to run Windows on my Mac so that I can run SAI on it and so far I found a couple that I though really caught my eye in an article I found while researching. 

Article: lifehacker.com/run-windows-on-…

As for FireAlpaca, I have a friends who use that painting software and I've been pondering on whether or not I should try it myself. I've always been, and still am, wary about "free" software. I've had experiences in the past when these "free" softwares caused problems to my desktop, like slowing it down or causing other programs to not even open up. I think since most people seem to say that FireAlpaca doesn't cause any problems or malware to their computers, I think I'll try it out and see if it'll work for me. 


For previous Windows users who needed to switch to Mac and miss having SAI, if you wanted to try to find ways to get Paint Tool SAI to work on your Mac computer, I would highly recommend you NOT get those "Free" crack versions that say "they're supportive for Mac" because really those kind of versions that other people put on their websites are sometimes filled with viruses or bugs that'll wreck your Mac, or they just plain don't work. Instead, try getting a Virtual Machine for your Mac device because that way, to my understanding, you'll be able to not only have access to Windows on your Mac but also to be able to run Windows programs like SAI on there as well. Of course before you Purchase a virtual machine, look up to see if they have any free trials. I'm currently trying out a free trial of Parallels Desktop 13 (from the article). From the ratings this particular one gets, I would say it's a good virtual machine software. 





Wow, I never thought I would type this much for a comment... my bad. ^^; feel free to ignore it if you want.
iVickery's avatar
iVickeryHobbyist Digital Artist
I actually have both sai and fire alpaca on my computer, and the only thing SAI does better than fire alpaca for me is shading. the watercolor tool is just a lot more elaborate. However, firealpaca has been able to produce much cleaner edges and coloring than SAI has ever been able to, and  has features that help you animate. FA also has various guide shapes you can lock your lines to which are surprisingly useful, you can even make custom ones. Lately, I just don't use SAI anymore. I don't know why FA turned out to be so good for me. And to think I laughed at my friend when she suggested it to me just because it was a free software...
kristy-mae's avatar
kristy-maeHobbyist General Artist
Is Firealpaca safe? Like, does it contain any bugs or whatnot that may slow down a computer? I'm a bit wary about downloading a free program...
dudethatsmyfood's avatar
dudethatsmyfoodHobbyist Digital Artist
it's safe, i have it AND the cracked sai. neither gave viruses
IceyyCat's avatar
IceyyCatHobbyist Artist
When I attempted to use Paint Tool Sai, it wasnt fun. I tried to make my art have no background, and color it, but it didnt work that well. I tried doing it over and over and over again, but y'know, I was like "FORGET IT"

*dumps PTS in trash*
SnowyArcticWolf's avatar
SnowyArcticWolfHobbyist Digital Artist
I was reading the comments, and some people said FA also has everything listed that only PTS has, except for fringing. Is it true that you can vector?
KiwiN11's avatar
KiwiN11Hobbyist Digital Artist
With the newest update, FA now does have fringing. However, it's called watercolor edge. To get it, just double click a layer and click on the effect box. And yeah, you can vector.
SprinklesTheFish's avatar
SprinklesTheFishHobbyist General Artist
I find Firealpaca really confusing and I haven't used Paint Tool Sai. I use an app on my iPad called ProCreate. It's about $7.00. It is really intuitive.
Sonic032407's avatar
Sonic032407Hobbyist Digital Artist
I use FireAlpaca, but a relatively cheap iPad app for drawings is SketchClub. I was able to make this Ummm... Small Problem! and this. Paragraph 4. You can make extremely detailed drawings if you try. And it also has an online community with many talented artists. Anyway, SketchClub is fairly good if you want an easy to use drawing app for iPad.
imprintedgoose's avatar
imprintedgooseHobbyist General Artist
Try your hand at openCanvas and then compare it to FireAlpaca.  I'm a die-hard oC user, and have been since 2004, but to me?  FireAlpaca is just as smooth and easy going - plus it has an animation feature that I've not yet tried.

I'm still getting my feet wet:
Windows Vista and mouse - never a tablet, always a mouse - might be the only differences I will be able to see in anyone else's experience with the program and my own.

Queen of the Universe.

This is an example:  Even though the one on the right has ten hours put into it, and the one on the left only four, which of the two programs was used?
LordAcies's avatar
LordAciesStudent Digital Artist
I used FireAlpaca's Animation feature for my profile pic and I would say that it can be a pain in the butt. The onion skinning mode turns each layer into a new frame so that makes coloring, backgrounds and just art in general fairly difficult. Not to mention (this is how I ended up doing it, I might be doing it wrong) you have to export it as individual frames if you want to turn it into anything and then use another program elsewhere. There are good tutorials on Youtube for FireAlpaca though, www.youtube.com/user/xLeslieLu… has some good ones.

Tldr; worth the hassle for a gif, but if I tried to do an animatic in it I'd want to die by the time I was done. However, FireAlpaca is a MAJOR step up from Krita and all in all a good art application.
Houndoom125's avatar
Houndoom125Hobbyist General Artist
If you're looking to edit lines, or maybe manipulate photos without an actual Photoshop application, I would suggest sai, but if you're just using it to draw normally, I'd say that firealpaca has definitely straitened up over the last while to match a lot of criteria. 
Lebender-Geist's avatar
Lebender-GeistHobbyist Traditional Artist
With a recent update in FireAplca, you now have the transform tool! :D
Zykedragon's avatar
ZykedragonStudent General Artist
After drawing with FireAlpaca after extensive usage of SAI, I must say the biggest advantage Sai has over FireAlpaca are the convenience of the customizable shortcuts and other controls such as navigating the image with arrow keys, also Zoom In/Out with Page Up/Down (while with FA you have to either use ctrl-/+)and some of the design choices such as placing the options for the layers straight on the top of the Layer Tab and not under it. On the other hand, you can animate with FireAlpaca.
anonymous's avatar
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