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Digital drawing & painting programs comparison:- Adobe Photoshop CC VS Paint Tool Sai

Photoshop CC VS Paint Tool Sai:- Which One Is Better?

Both Photoshop & Sai are widely used to create great artworks by many artists. So I won’t delve much into what you can do with them, as it’s easy to see that Photoshop could do more, but there are other criteria that could make difference. Like the learning curve, system requirements, and other subtle differences that are likely going to make difference for you specifically.

I am against those who say that Photoshop is an image-editing tool, because that’s only one thing it’s capable of doing really. Photoshop can be used for digital art, Photo-editing, it has brushes, filters & all sorts of plug-ins to make all different tasks easier. You can create all sorts of artworks with it, ranging from cartoon to realistic artworks if you really want.

Sai has two big advantages over Photoshop, the low system requirements & the price. Its smaller learning curve is also nice, but Photoshop basics are not that hard to learn (see How long does it take to Learn Photoshop and achieve results). Photoshop has the advantage of giving you more as long as you’re willing to benefit from it, it’s the pricier solution out there (specially how it requires subscription now), but it’s the one used by professionals around the world, so getting to know it can be a plus on its own if you plan to add it to your resumé.

Advantages Of Photoshop Over Paint Tool Sai

  • The more capable software that can do everything you want from a drawing & painting program.
  • Used by professionals worldwide. And knowing it is a plus if you want to get hired.
  • Can be expanded with all sorts of plugins & extensions.

Advantages Of Paint Tool Sai Over Photoshop

  • Very lightweight art program with very low hardware requirements.
  • The license cost much less than Photoshop.
  • Is easier to learn than Photoshop.

What Each Program Of Photoshop & Paint Tool Sai Is Intended For

Photoshop User Interface

First, of all, we have Photoshop, a vast application that’s used for photo-editing, photo-restoration, digital art, & more. It can do everything Sai does. On the other hand, Paint Tool Sai is made mainly for drawing & painting, and so its feature set is geared toward that. The more-is-better mentality would make one want to get Photoshop & totally forget about Sai, which is not wrong, but bear in mind that you need to be willing to put the time to learn how to use Photoshop more powerful tools effectively. Both application has a great community & lessons you could learn from.


The latest versions of Photoshop (called Photoshop CC) require subscription. Unless you buy an older version, like Photoshop CS6 or an older version, this cost could pile up over time. While in the case of Paint Tool Sai, you buy it once & use it to your heart content, making Sai the winner here.

Learning Curve Between Paint Tool Sai & Photoshop

Paint Tool Sai User Interface
Paint Tool Sai User Interface

There’s some learning curve in using Photoshop in painting, blending & all. But if you’re willing to go through that curve, you will have an extremely powerful tool at your hands. Even if you already use Photoshop for something else, like Photo-editing, you will become better at it by learning how to use brushes the right way. The vast features of Photoshop means that you can use it all the time & never need Paint Tool Sai, especially if you have a good computer.

Operating Systems Supported


Photoshop is available on both Windows & Mac OS, so you can use it no matter what computer you may have (unless you use Linux, which doesn’t support any of the two programs here natively). Paint Tool Sai is available on Windows only. You can try emulating Paint Tool Sai in Mac using Wine or a virtual machine like VMware, but so far, you can’t run it natively on a Mac.

Hardware Requirements


Photoshop requires much more hardware than Paint Tool Sai, it will use up any amount of ram you throw at. If your computer is low on ram, you may not be able to run much programs while it’s open, not ideally at least.

Sai is super lax when it comes to hardware requirements. You can even work on Windows 98. Wow. I never tried it myself, but it’s nice to see a program working on such an obsolete operating system. It’s one of the most lax applications I know, You can have a large canvas on Paint Tool Sai with less lag. So if you have an old computer, it’s a strong candidate to consider (I can’t even remember the last time I saw an application that requires MMX instruction support, which is quite old (from 1997)). The download size of the installation is 2.4MB.

Here’s a funny fact, the largest required ram for Sai is less than the minimum required for Photoshop.

While Photoshop is powerful, you don’t exactly need it to produce professional artworks, which leaves room for the other drawing programs, and Paint Tool Sai is one of them.

Kindly find the system specifications for the two. I took the info as-is from the developers sites:-

Note:- I took Windows requirements for Photoshop, since both programs can only be used on Windows

Despite the fact I am a Photoshop advocate for the most part, I really can’t help but to praise Paint Tool Sai for that. Sai makes digital art accessible to a lot of people(It’s worth noting that a lot of the other drawing & painting programs has lower requirements than Photoshop, but this comparison focuses on Paint Tool Sai VS Photoshop).

Take in mind that older versions of Photoshop will work better on older computers, in case buying another computer is out of question for you. These older versions are powerful & does the job, and don’t really require subscription. Having an old computer could also be a reason to get a Photoshop alternative.

Other Things


Both applications support pressure sensitivity, with Photoshop, you will need a brush that support pressure, these brushes tend to have the word “pressure” in their name (you can access that in the Brush Presets). With Sai, you can use pressure right away, just select the brush tool & draw away.

It’s said that Paint Tool Sai support more of graphics tablet pressure levels than Photoshop, but I haven’t seen anything that support that.

And Finally

Whether you chose Photoshop or Paint Tool Sai, you can create great artworks in both. The main reasons I mainly use Photoshop is because I am already good at it, I also like the vast capabilities it has compared to Paint Tool Sai. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be using Sai in the future if I want to (the same goes for the other drawing & painting programs).

Both application is an extreme when it comes to digital painting. Photoshop ahs everything you may want in a program, but it’s too expensive & requires some hardware. Paint Tool Sai is nice for digital art, and doesn’t cost much or requires a powerful computer at all. But it lacks it when it comes to some features, like filters, text tools & other things. For that reason, you may end up using a 3rd program rather than any of the two I am comparing here. But I still encourage you to try these two, since they are worth knowing about them. That goes for you if you’re already a user of either Photoshop or Paint Tool Sai.

You can use both programs if you like. You can save your drawings & paintings in .PSD format in SAI to continue working on it in Photoshop.

Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures

In case you are looking for a good Photoshop books, check out my book Learn Photoshop CC with pictures, which is an easy way to learn Photoshop, it is written with tons of examples & detailed instructions for many of the common tools & concepts in the program. Use the code MiniTutorial to get 20% off the PDF version’s full price, with 30 days money-back guarantee. The book is also available for Kindle as well.

Sources & Useful Links

See Also:-

I am an anime artist, and huge fan of digital art. I love drawing with pencils too. But I rarely do that anymore nowadays. Since some aspects of digital art can be tricky, I try my best to explain the concepts as easily as possible.

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