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Submitted on
March 25, 2012


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How to: Get Paint Tool Sai running on a Mac with tablet pen pressure support

Surprisingly a lot of people don't know that you can do this.

In every stream someone asks, "What program is that?"
Artist replies, "Paint Tool Sai"
Then someone else says, "I want Sai but I can't use it because I have a Mac,"

Not true!  You actually can.  It's not that difficult, either.
Using virtualization software, you can get Sai running on a Mac inside a window as if it were a native Mac program.
I use it to ink almost all of my pictures, in fact.

Fair warning: This does cost a bit of money.  You're looking at at about $150 at minimum to buy both Sai and Windows licenses, and add another $50-80 if you choose to get priced virtualization software.
At that point you might want to consider instead getting Photoshop Elements 11 for Mac ($100), but if you want to run Windows software and games on your Mac as well as Sai, this would be the best option.

This video demonstrates what it looks like:

ESSENTIALLY what you'll be doing is installing a Windows "virtual computer" inside your Mac, and Sai runs in this simulated environment.
In other words, Sai has no idea that it's running on a Mac; it thinks it's running on a typical Windows PC.

To get this working, you'll need the following:
1. Windows 7 or 8 install disc and license (get the 64-bit "System Builder" or "OEM" version for $99 from Amazon or Newegg)
2. A virtualization program. Your choices are: VMWare Fusion - ($50), Parallels Desktop - ($79) or Oracle VirtualBox (free). (I personally recommend Fusion)
3. Paint Tool Sai - Buy a license at
(costs 5250 yen, or about $52 USD as of this writing but this will change depending on international currency exchange rates. Systemax takes Paypal payments)

1. Install Windows on your Mac using the Boot Camp Assistant program, which is located in the Applications/Utilities folder on your Mac's hard drive (choose carefully how much hard drive space your Mac and Windows sides will get; if you change your mind later you'll have to erase and reinstall the Windows partition!)
2. Switch back to Mac OS X (hold the Option key as the computer starts up) and install one of the virtualization programs mentioned above
3. Launch the virtualization program and tell it to use your Boot Camp partition to create a new virtual machine (it will probably ask if you want to do this the first time you launch it)
4. Inside your new Windows virtual machine, download and install the tablet drivers
5. Install Paint Tool Sai inside of the Windows virtual machine
6. To get pressure working, you have to "Connect" your tablet to the Windows virtual machine in the virtualization program's USB options
7. Enjoy using Sai on your Mac, with pen pressure support!

* Note: You can actually skip the virtualization program and just use Boot Camp mode to run Sai.  The only problem with this is that while your Mac is in Boot Camp mode, it's 100% Windows; you won't be able to run your Mac programs and all files on the Mac partition of the hard drive will be read-only (basically, while in Boot Camp mode your computer becomes an Apple-branded Windows PC).  Boot Camp mode is GREAT for playing PC exclusive games (it runs them as well as a similarly specced PC would) but if you want to use Sai alongside your Mac programs, you'll need to use a virtual machine.  More info on Boot Camp mode is here.

Any questions, I will be glad to answer.
  • Mood: Wow!
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puffball567 Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
can you download windows 8.1 instead of just 8

and do you need to get windows 8 if you get the vmware fusion 
ramzkun Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No download options, best deal is an OEM or "system builder" version on Amazon or Newegg. ($100) Now they sell 8.1.
Fusion will need it to work - Fusion without an operating system to host won't do much at all.
puffball567 Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
So I can get the OEM 8.1 version on amazon instead of the OEM 8 version
ramzkun Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yep, I would recommend doing that.
Bottled-Love Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Hello! Tutorial worked great, except for one problem; even though I downloaded the driver software for my tablet, the Windows 7 registers it as a mouse. I downloaded both the mac and pc drivers, and it even /says/ it has a tablet driver when I go into advanced settings, but for some reason it won't register as a tablet and thus doesn't the the pressure sensitivity! :( any help would be much appreciated, thank you!
ramzkun Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Not sure what you mean by "advanced settings"
There should be a tablet control panel in both OS X and Windows; that's how you know it's installed correctly.
One other thing that often messes up pressure is the Press and Hold = Right Click setting in the Pen and Touch panel.  Disable that and pressure should work.
Bottled-Love Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2014  Student Digital Artist
thank you so much! :)
SolitaryEssence Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014
Have you had any problems with file size while running SAI on a VM? I've heard that some people can only get in a few layers before SAI won't let them save or edit the pic anymore.
ramzkun Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sai is a 32-bit program and is limited to using 4GB maximum memory (this would happen on a real computer too)
Give the VM at least 6GB of memory to work with (4GB for Sai and 2GB for the OS) and it's less likely the problem will happen.
Sai 2.0 will be 64-bit and doesn't have this limitation.
fathermonsterdevart Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I got a problem. When I'm in the coherence mode thingy and my sai window is up, the cursor thingy of the tablet's pen and the mouse cursor don't match their location so to speak. As far as I know, the mouse cursor and pen cursor should be one thing aHH help <___________>
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