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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 DVD and license (I recommend the 64-bit "System Builder" or "OEM" version for $99 from Amazon or Newegg)
* Note that new Macs no longer come equipped with a disc drive, so you'll need to borrow or buy an external USB DVD drive if your computer lacks one.
2. A virtualization program. Your choices are: VMWare Fusion - ($69), Parallels Desktop - ($79) or Oracle VirtualBox (free). (I personally use and recommend Fusion)
3. Paint Tool Sai - Buy a license and download it at Systemax (they take Paypal)
* Sai costs about 5250 yen, or about $50 USD as of this writing but this will change depending on international currency exchange rates.
* Don't get Sai from anywhere else but Systemax.  Unofficial versions are often bundled with malware (especially the pirated versions... don't bother, it's not worth it)
* Save your Sai license key and put it somewhere safe where you can find it later if you need it - (e.g. to reinstall it)

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 (carefully choose how much hard drive space your Windows partition will get; if you change your mind later you'll have to erase and reinstall the entire Windows partition!)
2. Switch back to Mac OS X (hold the Option key as the computer starts up to pick Mac or Windows) 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).  It will guide you through the process.
4. Once Windows is happily running inside your virtual machine, download and install the tablet drivers inside your Windows environment.
5. Download and install Paint Tool Sai in your Windows environment.
6. To get pressure working, you have to "Connect" your tablet to the Windows virtual machine (look in the virtualization program's USB options menu).
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 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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EmR0304 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
okay so, i just found this, i recently about 4 days ago got a mac book pro. i wanted to download sai to do my art but then found out you can't just download it. so your for sure, that is i buy windows, id like windows 7 not sure i want 8 cuz of the new look. and another program it will for sure open and run and wok sai perfectly like normal? i can upload art and load art into the program for reference? sorry if I'm being annoying but I'm nervous about spending so much to get windows and sai not work. i have a bamboo create, not sure if that changes anything but i mine as well say it. i have i fire alpaca download and i started using that and my tablet works prefect and my pen works prefect. so if i get windows and sai i will have pen press? to draw with my bamboo create? :/
ramzkun Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This journal was a bit out of date so I updated it with new links on the 3 things you need to get it working (Windows, Sai and a virtual machine program)
And yes, if it's all setup properly it will work beautifully.  I use Sai all the time on my Mac Pro to do my art. :)

Only caveat I foresee with a new Mac is it probably won't have a disc drive, so a plug in USB drive will be needed to read the Windows DVD.

Windows 8 can be made to look and feel like 7 with Classic Shell: so I wouldn't spend too much effort looking for a 7 license; they're getting really hard to find these days.
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! :)
Friend-Owl 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.
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