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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)

Procedure:
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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:iconamaipetisu:
Amaipetisu Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2015   Digital Artist
I hope this helps!

1º) Install a Windows partition on your mac
I have used Boot camp for it: Boot Camp is a multi boot utility included with Apple OS X that assists users in installing Microsoft Windows operating systems on MAC. Other alternatives to have Windows running on Mac are Virtual Box, Parallels Desktop, etc.

*By default, your mac will run OS X. If you want to choose the Windows partition, press and keep pressed ALT while your MAC is starting.

2º) Run Windows and install your tablet drivers without your tablet plugged. If you have the original CD of your tablet's drivers, use it, if not, go to their official website and download the most updated ones. Follow the driver's intructions to install it and plug your tablet.

3º) If you get Paint tool Sai now and open it, you will notice your pen pressure might still doesn't work, don't panic and install: .net framework: Net framework was created by Microsoft for building, deploying, and running applications and services that use .NET technologies, such as desktop applications and Web services. (My net framework is 4.5. That’s what most people was missing!)

4º) Restart your Mac to be sure everything is working correctly and open the Windows Paint tool sai. Should be working, or at least did for me.

This was tested on iMac mavericks +  a Wacom intuos pen & touch + a partition of Windows 7. Good luck!
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:iconmiineh:
Miineh Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014
Is this the version where you're able to save your pictures with transparent background?
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:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yep, export the file as a 32-bit PNG (with opacity)
Reply
:icondebellischew:
debellischew Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2014
many thanks, bryce, I downloaded it and it worked great.

I also used one good Mac drawing tool named MyBrushes. Just for your information.
Reply
:iconramenbubbles:
RamenBubbles Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
If someone can tell me how much space I should Give sai? I have the full version of sai but I do about 10 drawings per month. How much space should I give it? thanks 
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:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It varies person to person, depends on how much future growing room you might need.  Get properties on some random drawings and see how much space each takes up.
I'd say for the bare minimum, 60GB for the Windows partition.  Go higher than that, balanced with how much Mac OS X needs.
Reply
:iconramenbubbles:
RamenBubbles Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Alright, thank you! 
Reply
:icononi-chan77:
Oni-Chan77 Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2014   Digital Artist
is there any real disadvantage to using the free virtualization program (oracle)? sweet tutorial i just might do this...
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:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Since VirtualBox is free, any official tech support will be minimal to nonexistent (mostly community-driven). VMWare has really good tech support by contrast.
Reply
:icononi-chan77:
Oni-Chan77 Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2014   Digital Artist
alright, maybe i'll try virtualbox first, thanks man
Reply
:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm working on a more detailed guide to this.  Want to be my guinea pig? :)
ramz.zenutech.com/techguides/p…
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:icononi-chan77:
Oni-Chan77 Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2014   Digital Artist
well i haven't even bought windows yet so, we shall see ;P 
Reply
:iconemr0304:
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? :/
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:iconramzkun:
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: www.classicshell.net/ so I wouldn't spend too much effort looking for a 7 license; they're getting really hard to find these days.
Reply
:iconpuffball567:
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 
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:iconramzkun:
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.
Reply
:iconpuffball567:
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
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:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yep, I would recommend doing that.
Reply
:iconbottled-love:
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!
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:iconramzkun:
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.
Reply
:iconbottled-love:
Bottled-Love Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2014  Student Digital Artist
thank you so much! :)
Reply
:iconfriend-owl:
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.
Reply
:iconramzkun:
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.
Reply
:iconfathermonsterdevart:
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 <___________>
Reply
:iconskyski25:
SkySki25 Featured By Owner May 17, 2014
Hey sorry to just cut into your question but I have the same problem as well as a slight lag. Did you ever get it to fix? It's driving me nuts. Sorry for just poppin in but this is the first time I found someone with the Same issue
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:iconfathermonsterdevart:
fathermonsterdevart Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Actually I partially did - I run Win7 normally inside windowed Parallels and I plug my tablet into my Mac, then I connect FIRST the USB dongle and THEN the tablet itself(found in the "Devices" dropdown menu of Parallels). After that it works just fine, with the exception of my mouse which tracks much too fast after the tablet is connected to the VM, making it impossible to use the mouse.
Reply
:iconskyski25:
SkySki25 Featured By Owner May 18, 2014
I got everything to work as in pressure and the program and it to read the tablet. Just I got that weird mouse thing. Like the curser doesn't follow the tablet when I draw so I'm like drawing in the dark and it lags. Does your Sai lag when you draw with it? Sorry haha Thank you for replying~
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:iconfathermonsterdevart:
fathermonsterdevart Featured By Owner May 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Nahhh it doesn't, and I fix the mouse cursor problem by clicking anywhere inside the VM window with the mouse o3o idk if that'll fix it for you.. And you're welcome!
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:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's been a long time since I used Parallels, but my memory was it had several annoying bugs with tablets and Sai, which made me switch to Fusion.
Does it work OK in window mode?
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:iconfathermonsterdevart:
fathermonsterdevart Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
As far as I've used it, sorta. Last time it worked fine when not in coherence mode, but after Windows 7 installed system updates today it had that bug no matter what. o3o
Reply
:iconhowbc:
HOWBC Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2013
hi
so i have paint tool sai on my bootcamp but im using  intuos 5 medium tablet and the mouse cuts half the monitor and limits the mouse to moving in to top left area of the screen, please help :'(
Reply
:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Could be any number of things..
* Is pressure sensitivity working in Sai?
* Which Wacom driver version is installed on the Bootcamp side?
* Is the Wacom control panel set on Pen mode and not Mouse mode?
Reply
:iconcalebp1716:
CalebP1716 Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hi there, I've got a question about this as well. I have a Paint Tool SAI license that I use on my HP computer, and I was just wondering if it is at all possible to transfer that license to the windows side using bootcamp on a Macbook Pro. I would just like to find a way to remain using the Paint Tool SAI that I originally bought without having to pay another $50. If I have to then I guess I got no choice, but I'd just like to know from someone who has a mac and Paint Tool SAI. Thank you!!

Btw, sorry if that's a rather dumb question, but I actually don't own a mac just yet, and have been really thinking of buying one in the near future, so I just wanted to be sure if what I want to do is at all possible. Again thanks, and thank you for the info, that'll really come in handy when I get my mac!
Reply
:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yep, it can be done. Just need to go to Systemax's website, re-enter your license key + Mac's Sai System ID and download a new license file for the Mac.
Reply
:iconvynndetta:
Vynndetta Featured By Owner May 25, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hey I'm sorry, I'm a very stupid computer person. Could you possibly link the exact windows install you bought? I wanna be exactly sure what I'm getting before I buy. And the way they describe these windows things it just confuses me further ._. I'm sorry for the bother.
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:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Here you go: [link]
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:iconvynndetta:
Vynndetta Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
And there's no way to buy this as a download instead of a physical disc?
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:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Unfortunately they don't... If lack of a credit card is an issue, Newegg takes Paypal and sells Windows 8 system builder kits. If you don't mind getting 8, that is... (a lot of people complain about 8's interface but it does work perfectly with Sai; I've had no issues with it)

[link]

What kind of Mac computer and which version of OS X do you have? Go to the  menu, then About this Mac, then More Info to find out.
Reply
:iconvynndetta:
Vynndetta Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ah. well I went ahead and ordered the one you sent earlier. I believe it'll work just fine with my computer (: I have a mac OS X Lion 10.7.5
Pretty sure that'll work.
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:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I updated the article with some links and more detailed info. Good luck!!
Reply
:iconvynndetta:
Vynndetta Featured By Owner May 27, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
cool!
thanks (:
Reply
:iconallouchsukeshi:
AllouchSukeshi Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Student Digital Artist
AAAW TT^TT my problem was not yet solved.. and I think it will never be solved.. thanks for the information anyway :D
Reply
:iconxmisae-bee94x:
XMisae-Bee94X Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
I have a question when doing the bootcamp mode im i able to change back to my Original MAC?
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:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes, you switch back in the Boot Camp control panel in Windows, or hold the Option key as the Mac boots up and you can choose OS X or Windows to start up.
Reply
:iconthelokipokey:
TheLokiPokey Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
you are a god send! Thank you so much :D It's so nice to be able to use sai again!
Reply
:iconmarkartichoke:
MarkArtichoke Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2012
I had used Crossroads to play with SAI on my Mac, but of course couldn't get pressure to work because of X11. I was thinking of using Bootcamp to just put Windows on there. But the way this tutorial is written, I assume even then I'd still have problems with Pressure? I need to also run a virtualization?
Reply
:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That's right, you need a virtual machine or bootcamp to get pressure working. Wacom drivers won't work inside of wrapper programs like Crossover or Wine.
Reply
:iconwantxit:
Wantxit Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2012
hey, i want to ask something. I download Cintiq 21UX, Intous4 and Tablet PC and after I installing them out word ''this is not found in the system'' please, someone help :(
Reply
:iconramzkun:
ramzkun Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wacom drivers are very specific, so make sure you are getting the correct driver for the tablet model you have.

(i.e. Cintiq drivers will not work for an Intuos tablet, and vice versa)
Reply
:iconwantxit:
Wantxit Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2012
I downloaded them in wacom.eu but where other I can download a tablet?
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