Please point me at a Mac picture/sketch editor that does what I want.
February 13, 2015 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I have a very basic (I think) requirement infrequently where I need to slightly modify a picture (usually a line drawing or a jpg of an event layout or similar) so that I can extract the track map from it. I keep bouncing between software that doesn't do enough to overwhelmingly complicated and too involved to do quickly. Please translate what is available in my own perspective please. I am open to the possibility that I am outside the realms of simple software, but am ever hopeful.

So I am trying to make a simple line drawing of a race track to use as the basis for notes and detail for track walks/driving tips etc. I often need to take something like the facility map (first image here) and end up with something similar to this. Just as an example.

So workflow:
Open up the picture - use some kind of eraser device to quickly remove all the detail I don't want (position of seating/spectator areas, everything not related to the actual track). If I could highlight the bit I want and copy it out, that'd be great but I have no clue how to do that in anything I have used. It's often easier to just roughly scrub out the extra detail. I use RIta for this at present but it is slow and clunky and I end up making 'eraser splotches' when I export the bitmap rather than erasing to remove - it doesn't take the erased stuff to the same as the background for some reason)

Maybe change the colour of the line drawing of the track (road course etc) to give me a simple black outline.

Add some detail - an arrow for direction of car flow, corner numbers, a name/configuration and length (little box of text essentially)

Maybe also add some lines to represent significant points of interest (bridges, temporary or otherwise) for use as references. I could do this with little boxes if I could move and twist them and resize to fit easily.

Maybe add some boxes for notes (like maybe a little table for gear number, max speed into corner and min corner speed. Just some reference figures).

So, peeps. How do I find a Mac programme that allows me to do that without getting into full on Adobe Illustrator style stuff that I don't have the time to penetrate. Is it one programme? Two cheap programmes? One free one? I am sure I have explained impossibly badly. Feel free to question/quiz to get a better idea of what I need if it will allow you to help me.
posted by Brockles to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by bensherman at 12:26 PM on February 13, 2015

Would Pixelmator do what you want?
posted by Thorzdad at 12:26 PM on February 13, 2015

I'm a visual designer by profession (which means I go the fastest effective route). If I had this task to do, I would first check to see if the source document is vector or a bitmap. If it's the former, I'd try to crack it open with Illustrator to extract the parts I needed. If the vector was protected or if the source was a bitmap, I'd use the source image as a background layer to trace over (meaning I would redraw the track itself) and create a small library of elements (of stuff like bridges and notation boxes) in another document which could be copy-pasted into each new map I had to reproduce.

For a someone who doesn't use graphics software for a living, I suggest leaving the computer out of the middle part of the production: print out the source map, put it under a sheet of tracing paper, trace the map with a Sharpie, jot in your features and scan it back it for digital distribution.
posted by jamaro at 1:00 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Alternatively (and the success of this entirely depends upon the sharpness of the line in the bitmapped source graphic), I'd use the magic wand tool in Photoshop (or some other graphic program) to select the color of the track, like so (<--this took about 5 seconds to make).
posted by jamaro at 1:07 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hey Brockles,

Try using Apple's "Pages" program. It is cheap, and it has some useful tools that are pretty easy to pick up.

For your case, you could use the "Shape"–>"Draw with Pen" to trace the outline of the course. It only takes about 15 minutes to figure out the tool and it actually has some cool features (like dotted lines, different colors, etc.)

Then you can use the other basic shapes like circles, boxes, stars etc. and drop them around the course.

And it has the easy-to-grasp feel of a word processor as well, good for making notes and annotations if needed.

Here's Sonoma done really quickly in between coffee and work time....
posted by Khazk at 3:13 PM on February 13, 2015

I was about to describe an OpenStreetMap workflow involving … far more things than you'd want to futz with. In looking at this, I'm surprised that:
  1. there isn't an open database of raceways (c'mon, racefans; step up!), and;
  2. it's surprisingly hard to (successfully) export vector graphics directly from OpenStreetMap.

posted by scruss at 8:53 AM on February 14, 2015

jamaro has good advice, both about the tracing paper and about the magic wand tool in Photoshop (and in many other apps).

Just to give you a bit more context: the magic wand tool will select regions of your image that have the same colour. There's a threshold setting that controls how closely the colours need to match (high thresholds match a broader range of colours). So that's what you could use to highlight the bit of the map you want and copy it out.

If I were doing it, here's what my workflow would be:
  1. Use the magic wand to select the track from the original image.
  2. Copy and paste that selection into a new layer.
  3. Repeat for whatever else I want to copy from the original.
  4. Turn off the layer containing the original image. Now only the copied graphics will be visible.
  5. Add other notes, arrows, etc. in yet more layers.
If the app you're currently using doesn't have a wand tool, there are plenty of others that do. Pixelmator, recommended above, does and it's far more affordable than Photoshop. (It also has plenty of shape tools, for your annotations.)
posted by Banknote of the year at 9:09 AM on February 14, 2015

there isn't an open database of raceways (c'mon, racefans; step up!), and;

To some extent there is but everybody needs different things - I can get engineering drawings for the tracks with corner radii and width of track and all that stuff but they're noisy if you want to use them for driver briefing stuff. They do facility maps for spectators too, but the location of first aid stations, parking, grandstands and shitters is not relevant to me. Besides, when I'm often there for testing half that stuff is missing anyway. So cleaning up and keeping the detail I want while removing the stuff I don't is tough. I always seem to end up working with a map that needs messing with to be useful.

Also, I need the configuration we are using (which is not always the whole track) and sometimes they leave out the part where the track continues (like Sonoma where there are several options for the last hairpin). I want the bits we are not using to be there, but greyed out/denoted because they can be very useful as references and/or notify of surface changes for grip level and bumps etc., that drivers need to be aware of and remember.

Skitch seems to be kind of simplistic for a finished circuit already, but it's producing the cleaned track image that seems to be the stumbling block. The magic wand aspect seems to be pretty much exactly what I'd need to make this easy and a sensible work load. Drawing over it doesn't give me the accuracy I'd want (plus I am cack handed).

So, follow up question: Other than Photoshop (which is too much money for this simple need) is there some other options for having a magic wand tool that I am missing (for Mac only)? So far I know of Gimp fuzzy select. Any others? I am going to try Gimp, but if there is a simpler one I'd be happier...
posted by Brockles at 7:43 AM on February 16, 2015

Gimp's fuzzy select is pretty good; I picked out the track in one click, and auxiliary grey bits with a couple of shift-clicks to get the following starter for more work: sonoma-gimp-fuzzy_select.

For better text handling, there's Inkscape (also free). With some bitmap tracing and object splitting, then adding helpful labels, I came up with this: sonoma-inkscape-discarded_sock.

(It's a shame that you don't get enough time to do a drive round with voice notes, as there's enough sensory kit in a smartphone — GPS, voice recorder, sensitive (if not particularly well calibrated) 3-axis accelerometers — to make an accurate custom map with all the bumpy bits marked out.)
posted by scruss at 9:37 AM on February 16, 2015

Um. Where did you get my Sonoma track notes from to annotate that last drawing? That's spooky.
posted by Brockles at 10:36 AM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ok I have managed to get enough of Gimp worked out that this is the path I am taking. Thanks, all.
posted by Brockles at 12:26 PM on March 15, 2015

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