Most DIY posts can benefit from illustrations and photos.

Uploading photos is pretty easy now, but generating illustrations, not so much.

  • What quick and easy web graphics editors do you recommend for illustrating posts?
  • Which have you actually used?
  • Is there a drawing sub-app that could get incorporated into the "compose a post/answer" widget to simplify impromptu drawing the same way uploading an image has been streamlined?
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4 Answers

We could suborn the Balsamiq mockup tool that's used on UX

Pros:

  1. It's already integrated into Stack Exchange.

Cons:

  1. It would require some configuration to remove a fair few elements we wouldn't need (menus, buttons etc.)
  2. It can only produce 2D drawings, not 3D models.
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I like this. Not enabling 3D drawing from the post form sounds fine to me. 3D drawing is tricky and fidgety enough that you would want to do it in a standalone app anyway. –  Jeremy W. Sherman Sep 28 '12 at 18:31
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Maybe we could produce some custom symbols with common shapes in them--light fixtures, etc? –  Alex Feinman Oct 1 '12 at 1:41
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Even without 3D, it would be a huge help, especially for electrical questions and answers. "I have wire one going to terminal two, connected to wire 3 which goes to ground.", "Oh, yeah connect 3 to 2 and 1 to 5" .. so much easier with diagrams for both. –  Tim Post Dec 19 '12 at 13:30
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I've used the free tool called SketchUp. This originated via Google but can now be downloaded via the new integrated relationship between Google and Trimble. Here is the download link:

http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/

This 3D drawing tool takes some time to get used to and it is definitely recommended that one walk through the very good tutorials in an interactive manner. Once you get a drawing it is easy to get an image captured for posting here.

This posting contains two pictures in answers that I submitted that were drawn in SketchUp.

Do I need bracing for 12"x55" shelves?

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This doesn't satisfy the web portion of the question. SketchUp can only be used on your local machine. It's not something we could directly integrate into the post form, either. (Also, my personal experience with SketchUp had it running like a dog so badly that I don't even want to open it for fear of falling into swap hell again.) –  Jeremy W. Sherman Sep 28 '12 at 18:29
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I've used CoSketch to produce garish illustrations for a few posts, like this. But since it's really a collaborative whiteboarding app, it's nowhere near ideal for architectural renderings:

  • No auto-align for what should be parallel lines.
  • No grid to help with sizing.
  • Draw your own size indicators. Or not.
  • The colors - my eyes - oy.
  • No support for dotted/dashed lines.
  • No stamps for common chunks - drawing a medium-sized schematic would be painful.

What it does right:

  • One click and you've got a sketchpad.
  • Minimal features, minimal options - just get it done.
  • Easy export - click and get a URL.

It's this easy workflow from start to image tag that keeps me using this rather than snap a photo of a hand-drawn sketch and email that to myself to upload, or do something fancy in the uber-awkward LibreCAD.

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I prefer paper and pen and a "scanner" app to take a picture with a smart phone/tablet like I did with this answer. You can upload to imgur directly using the imgur app.

Pros:

  • low friction
  • one method for both normal pictures and diagrams
  • the needed apps are useful for things other than stack exchange
  • not restricted by tool's capabilities so I can draw it for understandability

Cons:

  • requires drawing skills
  • not editable
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