How to I make Preview use freehand mode by default while I'm drawing? It seems to want to smooth everything everytime.

2 Answers 2


By default the drawing engine in Preview can't be changed (in El Capitan or earlier) as it's a vector base drawing system. So it will always have some level of smoothing applied to it based on the algorithm Apple is using.

You can however turn off some of the smoothing for documents that store the drawing in vector format like PDF, but this will have a minimal effect at best for most drawings.

If you want to try turning off the vector smoothing under Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan.

Go into the Preview -> Preferences... and choose the third tab PDF.

Un-checkmark Smooth text and line art.

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Beyond that there isn't a way to turn off the math that drives the drawing tool in Preview.

  • This doesn't appear to have any effect.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 19:45
  • @Daniel like I said in the first bit, you can't really change the Preview drawing image. The smoothing change is only going to make a small change in the line art quality. The vector math for drawing is set by Apple, and there really isn't any control over the soothing in Preview other than what I already talked about sorry to say.
    – kenjikato
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 9:55
  • Any recommendations for alternative software that will let me draw on a PDF?
    – Daniel
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 13:59
  • @Daniel I think you're going to run into the same issue with most all of the PDF apps out there. Every one I have on my system does the same smoothing (at different levels) to freehand drawing. This is because of the PDF standard. If you want to draw in pure pixels (raster), then you will want to look at another program. Other PDF apps you could try are: FoxIt PDF Reader foxitsoftware.com/products/pdf-reader , PDFill Editor pdfill.com , or PDF Draw Pro machsoftwaredesign.com/pdfdraw.html. There are lots of other ones out there.
    – kenjikato
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 2:49
  • @Daniel if you want an inexpensive drawing app that will let you read in and draw on a PDF, and save it back out as a PDF (usually NOT maintaining most editable elements) then look at Pixelmator (pixelmator.com/mac) or Affinity Designer (affinity.serif.com/en-us/designer). Pixelmatr will turn the image completely to a raster (pixel based) image, and save it out as a PDF. Affinity Designer will read in the PDF, and keep some if not all the PDF elements in tact when you save it back out.
    – kenjikato
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 2:55

I recommend acrobat reader, with it I can draw free hand while annotating documents. It is pretty standard software, that's why I prefer it over preview which only runs on mac os.

  • This doesn't answer the OP question but provides an alternate solution.
    – agarza
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 15:14

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