Image annotation

Is anyone aware of software that will allow you to add notes, lines, annotations, etc. to jpeg images without actually saving those thing into the image (so the image can be opened again later and the annotations removed or altered)? Kind of like Skim does for PDFs?


I am not sure whether you want to be able to remove or change annotations later or whether you fear that this could happen.

In case of fear: Store images in a locked place and only open work copies.

In case of wishing to be able to modify: You can always save images without metadata, e.g. from Graphic Converter.

As for annotations / metadata: I was keen to get an application where I could put metainformation into the file. I can only recommend to do so and keep closes to IPTC guidelines. I wish I could annotate my other files like that as well. And when sending files / pictures to others, I can send them without metainformation.

If you are interested in metadata, one might discuss Aperture, Lightroom, Graphic Converter, iView Media, Photoshop, …

Hope this helps,

You can import a jpg into Scrivener’s Research folder and use the Inspector to add notes, keywords, and references, all modifiable later.

You can do a similar thing in DevonThink Pro via the Info Panel.

I was thinking more along the lines of actually drawing and annotating on the picture itself, which you can’t do with Scrivener.

Specifically I want to open a map that I took from Google Earth and draw routes and names on it, mark and label areas, and so on. But I don’t want the markings I do to be saved permanently on the file itself - I want to be able to change them later.

Can GraphicConverter do this, Maria? I own it, but I didn’t know it could do anything like that, if in fact it can.

I thought of using Photoshop documents with layers for the various items, but I’m going to be using it mostly on my old G3 iBook, and Photoshop is sloooowww on that thing.

Yeah, that’s a bit different from adding notes and annotations to a jpg.

You can draw paths and polygons in Google Earth Plus. You can add placenames in standard Google Earth.

You can add images, shapes and text in Pages, and you can stack objects.

Still might not be what you want.

If you have GraphicConverter, you can draw on the image using the various painting tools available. There are shape tools, text, free-hand brushes and so forth. Pretty much anything you’ll need to do simple marking. Just make sure you do it to a copy, because you’ll irreparably damage the original photo. I don’t know of any cheap programs off the top of my head that let you annotate an image while retaining its original data, outside of the complex photo retouching and graphic design tool, The Gimp. With Gimp you can create overlays (layers) so that original data is not touched.

Another thing you could do is load up the image in GraphicConverter or Preview, and then print it out as a PDF file. Then you could open the PDF and annotate it using PDF or Skim. I would not recommend doing this on a bulk scale though, as you will probably end up with PDFs that are quite a bit larger than the original image.

This is an excellent idea with the exception of the observation about file sizes. The OS X PDF system does tend to make quite large default PDFs but you can change that by using the Colorsync Utility Filter section to duplicate the Reduce File Size filter and modifying it (Ctrl-click the triangle at the right of the list) for your purposes. When you print, you then select your filter from the quartz filter section of the Colorsync entry in the print dialog popup menu (whew!). Also, more simply, you can just save it as a PDF directly from GraphicConverter or Preview.

If you want really snazzy stuff, get Curio where you can annotate the bejeezus out of the image and then select the image and its annotations and copy them as a PDF (or export in any number of formats).


Thanks for the tips about optimising OS X’s PDF generator. It is one of those things I always meant to look up, but did not use enough to really remember to research.

Or for the price of Curio and a graphics tablet you’re most of the way to affording a Mac mini retail, and you can use Photoshop layers again.

Curio Home $99
Curio Pro $149
Wacom 4x5 $85

Photoshop CS3 $640
Mac Mini $574

Does not compute.


FWIW, here are the prices I saw when I looked:

Curio Pro $185
Wacom Intuos 3 6X8 $390
Total $575

Mac mini $599

Khadrelt already has Photoshop, I believe.

Google Earth Plus $20

I did look at Curio, but it was too expensive for me to even think about.

What I’ve been doing up to now is using a little utility called ‘Combine PDFs 2.1’ - I drop the images into that, and it creates a PDF out of them. Then I used Skim to do the notes and drawings. I was just hoping for a way to skip the PDF step and do it directly on the image itself.

I found an interesting program last night called ‘CmapTools,’ a mind-mapping program, and I think it might do the job. Not sure yet if I can annotate the images as such, as I haven’t had much time to experiment with it, but it allows me to arrange the pictures across a board and resize them at will, adding notes and stuff and generally arranging the scene the way I want.

Thanks for all the tips.

P.S. I already own a desktop, an Intel iMac, and Photoshop as well, so that’s plenty for the Photoshop option - but the problem is I do most of my writing on my laptop while I’m not at home. I considered just doing the maps on my iMac and exporting the images to a jpeg for reference on the laptop, but it didn’t work out too well - i needed to be able to change the annotations while writing.

Solution? New laptop! I wish.


I do not really get your point I am afraid, all I would like to say: Keep your annotations, labels, tags, whatever metadata, in a standard format that will not alter your piece of work, that is connected to that piece of work and can be extracted as well as modified.

If you want to draw maps, it is of course a matter of drawing maps. I use a CAD software (used to be VectorWorks, but the German distributor is beyond discussion, so now I am looking for a change) for my maps: It has layers, a database to store information for certain places etc.

If you want to annotate a photo, I can only recommend to use IPTC, you can always modify IPTC data. And they will be there in ten years, when nobody can read Skim any more (I like Skim, though) or Curio or whatever. After 17 years of working with computers in many areas, I can say that I am glad about any work I have kept on a low level, standard format.

You can work on almost all IPTC data (and I think XMP as well) in GraphicConverter. But since you own Photoshop, you might like to do it in Photoshop. But just check later: You can see what you stored in IPTC in Photoshop when you open the files in GC and vice versa.

All the best,
sutandâdo no oni,

You could always request an invite to the Skitch beta. I’ve heard it’s pretty sweet when it comes to annotating images:

If you’ve got Word, I’ve always found it’s drawing toolbar to be pretty helpful for this kind of thing and obviously you can go back and edit at a later date.