Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Free Programs

So let's face it, times are hard for most everyone right now. Most people don't have hundreds of dollars to invest in art software unless they do it as a career, and even those people may not be able to afford the price of the popular software options. But don't worry, there ARE free options out there!

Open-source software is awesome for many reasons. For one thing, it's free to use and distribute. Secondly, it's made by many people in a collaborative effort. The source code is available for developers to enhance and add onto so you can get lots of neat add-ons that sometimes eventually get added to the program itself.

Right now, I am creating using only free software. I had the Adobe suite for many years but after a change of computers in November I lost all of my programs and decided not to go through the trouble of installing my outdated pre-CS version of Illustrator and Photoshop. I needed to find new options so I looked to open source and free software and I'm very happy with my current workflow. Here's what I use.

Vector software, open-source

This program is excellent and I've found it's much simpler and intuitive than Illustrator. Don't get me wrong, Illustrator CS5 has some far more advanced tools and they serve their purpose, but as a basic vector program for creating clean images, Inkscape is pretty amazing. The only downside is the lack of keyboard shortcuts which feels cumbersome if you're accustomed to Adobe's programs. I feel like for simple black and white images the tracing features are far better in Inkscape, which is really nice if you like to draw by hand and scan in images. It does not handle large or intricate images very well, but I've been told that there are people working on that issue.

Raster software, open source

You can do just about anything you can do with a professional photo editing suite with this program. The learning curve can be a bit steep if you're used to Photoshop, but it's a really solid program and many artists use it exclusively. The color tools are fantastic, and it also has many standard features like levels, curves, contrast & brightness and much more. I'm not a fan of the clone stamp or repair options, but they'll likely be updating it in the future to get up to par with the other programs available.

I plan on writing up some tutorials for creating using these tools in the future, but for now you might want to download them and play a little bit. :)


  1. I heart Gimp! And I would love some tutorials on it. My skills are limited and it would be fun to know how to do more with it. Thanks Jesii!

  2. Tia- Thanks for the input! Gimp is good stuff. :)