In this list you’ll find the open source graphics programs such as GIMP that I think are the best for graphic designers, digital artists and visual content creators in general. The programs mentioned here work on Windows, Mac OS X and most Linux distributions. Due to their open source nature, these programs are completely FREE!
GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. I have already written about this software in this blog in an article called “Is GIMP a Viable Free Photoshop Alternative?” in which I talk about how GIMP compares to Adobe Photoshop in functionality. GIMP can do most of the tasks that you would normally do on Adobe Photoshop and other graphics programs and is completely free. GIMP has advanced layer effects functionality, masking and filters. The GIMP is compatible with Photoshop brushes even though it has its own brush format. I really like GIMP, and that’s the reason it is number one in this list.
Get the GIMP here!
Krita is a program focused primarily in sketching and painting. If GIMP is called the Photoshop of Linux, Krita would be like the Corel Painter of Linux. In my opinion, Krita is easier to use than GIMP for digital painting. Krita has a great out-of-the-box set of brushes that emulate really well physical media used by traditional artists and a powerful brush dynamics engine that gives you more control over the brushes’ behavior.
Get Krita here!
Inkscape is a professional vector graphics editor with functionality comparable with Adobe Illustrator. It has all the basic tools that you would expect in a vector graphics program such as the Bezier curve and path editing tools. Inkscape also has a great variety of filters and bitmap tracing functionality.
Get Inkscape here!
Blender is a professional 3D animation software package capable of doing most of the tasks that you would do in programs such as Autodesk Maya and 3D Studio Max. It has its own game engine called Blender Game Engine (BGE) and Python scripting. Blender can also edit video and do chroma keying as well. Combined with various plugins, you are able to generate completely rigged human 3D models, 3D printing and much more.
Get Blender here!
- Bonus: Paint.NET
Paint.NET is a free image photo editing software similar to GIMP simpler user interface. The catch is that this program only works on Windows. For a free program, it is very powerful as it supports layers, unlimited undo, special effects and is extensible through community plugins. I highly recommend this program for beginners.
Get Paint.NET here!