Free graphics software

A list.

I've been gradually learning to use a lot of open source software (and also starting to contribute to various OS projects), and I thought I'd post this.

This is probably very old news to many people here, but I am continuously surprised how few people actually realize they can get professional-grade software for free (without piracy!). Here's a list of four excellent pieces of graphics software that are completely free, along with some links to tutorials and resources.

Blender
Blender (see also: Wikipedia) is an amazing piece of 3D software. That such a feature-rich, industry grade, 3D program is free is absolutely incredible. For Mac users used to commercial 3D software ported to OS X (like LW for OS X), the interface and controls will seem a bit "un-Mac-like" at first, but the software is absolutely amazing. Like any major program, Blender demands some adaptation before you reach proficiency, but it is a very professional piece of software, with a fabulous community and documentation. Also, to anyone who has tried out previous versions of Blender and decided it wasn't comparable to commercial software, please check it out now. There has been so much progress over the past few versions.
Some Blender links:

  • The 2.3 user guide. The current version is 2.42, so this guide is not quite up-to-date (most importantly, it doesn't mention the Mesh Modifiers system, an important new feature), but is otherwise a great and thorough introduction to Blender.

  • Blender 3D: Noob to Pro. This wikibook is the ultimate Blender tutorial.

  • Blender 3D: Tutorial Links List: a massive list of links to tutorial.

  • The Blender Wiki. A lot of additional documentation in wiki format.

Wings 3D
Wings 3D is a subdivisions modeler that is a great addition to Blender 3D (you will hear this from a lot of people, I think some Blender documentation files actually list Wings as a companion software). It is very good at modeling organic-looking ships. There are some tutorials and a user guide available on the site.

GIMP
The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is probably one of the best known open source projects (except maybe for Linux and Firefox, but I'd wager many people don't even know that one is open source). Anyway, for most purposes, GIMP is a great alternative to the pricey Photoshop. If you are used to the latter, transitioning will probably require some effort. The Wikipedia entry has a ton of links.

Inkscape
For all your decal/logo/emblem design needs. Inkscape is the open source equivalent of Adobe's Illustrator. The project's website has some documentation available, but I learned Inkscape mostly by trial and error. There are many tutorials around.

I hope this actually helped someone and wasn't just old stuff that's been posted a thousand times. I also hope these great project will motivate you to release your own free-time projects under free licenses, and to contribute to open source projects; it's very difficult at the start because you have so much documentation to read and source to figure out, but you'll learn a tremendous amount simply from reading code if you are an intermediate-to-advanced programmer.

This post has been edited by pez : 31 July 2006 - 02:51 PM

@pez, on Jul 31 2006, 12:45 PM, said in Free graphics software:

I hope this actually helped someone and wasn't just old stuff that's been posted a thousand times. I also hope these great project will motivate you to release your own free-time projects under free licenses, and to contribute to open source projects; it's very difficult at the start because you have so much documentation to read and source to figure out, but you'll learn a tremendous amount simply from reading code if you are an intermediate-to-advanced programmer.

Actually, it sort of is old stuff becuase its in teh member run FAQ, with tons of different graphics software, but yours is better in describing them and being a bit more helpful since theyre all free with your own comments. Great job! 😄

@chronodrago, on Jul 31 2006, 10:18 PM, said in Free graphics software:

Actually, it sort of is old stuff becuase its in teh member run FAQ, with tons of different graphics software, but yours is better in describing them and being a bit more helpful since theyre all free with your own comments. Great job! 😄

Oh yeah, that FAQ. -.- Sorry. Scanning that topic quickly, I couldn't find Inkscape, though. If you need a vector graphics program, give it a try. The interface may not look as nice as Illustrator's, but I can't think of any other reason you would prefer Adobe to this (unless you have accumulated many high-value plug-ins, in which case you can probably afford expensive software anyway). Some things are even much more convenient to do in Inkscape(for example, strokes with arrowheads; Adobe was installed at school and I've always hated how you had to use the Effects->Stylize->Add arrowheads menu and cycle through all arrowhead types to do something as mundane as create arrows). Highly recommended.

(EDIT: I forgot Illustrator's geometric Smart Guides. You can get used to those if you use them in Illustrator, but they aren't essential. )

Also, in case you don't do this systematically: using Wikipedia and Wikibooks to find tutorials usually yields better results than Google searches. The same kind of free software zealots tend to browse WP and use free graphics software.

This post has been edited by pez : 31 July 2006 - 03:57 PM

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