Free software – part 1

For people like us, who continuously work with digital art or content creation – there is an eternal mathematical process of investment and yield.
In all that we do.
Be it software licenses or hours or hired help, we all have to calculate the trade-off.
This has been the case for me, and I can almost guarantee that you have been in the same position. Possibly more than once.

Not too long ago, I wanted to make a small emblem or sticker to put on some scenes in my stream setup. Now, I am NOT a digital artist. By any stretch of the definition of the word.
I can’t draw. I can’t visualize. I can’t create.
But I know people that can. I know people who do this on a daily basis.
So, my first instinct was to ask someone with actual skills to make the sticker for me. Right?
I know you’ve been in the same position.
But occasionally, when the need for an extra (small) bit of graphic comes up, it seems pretty expensive to buy that service from someone else.
I do NOT mean that artists are over-charging their services. Not at all.
Because, we need to realize – we don’t pay just for the time it takes to produce the little graphic we just asked for. We pay a bit for the years of experience they have, and their software licenses and all that as well. And rightfully so.
I absolutely endorse that thought.

So, when I evaluated what I needed to make and what it meant to my stream setup – I saw that the actual impact of that one thing was probably less than I anticipated at first. And therefore a bit too expensive for me to outsource (in my current financial situation, at least).

So, I am not an artist. But! Could I make the little graphic myself anyways?

That, is indeed the question.

If nothing else, I know a thing or two about computers and software. Having used, learned and taught computer related subject for decades, I have amassed a few bits of knowledge.
And I have always had an interest in Open Source Software. Oh, and free stuff. I LOVE free stuff. Especially if it’s good free stuff.

Sorry for the long and incoherent introduction. What I am actually here to say, is that there are bits and pieces of free software that can make life easier(?) and cheaper(!) for content creators.
Today, I’ll talk a little bit about graphics. Just because I recently went into that for my own part.
This is the first article in a series, and I mean to explore a bit of graphics, sound, music, filters etc.

Free programs for graphics

1. GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program

Often referred to as “the free alternative to Photoshop”. And, although in some aspects it can be exactly that, it was never created with that specific intention.
GIMP is a cross-platform image editor available for Linux, macOS and Windows operating systems. It is indeed free. Based on Open Software, it has an extreme library of plugins and user created add-ins.

Whether you are a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, or scientist, GIMP provides you with sophisticated tools to get your job done. You can further enhance your productivity with GIMP thanks to many customization options and 3rd party plugins.

The GIMP website

Really. This piece of software has been in my digital toolbelt since the late 90’s.
Yeah, I was cheap back then as well.

GIMP has an extensive support for tools like sketchpads and digital drawing tools as well. It may be my favorite free image tool ever. And if you are in need of a complex image editor, or a suite of tools for digital art – GIMP may be a good place to start.

Link to the GIMP website

2. Canva

When you’re in need of easy graphics from pre-made templates, Canva may be a solution.
I have just recently discovered this multi-faceted software suite, yet I have had much joy with it in the short time I have known of it’s exsistence.

As an example, Canva offers templates for overlay frames, animations and logos out of the box. It has a rather vast library of customizable items ranging from printable presentations to instagram posts, overlays and marketing templates.

It’s truly a treasure trove of helpful templates, images, fonts and assets for us to use.
I am, however, not fully acquainted with the entire suite. But, it seems very intuitive and easy to make great looking graphics with.

You can find Canva here!

3. Inkscape

Inkscape’s tagline is “draw freely”, and it really delivers accordingly.
Like GIMP, it is based on open software, and with that comes a very lively and dedicated community that really communicates well between developers and users.
It is a design software for all kinds of designers. And it integrates nicely alongside a large variety of other software tools, like GIMP, Blender and others to further the processing of your ideas. Inkscape is said to handle tasks in industries like branding, engineering/CAD, web graphics and cartooning. So, I think it’s safe to say – it can handle our ideas.
I am by no means an expert at Inkscape. I’m not an expert at anything, really. But Inkscape’s easy layout and user interface has been kind to entry level users like myself. And it has enabled me to make somewhat passable pieces of graphics that I have used in publications in the past.

To see a little bit of what people has made with Inkscape, check out their user gallery here:

Inkscape main page

If you have additions to this list, we’d love to hear your views. Post a comment!

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