Anyone who’s ever dabbled in website design has probably needed to use image editing software at one time or another. To many it might appear as if there are only one or two options out there. The primary option being an expensive program from Adobe called Photoshop that costs around $300, and a few others like PaintShop Pro and Pixelmator that range from $50 to $100. However, there are two other powerful options that are completely free.
While the name might conjure up thoughts of a Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” Gimp stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program (GNU is free software licensing system). The best feature of Gimp is its price tag…free. This open source software is a powerful alternative to Adobe’s Photoshop featuring the ability to create graphic designs through layering images.
It has an extensive plug-in library that continually grows, offering new features for graphic image manipulation. Some developer or user might create a plug-in that makes a photo look like a velvet painting. You can then download these plug-ins and use them free of charge in your version of Gimp.
Gimp also supports the Adobe Photoshop format for paintbrushes. These are a powerful tool within the application that are generally themed and make it easy to add potent imagery to your work. Paintbrushes may be themed around gardens, Japanese letters, Goth imagery, cars or just about anything you can imagine. They’re a flexible, powerful way to take your logos or website images to the next level.
Find this program at http://www.gimp.org.
Another powerful, free program for creating images is Inkscape. Unlike Gimp, which is a raster-based image manipulation program, Inkscape is a vector drawing program. While Gimp is intended for editing photos in the jpg, png or gif format and best suited to handling photorealistic images, Inkscape’s vector drawing is great for icons, logos and more cartoonish images.
Vector drawing programs are based on building, coloring and manipulation shapes. Raster programs like Gimp are pixel-based and this means that when you scale an image to a larger or smaller size, you run the risk of losing image fidelity. Programs like Inkscape and their expensive cousins (Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw) are the perfect tool when you want to create logos that might be presented in many different dimensions.
Most clip art that is not photography based is created using some sort of vector drawing program. Inkscape uses the Scalable Vector Graphic file extension (.svg) which is open standard and means that your graphics file will easily transfer to other programs and be usable.
Find this program at inkscape.org.
Is Open Source for Everyone?
Of course! It’s free! That’s the whole point. There are downsides to using these applications. While you can find hundreds of books on using Adobe’s Photoshop, you’ll only find a handful on Gimp and Inkscape.
Some people love to buy books to learn, but I say that’s actually a disadvantage because again you’re out another $30-$50 bucks per book.
There are plenty of video tutorials on You Tube that can teach you how to use the programs and become very competent. So the investment you make will be time, not money.
If you’re in need of a program that will help you create images for your website that are compelling, but can’t afford a copy of Adobe’s Photoshop – you’d be wise to take a look at these two amazing open source graphics programs.