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Free Graphic Software - Different Types Of Free Graphic Software Available Online

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Many people know the names of expensive graphics programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, but few are aware that there are many other programs available that can do similar jobs, but are completely free.

Depending on exactly what you are doing, many of the image manipulation functions that are in Photoshop are just optimized, standard algorithms. This means that anyone can really write a program which will do most of the basic functions that an expensive editor would do. It is just math in the end, for the most part.

Before you begin investigating free programs, think about what type of functionality you will need from the program. Different programs offer different specialized features. You will want to know exactly what you plan to do with your images.

The most common type of graphics editors that can be found for free online are called image manipulation programs. At their core these programs revolve around one concept: change, edit or otherwise modify an already existing photorealistic picture.

Common features like sharpening, blurring, adding tints or adjusting the contrast of the image can be found in almost any program. More advanced features like masking, distortion, or stylized renderings are harder to find for free.

For those who are attempting to create artwork directly within the computer software, starting with a blank slate, there is a whole other class of programs. The most effective are called vector-based graphics programs. These programs allow you to turn lines and curves you draw into mathematical vectors that can be manipulated with exacting detail and scaled without any loss of resolution.

Programs to create original artwork also tend to have filters and brush types that simulate real artistic mediums and tools. This is called a ‘painterly’ effect.

It is also very common to combine the use of both types of programs, which is why Photoshop and Illustrator are usually paired together. A basic shape or sketch can be done in Illustrator and then exported to Photoshop for coloring. Professional publishers have been known to use this process.

One of the best pieces of free graphics software for image manipulation is called PaintNet. It is a program that was started because of a college class and then grew into a full featured editor.

PaintNet has many of the same features as Photoshop. It has a history tab, the option for third party plug-ins, and layers. On top of that are many easy to use filters and adjustments which can change everything from contrast to hue in real time. There is also a fairly advanced masking tool built in.

Unfortunately, PaintNet has little in the way of being able to create full blown illustrations. It is fairly useful for applying color to a finished sketch, though. The program also supports the use of a graphics tablet, which makes editing much easier.

One of the most ambitious pieces of free graphic software has been in development for years by a large community of devoted fans. It is open source and cross platform. It is called GiMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program.

Much like Photoshop, this program started fairly small and compact and has now grown to include a wide array of features, plug-ins, filters and options. Though the name suggests that it is only an image manipulation program, it is not.

GiMP has the option to create paths, which are basically Bezier curves which can be traced to create pen and ink or sketch-like effects. It is wholly possible to create original artwork within GiMP, and then to continue on and do post processing.

The main drawback of GiMP is that some of the commands and features you are used to in Photoshop are mapped to other keys or are located in awkward menus. If you are willing to relearn some of these shortcuts, though, it is worth it for this program.

Inkscape is a purely vector-based program, similar to Illustrator. It allows scaleable non-pixel-based artwork to be created and accepts the use of a graphics tablet. It is one of the more impressive pieces of graphics software available for free. It has some minor bugs and freezes from time to time, but works exceptionally well overall.

When using free graphic software, there will always be compromises. The programmers are doing this as a hobby, so bugs may persist across several versions or never be fixed at all. There are always little peculiarities that take getting used to, but if you can not afford to buy a suite of Adobe products, is a small price to pay in order to get those same professional results.

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