We’re big fans of Adobe Creative Suite at Freelancers Union, but sometimes you may need to do some image edits or make a graphic in a pinch. Here are five great design programs that don’t cost anything.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program (aka GIMP) is a cross-platform program that’s free and open source. Arguably the most advanced free image editor available, GIMP has been around since the ’90s and features a wide variety of advanced tools and brushes. While the downloadable program requires a bit of a learning curve, there are many free GIMP tutorials on the internet that can help you get started.
Feeling a little lost? One GIMP modification, GimPhoto, is designed to be more similar to Adobe Photoshop, so you may find it easier to navigate if you’re already familiar with CS. GimPhoto includes a new menu layout, new brushes, and gradient sets.
Pixlr is a free, open-source webapp available for browsers or Android phone. While it may not have quite as many capabilities as GIMP, it’s easy to learn and includes layer support, layer effects, filters, and a wide variety of tools. Since Pixlr is accessible from any computer, it’s perfect for making a quick image edit when you’re on the go.
To use Pixlr, you can create a new image or upload pictures from your hard drive or Facebook account. When you're finished editing, simply save them back to your desktop; Pixlr can save files as a JPEG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, or PXD, a file which remembers layers.
Another webapp for editing and creating images, SUMO Paint has free version and pro versions from $9-$19. The program saves in PNG, JPEG, and SUMO (its own file for remembering layers). The program has a plethora of brushes as well as layering tools, filters, layer effects, magic wand and pattern tools, and more.
PicMonkey is a relatively simple online editor, but it’s easy and fun to use, and it offers "automatic retouching" options, such as teeth whitening, adding face whiskers, spray tanning, or airbrushing away wrinkles. PicMonkey also has playful backgrounds and “sticker” options to add to photos, including party hats and sunglasses. There's a basic free version as well as paid memberships for no ads and more features.
Need a cute and quirky layout? Touting “amazingly simple graphic design,” Canva is an easy-to-use webapp that allows you to create cards, blog graphics, invitations, social media art, Facebook covers, and more. While Canva is not meant to replace a pro tool, it does allow you to make something eye-catching and fun without spending very much time. Canva allows you to drag-and-drop between several backgrounds, patterns, photos, and fun pieces of clipart, which range between free and paid options.
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