Free Software Graphics Programs That Aren’t Gimp

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Image and Graphics - Friday, October 12th, 2007

As follow-up to my rant over how Gimp vs Photoshop is a stupid flamewar, I’d like to take a post to link to some other free software graphics programs besides Gimp. So many people who go looking for an alternative to Adobe’s expensive creative suite are directed to Gimp, and yet Gimp is only the tip of the paintbrush, as it were.

All of the below, unless noted otherwise, run in both Windows and Linux. Some of them might have Mac versions, but forgive me for not chasing every one of them down this time.


Inkscape – Inkscape is the free vector drawing program. It is powerful and comparable to Adobe Illustrator. It can open and save in many formats, including SVG (which can display in a plain old web browser!), PostScript, PDF, and Adobe .ai files, as well as exporting to image formats. It comes with a set of tutorials. It is so easy to pick up, you’ll be drawing in no time – you can make these crystal buttons in about 20 minutes.

Xara X

Xara Xtreme – Nearly every bit as good as Inkscape. Xara Xtreme takes vector graphics to a whole new level, with crazy effects like beveling text and four-way gradients and much more. It, too, has a pretty good interface, but because it has more features than Inkscape it will take a little longer to figure out. The downside is that it can’t export to SVG, and in fact can only save in its own format. However, it can export to many image formats.


POVray – 3D ray-tracing was practically born in open source software, and POVray is an established staple. It is comparable to 3DMax, with a “however”: However, it’s just a graphics-design language – you’ll want a GUI front-end, such as KPOVmodeler pictured here. The front end takes the tediousness of learning to program in POVray and turns it into a click-and-build experience that’s easy and intuitive. It took about 20 minutes to make this Rubik’s cube. Check out the Hall of Fame gallery on the linked page – the stuff people do with this program is amazing!


Blender – As opposed to POVray, which is a polygon modeler, Blender is a mesh modeler. Blender is very powerful, being not only a modeler, but a full-fledged animation studio. Yes, they’ve made movies with it! Now for the big, fat downside: go to graphics design school, because you’ll practically need a diploma in engineering to make this thing work! Blender gets even more criticism for its interface than Gimp. Shown here, the default monkey head that comes with the program.

an instant logo

Image Magick – Image Magick is a suite of command-line utilities for doing various graphics tasks. Think of Gimp done from commands, which, once you learn it, is actually pretty easy. Most servers which handle graphics use Image Magick – like the ones that let you generate your own custom signs and such. For instance, I made this logo with this code:

convert -size 500×100 xc:springgreen -pointsize 72 -annotate +25+70 ‘Ask Rea Maor’ -blur 0x4 -fill white -stroke black -annotate +25+65 ‘Ask Rea Maor’ my_logo.jpg

Xaos – For something a little different – Xaos is a fractal generator. Fractals by themselves make pretty wallpaper, but clipped samples of fractals are also good for making natural images such as coastlines and plant life. Xaos is a little hard to learn, but once you explore the menus, you’ll want to bring your tie-dye shirt and Grateful Dead headband, because playing with it is a psychedelic experience!

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One Response to “Free Software Graphics Programs That Aren’t Gimp”

  1. Binny V A Says:

    Krita is a good one. But it is available in Linux only.

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