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I promise not to say anything about a picture being worth a
thousand words, but in today’s ‘attention economy’ using images in our
communications online or off is more important than ever in attracting
attention. This is a round-up of some of the free graphics tools that various
folks have recommended to me including some sources for copyright free images.
Some of them are really easy to use and some of them are geared to professional
quality image editing. In any case, I hope you find some useful gems that you
haven’t heard about yet.
content developer, Wes Holing, is a big fan of Pixlr
Editor free online photo editor from Autodesk.
Here’s what he says: “I use it when I’m on a computer without Photoshop and
need to crop or resize an image. You can save the image onto your PC and then
use it however you want.” It has a Photoshop type interface with all the
different tools, basic menus, plus things like layers.
Pixlr Express is a simpler more intuitive interface
for those who don’t know Photoshop. It offers a number of ways to resize,
adjust and add effects to images. It’s the simplest tool I‘ve found to add a
caption to an image to make an Internet
meme. They have some great examples on the Pixlr
blog as well. There’s a mobile version of Pixlr Express for Android and iPhone.
Pixlr-o-matic is a free online tool that adds
special effects, like making photos look antique. It is available online and
also as a download, on Facebook, as a Chrome
web app and mobile app for iOS or Android devices.
I have to say
that this is the easiest to use image editor I’ve seen so far. The website has
a support page where you can ask
organizer, Eli van der Giessen’s personal favorite free lightweight online
image editor is PicMonkey. It’s also
very intuitive for non-Photoshop users for cropping, resizing, sharpening, and
rotating images. This software is a classic freemium service, providing basic
features for free, but the more interesting effects are only available for a $5 per month subscription. Some of the free services I like are the
different frames you can put around a photo, text captioning, the ease of
sharpening a blurry photo, and a feature under ‘image setting’ that allows you
to adjust the file size of the image so you can use it for the web or make it
email-able. I also like the very easy
collages you can make with this free tool.
GIMP is the
primary Photoshop freeware clone for photo retouching and resizing, creating
images from scratch, and converting formats like bmp, gif, jpeg, png, psd,
almost everything. This software pretty much requires some familiarity with
Photoshop. The paint function has painting tools including Brush, Pencil,
Airbrush, Clone, gradient editor and blending tool
It’s a free download for most computer OS platforms
like Mac, Linux, and Windows, and is available in several languages as well. It
apparently works in Windows 7, but not Windows 8 as yet. There isn’t a mobile version
yet, but there is something called Gimp
Portable that fits on a flash drive that you can plug in to a Windows PC. I
had a hard time getting it to install on a Mac, but on Windows was fine.
I particularly like the feature overview page that shows in
pictures the kinds of things you can do with GIMP. It’s not super easy to use,
but it has lots of assistance like help files, a user manual and online resources such as
tutorials, a wiki, documentation (in 11 languages), forums, FAQs, tips etc.
A good place to
start is the Lifehacker Learn
the Basics of Photoshop: The Complete Guide. You can download all the
the Basics of Photoshop in Under 25 Minutes is really useful. It describes
most of the major Photoshop tools. There’s also the
GIMP Basics tutorial,
which is more geeky, but still manageable. The
GIMP Quickie tutorial describes how to
do very simple image manipulation in plain language like changing an image
size, cropping a photo, flipping an image, and probably the most useful thing:
decreasing the file size of a JPEG, for instance a photo taken with a camera,
so you can send it through email or use it on the web.
My sense is
that page layout or desktop publishing is not so well-known a graphics field as
image editing like Photoshop, but it is very useful. It’s actually the thing
Macintosh on the map in the 80’s. The most famous and full-featured page
layout program is Adobe
InDesign. Scribus is
the primary In-Design freeware clone. Both applications are used to create
print documents like flyers, brochures, newsletters, annual reports and full-blown
magazines. It also creates digital documents like eBooks, reports, PDFs, and
webpages. It does professional color management
as well. If you want a document to look professional with images, multi-column
layout, sidebars and other design elements it’s worth moving beyond word processing
to page layout.
is a free open source application. It is not a cloud application. It’s an
application you can download
for Intel Mac, Windows (both 32-bit and for newer 64-bit PCs, but not Windows 8
yet) and Linux PCs. It downloaded and installed fine on my Mac. Since I’m
familiar with InDesign, it was pretty intuitive to start working with the
application. But for those not familiar with InDesign, it is probably necessary
to run through the Scribus quick-start guide
to get started. I also like Working
with Scribus: How to begin on the Scribus Wiki, and also they offer
additional free online how-tos
and tutorials. It is designed to integrate
closely with OpenOffice Suite and GIMP. Just like GIMP, it has a Scribus Portable
version that fits on a large capacity USB thumbdrive.
Edition is a less functional, but easier to use freeware download. Its
maker, Serif, offers several freemium starter edition
graphics applications for Windows that are designed to be easy to use like PhotoPlus, DrawPlus, WebPlus, and MoviePlus.
Inkscape is another
free open-source program that does much of what Adobe Illustrator
does. It’s also a nonprofit project. This type of drawing software is used to make
logos, infographics, web graphic images, and motion graphics. It creates vector-based
images that can scale up to the size of a billboard without losing quality or
proportion. Inkspace does a surprising
number of things. Like its cousins GIMP and Scribus, it is available as a
free download for Intel Mac, Windows (all the way up through Windows 8), and
Linux. It is available in the major European languages and also Japanese. The
Inkscape Tutorials Blog is
a good place to check out to see what the program can do.
Drawing programs are actually a pretty crowded area
and include Creative Docs.NET, sK1 and Serif DrawPlus for Windows, Skencil and OpenOffice Draw for Windows, Mac, and
Linux, XaraExtreme and Skencil for Linux, and Torapp for the Chrome OS.
the interests of relative brevity, I won’t go in the many free video editing
tools available, but I do want to mention a hybrid that is easy to use and
creates video slide shows. It’s called Animoto.
The lite version is a free online tool that allows you to add titles and music
to a succession of photos, and the effect is incredible. My colleague, Ale
Bezdikian, whipped one up in about an hour for a story I did on the charity, Gleam
of Hope, that
supports Haitian orphans. Here’s the link to Ale’s
with a website, newsletter, or blog these days knows the importance of good
attention-getting images or videos. One hurdle in using images is that you need
is to buy them from a place like Getty
Images, or to get formal permission to legally post them or alter them from
the owner - or you could to use copyright free images. At TechSoup we’re big
fans of the Flickr's Creative
Commons page to find photos and videos we can use. By using the advanced search and clicking
"Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon” I can usually find
something good that is licensed “Some rights reserved." These are fine for noncommercial use by charities or
libraries with attribution to the author.
many more leads on where to get copyright-free, or openly licensed images you can use for free
on your website or for other purposes, check out our great TechSoup article: Finding
and Using Images from the Web. Finally, I’d be remiss to not mention the
Image Resizer Tool when you need to quickly resize images for your social
also hate myself if I didn’t mention the free Worldle
Wordcloud online maker. Just type in a bunch of words and it makes an
cloud graphic. Word
It Out is another one of these. OK. I have to stop now.
you have any free graphics software that you like and recommend? Please log in
Great article, Jim! And yup, I am a big Pixlr fan. Even the keyboard shortcuts replicate Photoshop's as much as possible.
Most of the rest of these are new to me, so I'll have to take them for a spin.
My favorite image editor, also happens to be free. Paint.NET
It started development as an undergraduate college senior design project mentored by Microsoft, and is currently being maintained by some of the alumni that originally worked on it.
Very useful article. Desktop publishing and image editing keep growing faster than I can keep up with. I'm glad someone else has done the homework and lets me know about the free downloads and instructionals.