12 Excellent Free and Open Source Graphics Apps

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 18, 2009

 The worlds of open source and freeware both include many outstanding applications for working with graphics and photos. These include standard fare such as image editors, but it's also worth looking into free desktop publishers, web design templates, and quirky graphics tools. Whether you want to produce splashy graphical documents, enhance graphics on a blog or web site, create eye-catching logos, or more, check out our newly updated collection of 12 applications and resources here.

Open Source Photo Management. Gallery is an open source, web-based photo management and album organizer application available for Linux and Windows. It's recently out in a Beta 2 release of Version 3.0. Licensed under the GPL, Gallery makes it easy to blend photo management into a web site or blog. There is a Gallery Remote client available for it that lets you upload new sets of photos on-the-fly, and Gallery is available in over 20 languages.

Blender University. This post collects a whopping 25 tutorials you can use to get started with Blender, one of the most popular free, open source 3D animation and graphics applications, for Windows, the Mac and Linux. You can learn how to create a great looking logo, how to execute special effects, and more. Blender has been used to produce striking full-length animated films and is worth getting to know if you haven't tried it. You can also download a great, free book on Blender here, with step-by-step project instructions.

Fantastic Freeware. Aviary is a truly remarkable suite of free, online graphics applications, and it has won many awards, including a recent Webware 100 award. It isn't open source, but it is freeware, and has become much more than the dedicated image editor that it started out as. You’ll find a vector editor, a color palette editor, a tool for creating visual effects, and more. All of the tools are available for you to use within your browser. Aviary also comes with many tutorials, similar to those found online for Photoshop. You can browse many of them here. Definitely give this suite a try.

On-The-Fly Image Editing. IrfanView is one of my main image editors that I reach for, even though I have Photoshop. It loads in an instant, and has a very rich set of tools, including mutlipage TIF support, support for multiple animated GIFs, and you can choose to use a bunch of useful plug-ins. The application isn't open source. It's freeware, but the developers improve it every year and the plug-in community works like an open source community. It's very fast to launch, does great batch image processing, and you may get things done much faster in it than in more bloated graphics applications.

A Free Book on GIMP? In our post "6 Ways to Get Much More Out of GIMP" we collected a number of excellent resources for the powerful, free, open source GIMP graphics application, available for Windows, the Mac and Linux. You'll find a complete, free online book on GIMP, tips on getting plug-ins and more.

Smarter Flickr Sessions. Are you a Linux user who frequently works with images in Flickr? Flickr can often be very slow, and has very limited uploading tools. Check out Kristin's roundup of top uploading applications for Flickr here.

Flexible Freeware. Paint.net is one of the most beloved freeware offerings for Windows. I know many bloggers and site administrators who swear by it. It shines at image and photo editing, with very flexible pallettes of tools. It supports layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a growing online community provides tutorials and plug-ins for it.

Need a Desktop Publisher? Scribus is a top, free open source desktop publishing application available for Windows, Mac OS/X and Linux. It's useful for PDF creation, and has most professional publishing features found in proprietary products such as InDesign. Linux.com has a nice step-by-step tutorial up on how to create booklets with Scribus. Lisa Hoover also covered some of the best features in Scribus here.

Draw it for Me. Are you looking for free clip art to incorporate with documents, web pages, and desktop publishing materials? Open Clip Art has an archive of user-contributed art that you can feel comfortable using for free.

For Splashy Web Sites. Along the same lines, if you're looking for good graphical templates for web pages, two good places to start are Open Source Web Designs and Open Designs. These sites house thousands of graphical templates, most of them XHTML/CSS-based, that you can use for free.

Photos Meet Gmail. GPhotoSpace is a Firefox extension that enhances your Gmail account with photo album creation, uploading, and sharing features, as we covered here. It's available for Windows and the Mac. Within Gmail, GPhotoSpace gives you links to choose from for creating albums, sending albums to others, deleting albums, maintaining an album inbox and more. All the images are stored by Google as part of your Gmail account, and I recommend setting up a dedicated Gmail account to use with it. This is a very convenient way to work with photos and e-mail for sharing purposes.

On a Thumbnail Basis. Easy Thumbnails is a freeware application that is used widely to create thumbnail images (the small graphics you see when you, say, do a Google Image search and get a page of various graphics back). However, it is also good for scaling images incrementally up or down in size and you can resize large groups of images in batches with it. For example, you can scale all photos you have in one folder up in size at once. Give it a go, and you're likely to find several uses for it.