Thursday, February 16, 2012

55 Open Source Replacements for Photo and Graphics Tools

In recent years, the number of people taking digital photos has increased dramatically -- and so have the number of open source tools available to help users work with those photos.

Photo-sharing site 1000 memories estimated nearly 10 percent of the 3.5 trillion photographs in existence were taken in the last year. It added, "Every two minutes today we snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s." According to the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA), manufacturers shipped a record-breaking 121.5 million digital cameras in 2010 and 115.5 million in 2011.

Researchers from InfoTrends predict that by 2015, more than 2 billion cell phones in use will have built-in cameras.

Not only are people taking a lot of photos -- they're sharing a lot of photos. Facebook's photo library includes more than 140 billion photos, half of which were uploaded in 2011. Users uploaded an additional 8 billion pictures to Photobucket and 5 billion to Flickr.

With so many digital images flying around, amateur photographers have more interest than ever in tools to help them create, edit, organize and share those images. Unfortunately, some of the best known software for dealing with photos and graphics retails for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The open source community has responded with dozens of free applications whose capabilities rival or even exceed those of their closed source counterparts. Below, you'll find 55 noteworthy choices. As always, feel free to add any we might have missed to the comments section below.

Photo Editors/Raster Graphics

Replaces: Adobe Photoshop
The GNU Image Manipulation Program, aka "The Gimp," offers professional quality photo editing capabilities on par with what you would find in Photoshop. It includes powerful filters for photo enhancement and digital retouching with support for a wide variety of file formats. Note: if you use Windows, you'll need to download Gimp-win. Operating System: Windows, Linux

Replaces: Adobe Photoshop
KDE's painting app can help you edit existing photography or art or create new digital artwork of your own. The interface is designed to mimic real world art supplies and painting tools. Operating System: Windows, Linux

3. Pixelitor
Replaces: Adobe Photoshop
This Java-based photo editor offers more than 70 image filters and color adjustments, some of which aren't offered by any other tool. However, documentation for this project is a little light, so you'll need to have some experience with other photo editors in order to use it. Operating System: OS Independent

4. Pinta
Replaces: Adobe Photoshop, Paint.Net
Modeled after the freeware Paint.Net, Pinta offers advanced drawing tools and more than 35 adjustments and effects for manipulating your photos. Features include unlimited layers, full undo history and more. Operating System: Windows

5. Seashore
Replaces: Adobe Photoshop
Based on The Gimp, Seashore is a Mac-only graphics and photo editor designed to meet the needs of average users. It offers features like gradients, textures, anti-aliasing for both text and brush strokes, multiple layers and alpha channel editing. Operating System: OS X

6. CinePaint
Replaces: Adobe Photoshop
Although it is a raster graphics editor, not a video editor, CinePaint is specifically designed to be used for motion pictures. It offers a similar set of tools as Gimp, but it supports high bit-depth, which allows this app to be used for touching up individual frames of a film. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

7. MyPaint
Replaces: Corel Painter
Designed for use with pressure sensitive graphic tablets, MyPaint is a fast powerful painting program. The interface disappears when not in use so that you can focus on your artwork. Operating System: Windows, Linux

8. Gnu Paint
Replaces: Windows Paint
Also known as GPaint, Gnu Paint offers a basic set of graphic creation tools, including polygon shapes, ovals, freehand drawing tools, and fill and shadow features. It's essentially the same as Windows Paint, but it supports only the Linux Gnome desktop. Operating System: Linux

9. Paintbrush
Replaces: Windows Paint
Reminiscent of the old MacPaint software, Paintbrush offers Mac users a simple way to create basic images quickly. It supports multiple graphic file formats and includes tools like airbrush, rounded rectangle, eyedropper, zoom and a text tool. Operating System: OS X

10. KolourPaint
Replaces: Windows Paint
This paint app for the KDE interface aims to be easier to use than Gimp with a better feature set than GPaint or Windows Paint. The site includes a helpful product comparison page that highlights some of the similarities and differences between the various painting programs available. Operating System: Linux

11. GrafX2
Replaces: Windows Paint
Originally created for DOS systems, this app traces its inspiration to programs like Amiga's Deluxe Paint and Brilliance. This updated open source version has been ported for multiple operating systems, but it's still best at creating old-school 256-color graphics. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

12. ImageJ
Replaces: Windows Paint
Developed at the National Institutes of Health, this Java-based image manipulation program was intended to for use by doctors and scientists for use in analyzing images from clinical or laboratory settings. However, it can be used to modify many other types of images and artwork as well. Operating System: OS Independent

13. Luminance HDR
Replaces: Adobe Photoshop
This project provides a workflow for high dynamic range (HDR) images. It supports multiple file formats, including raw formats, and it includes helpful wizards that walk users through common tasks. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

14. Tux Paint
Replaces: Windows Paint
Created for the younger set (primarily preschoolers and kindergarteners), Tux Paint helps kids create their own digital artwork. It offers basic drawing tools, plus fun stamps and special effects like sparkle, drip, rainbow and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

Vector Graphics Editors

15. Inkscape
Replaces: Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW
Suitable for professional designers, this vector graphics editor offers advanced features like markers, clones, alpha blending and more. The website includes tutorials and free clip art to help new users get started. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

16. Xara Xtreme for Linux
Replaces: Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW
Based on the commercial Windows software by the same name, Xara Xtreme for Linus offers exceptional speed for a graphics editor. It also boasts an uncluttered interface and a well-developed library of documentation and support materials. Operating System: Linux, OS X

17. svg-edit
Replaces: Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW
This Java-based graphics editor will run in any browser. It offers more than enough features for amateur designers and illustrators, and it's been incorporated into many other open source projects. Operating System: OS Independent

18. sK1
Replaces: Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW
Developed as a replacement for Illustrator and CorelDRAW, sK1 offers professional pre-press features, such as CMYK color separations, ICC color management and press-ready PDF output. It currently works on Linux only, but the project owner plan to port it to Windows and OS X. Operating System: Linux

19. Leonardo Sketch
Replaces: Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW
Leonardo describes itself as "named after the 15th century painter, but aimed for the 21st century user." It's a fairly new project, but offers a good list of basic features for vector graphics creation and editing. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

Image Viewers/Photo Management Systems

20. digiKam
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
This powerful image manager for the KDE desktop aims to meet the photo organization needs of professional photographers. Key features include photo import, tagging, auto-transformations, a light table and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

21. jBrout
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
The jBrout photo manager makes it easy to sort your photos into albums and later search to find one particular image. It includes integration with Picasa and Flickr. Operating System: Windows, Linux

22. imgSeek
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
Although it’s a full-featured image viewer and manager, this app focuses on enabling content-based search. Quickly sketch an image or click on an existing photo to find other photos containing similar images. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

23. Album Shaper
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
This app actually features three separate pieces: Presenter, a slideshow viewer; Reveal, an image viewer with limited editing capabilities; and Album Shaper, a tool for organizing, enhancing and sharing your photos. According to the site, it "strives to be the most friendly, easy to use, open source application" of its kind. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

24. Gallery Mage
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
Gallery Mage allows users to crop, resize and rotate images, while maintaining the original files. It integrates with several other viewers so that you can view slideshows and organize your photos. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

25. Gwenview
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
Another photo viewer for KDE, Gwenview makes it easy to browse and view images, while also offering some basic editing capabilities. It displays image properties and meta information, and it can also play videos and animations. Operating System: Linux

26. KPhotoAlbum
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
Also for KDE, KPhotoAlbum aims to make it possible to find any photo on your drive in five seconds or less. It offers automated tools for annotating, categorizing, searching and viewing your pictures. Operating System: Linux

27. KSquirrel
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
KSquirrel is a fast, easy-to-use image viewer for KDE. Key features include disk navigator, file tree, multiple directory view, thumbnails and extended thumbnails, dynamic format support, DCOP interface and support for KEXIF and KIPI plugins. Operating System: Linux

28. Eye of GNOME
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
The official photo manager for the Gnome desktop, Eye of GNOME supports a wide variety of image file formats. It offers a basic set of capabilities that allow you to browse your images, view properties and metadata, and print your photos. Operating System: Linux

29. F-Spot
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
This alternative photo viewer for the Gnome desktop offers a wider range of features than Eye of GNOME, including basic photo editing capabilities and tag icons. It also makes it easy to create a photo CD or export photos to Flickr, 23, Picasa Web or SmugMug. Operating System: Linux

30. gThumb
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
Also for Gnome, gThumb includes an image browser, viewer, organizer and editor. Advanced features allow image import, slideshows, converting among file formats, removing duplicate images, creation of Web albums and more. Operating System: Linux

31. Shotwell
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
This photo manager for the Gnome desktop makes it easy to import, organize, edit and publish your pictures. It offers basic editing features like cropping, rotation, red-eye removal, saturation, tint and temperature, and it integrates with Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and YouTube. Operating System: Linux

32. Comix
Replaces: Adobe Bridge, Picasa, Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery
Although it was built for viewing and organizing comic book collections, this app also functions well as a general image viewer. It offers basic image enhancement capabilities and tagging and bookmark capabilities that make it easy to see your library. Operating System: Linux

Web-Based Photo Albums

33. Coppermine Photo Gallery
Replaces: Photobucket, Flickr
If you have your own Web server, you can use Coppermine to manage and share your photo collection with the world. It stores photo information in a MySQL database and allows you to organize your photos into online albums, upload photos, view slideshows and much more. Operating System: OS Independent

34. Gallery
Replaces: Photobucket, Flickr
Like Coppermine, Gallery requires that users have their own Web servers or Web hosting from a third-party provider. It provides a way to integrate large photo collections into existing websites. Click the link for examples of sites that use this software. Operating System: Windows, Linux

3D Graphics and Animation

35. Blender
Replaces: Maya
Designed for professionals, Blender is a complete 3D content creation suite with tools for modeling, shading, animating, rendering, and compositing both still and moving images. A number of motion pictures have been created using this software, and Blender even has an annual film festival to show off users' creations. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

36. K-3D
Replaces: Maya
Boasting that it is "easy, powerful, flexible and free," K-3D offers powerful 3D modeling and animation capabilities with an intuitive interface. The site offers plenty of help for new artists, including extensive tutorials. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

37. Art of Illusion
Replaces: Maya
While not quite as robust as Maya, this 3D modeling and rendering studio still packs plenty of professional-quality features like subdivision surface based modeling tools, skeleton based animation, and a graphical language for designing procedural textures and materials. Check out the site for examples of artwork created with this open source tool. Operating System: OS Independent

38. Wings 3D
Replaces: Nendo, Mirai
Wings 3D creates still graphics, but not animation. Designed to be both powerful and easy to use, it offers a wide range of modeling tools, a customizable interface, support for lights and materials, and a built-in AutoUV mapping facility. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

39. gSculpt
Replaces: Nendo, Mirai
A fork of Wings 3D, gSculpt provides all the tools found in Wings 3D, plus a few additional improvements designed to improve workflow and reduce the time required for creating new graphics. In addition to the documentation available on the site, one gSculpt users has set up a blog with extensive tutorials for those new to 3D graphics. Operating System: Windows, Linux

40. Misfit Model 3D
Replaces: Nendo, Mirai
Although it's no longer in active development, you can still download and use this 3D modeling tool. Features include multi-level undo, skeletal animations, simple texturing and command-line batch processing. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

41. Gmsh
Replaces: Nendo, Mirai
This app describes itself as a "3D finite element grid generator with a build-in CAD engine and post-processor." In layman's terms, it's a simple program for designing three-dimensional objects that offers some capabilities of a 3D graphics tool and some capabilities of a CAD tool. Operating System: Windows, Linux

42. JPatch
Replaces: Nendo, Mirai
This Java-based tool offers full modeling capabilities, but only basic animation capabilities. Sample work created with the app can be seen on the site. Operating System: OS Independent


Replaces: AutoCAD
Now well over 20 years old, this solid modeling tool counts the U.S. military among its users. It includes more than 400 separate tools, utilities and applications for interactive 3D solid geometry editing, geometric analysis, image and signal processing, path-tracing and photon mapping, benchmarks and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, others

44. FreeCAD
Replaces: AutoCAD
Aimed at mechanical engineers, product designers, architects and other types of engineers, Free-CAD offers 3D design capabilities and a 2D sketcher, and it can import and export most types of CAD files. In the future, the project hopes to add drawing sheets, robot simulations, rendering mode and an architecture module. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, others

45. Archimedes
Replaces: AutoCAD
This Java-based CAD program for architects offers a simple interface and an extensible architecture. It's not as full-featured as some other CAD programs, but adequate for basic tasks. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

Desktop Publishing

46. Scribus
Replaces: QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher
This open source software offers the sorts of features that professional graphic designers need to create press-ready or digital documents. Capabilities include color separations, CMYK and spot color support, ICC color management, PDF output and more. However, note that Scribus cannot import or export files from commercial desktop publishing software. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X

47. MiKTeX
Replaces: QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher
While definitely not as full-featured as a these desktop publishing systems, MiKTeX is an excellent typesetting program based on the older app TeX. TeX was created by computer science legend Donald E. Knuth, who intended it to be used "for the creation of beautiful books -- and especially for books that contain a lot of mathematics." Operating System: Windows, Linux

Diagram Creation

48. Dia
Replaces: Visio
"Roughly inspired by" Visio, Dia makes it easy to create diagrams and flowcharts. It exports to a number of graphic file formats, and it can print graphics that span several pages. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

49. LaTeXDraw
Replaces: Visio
This simple drawing program creates images for use in documents created with LaTeX. It's best for mathematical or scientific images, charts, diagrams, etc. Operating System: OS Independent

Office Productivity Suites with Graphics Apps

50. KOffice
Replaces: Microsoft Office
In addition to word processing, spreadsheet and presentation apps with similar capabilities as Microsoft Office, KOffice offers two graphics-related programs: Kivio (which is still under development) is a flowchart and diagram program similar to Visio, and Artwork is a vector graphics program similar to Illustrator or CorelDRAW. The KOffice apps integrate with each other and import and export common file formats. Operating System: Windows, Linux

Replaces: Microsoft Office
Now an Apache Foundation project, offers Office-compatible word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database programs. In addition, it includes a graphics program called Draw, which can help create graphics suitable for business documents and presentations. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

52. LibreOffice
Replaces: Microsoft Office
A fairly new community-focused fork of, LibreOffice offers the same set of applications as, including Draw. However, it adds some tweaks, improvements and other capabilities that are not included in Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

RAW Photo Manipulation

53. Rawstudio
Replaces: PhotoDirector
Experts recommend saving your digital photos in their raw formats in order to preserve as much information as possible. Rawstudio handles batch processing of those images with features like image tagging and sorting, lens distortion correction, advanced noise reduction, intelligent sharpening, straightening and more. Operating System: Linux

54. RawTherapee
Replaces: PhotoDirector
Similar to Rawstudio, this two-year-old project also offers batch processing of raw photo files. It boasts "the most details and least artifacts from your raw photos thanks to modern and traditional demosaicing algorithms." Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

55. UFRaw
Replaces: PhotoDirector
This utility can be used on its own or as a Gimp plug-in. It allows users to manipulate and view raw images and convert them to other formats. Note that like the other tools for working with raw images, you'll need to have some expertise to use this app. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X

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