Great Freeware Alternatives for Image Manipulation..

So everybody loves to do a little image manipulation now and then right? Maybe you’re working on a new avatar for your Facebook page. Or perhaps adding a mustache to your friend’s photo because you think it looks better that way. For any one who loves to Photoshop but can’t afford the large price tag…you can be happy to learn there are some really great alternatives that won’t cost you anything but some clicks:

# 1.) The most well know of these alternatives is most likely  “The GIMP”

GIMP’s About page states:

” GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.  GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted. GIMP is written and developed under X11 on UNIX platforms.  But basically the same code also runs on MS Windows and Mac OS X.”

All that being said…I think GIMP works great and offers some nice plugin features. The Normal map plugin is excellent and I have used it many times when I need to whip out a quick batch of Normal maps for game textures.  Like any other software suite, the interface may take a little getting used to…if you have gotten comfortable with something else previously. But don’t let that stop you from giving GIMP a try by any means. It really is  a great product, and freeware too!

Below you can see the Normal Map plugin in action. A screenshot of GIMP’s UI… converted to Normals.

Screenshot converted to Normals!
GIMP Normals Plugin in Action


# 2.) Another option out there as freeware is “Inkscape”

Inkscapes’s  About section states:

“An Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Inkscape supports many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.) and great care is taken in designing a streamlined interface. It is very easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps and much more. We also aim to maintain a thriving user and developer community by using open, community-oriented development.”

In short, this program has a nice feel to it and a good bit of functionality. Like it says…it does a good job at emulating things that both Illustrator and Corel can do. It easily takes on the job of converting images into vector, and can trace even the most complicated artwork with a little practice. In the image below I demonstrate this ability.

An extremely detailed piece of my artwork that I converted to outline in Inkscape:

Detailed Image converted to Vector in Inkscape
Comparison of Detail converted to Vector

All images and artwork Copyright and Intellectual Property of RJ Roskom 2011

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