Free Drawing & Graphic Software

13 10 2010

As the onset of Open Source software has been making more headway in the past couple of years, there is a bounty of quality free software around for anyone to try on for size.  Some more notable than others, but most are very well made products, and regularly updated through a small army of programmers.  The most common license for these products is the GNU General Public License, but there are other, less notable licenses as well.  This licensing ensures the quality and trustworthiness of the products you will be using in the future.  Anyone who has spent some time with the Linux operating system will be familiar with most of this.  If you are not familiar with Linux, get familiar.  Without further ado, let’s get listing!

1. GIMP – The GNU Image Manipulation Program

http://www.gimp.org

GIMP is essentially a full on Photoshop alternative, and it is 100% free.  I use gimp for almost all of my graphic design, and you can save your files in Adobe friendly formats that allow you full functionality with any Adobe suite or products you may already own.  This program runs much more efficiently than adobe in my opinion, I just enjoy the interface more.  Sure, there are some shortcomings that you just cannot ignore, such as the sheer quality edge and color detection you have in Photoshop, but if this is not essential for you, then why bother.

2. Blender – model – shade – animate – render – composite – interactive 3d

http://www.blender.org

Blender is a quality 3D modeling platform, also created under the GNU license.  It can be used for creating everything from 3D models and smoke simulation to creating animated films or video games!  Quality wise, Blender stacks up to other comparative programs, aka Maya and 3D StudioMax, rather well.  Sure it is limited in lack of Font Preview for text, lack of N-gon-based modeling workflow and some missing modeling tools.  It also is on the leading edge with advanced algorithms utilized for its UV unwrapping.  Basically, compare the price tag of Maya or 3D Studio to Blender and you definitely get what you don’t pay for.

Just a sample of what Blender can do:

 

 

3. Google SketchUp

http://sketchup.google.com/

Sketch up is essentially a simplified AutoCAD.  It has some one-dimensional aspects to it as well, and you can build houses for display in Google earth.  The simplicity lies in the interface, and the projects really just seem to come together.  I downloaded it on a whim, and wound up losing hours to trying to recreate my home, and building my dream one.  With some nice snap-to options, and a fun scaling platform, its worth the download.  And hey, who doesn’t trust Google?

This is really just scratching the surface of quality free drawing, image manipulation, and 3D modeling software out there, but if I had to pick, these are my top three.  Once you get into open source, or Google for that matter, it can be really hard to quit.  Hopefully this can help send you down a long and happy road of new, healthy computing options.





Wacom Bamboo Pen Review

7 10 2010

The Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet is, for the money, a great little tablet.  I picked mine up off of Amazon.com for just over $60.00 to help with my web design, and have not regretted my purchase one bit.  With a modest 5.8″ x 3.6″ active writing surface, it is rather responsive.  The matte area has a similar feeling to writing on actual paper, which will help with the authenticity of your documents.  That doesn’t mean that if you are not accustomed to using tablets, there will be a bit of an adjustment period before you can write legible sentences if you like to have fun with Windows Journal.

The Pen that comes with the tablet is a bit light, but still fits rather ergonomically in your hand.  The two buttons that reflect you mouse are not very intrusive of your comfort, and can begin to feel pretty natural after some regular use.  The action of tapping your tablet twice rather than good ‘ol double click is fun as well.  With a price tag of $79.99 on Wacom.com, this is an entry level tablet, for people who are either interested in using a tablet for mediocre tasks, or those of us who just don’t have a spare $300-$500 to drop on a more industry standard tablet.  When you keep that in mind, you will get just what you expect from this product.

My Bamboo came with Corel Painter Essentials, which is an excellent program for getting an idea of just what you can accomplish.  When you move into the more advanced programs, a.k.a Photoshop, or my preferred GIMP, you may notice a bit of a lag from the tablet due to hardware constraints and software usage.  You definitely will not receive a perfectly clean air-brush motion when working on some of your larger files.  This is due to the lack of sensors that come with the Entry Level Pen tablet.

Based on sheer looks the Pen Tablet will make a sexy addition to most desk set ups, and many people who aren’t accustomed to seeing them will comment.  College students will like the option of being able to take notes in class, on your laptop screen, and save them for a later date without the fear of lost torn or crumpled pages.  Or you could just doodle during class as well, whatever your into.  It has a nice shiny trim around the writing surface which can easily collect dust if you don’t wipe it regularly.  It weighs a measly 1.8 pounds, so you won’t really notice the weight in your backpack or briefcase.  The pen itself does not require batteries to run, which is a relief, and comes with two spare tips to replace the original when it gets worn.

All in all the Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet is a great product for its target market.  Wacom is a trusted name in the industry, and the quality is noticed in the Pen Tablet.  If you are someone interested in toying with these fun tools, but don’t want to drop too much to experience it, go with this one.  You get your money’s worth, and then some!