The price of software alone is enough to deter you from pursuing a career in the digital media field, with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop running as high as 700$ each. But fear not, there are powerful alternatives to get you up and running, and they’re all free.
Let’s face it; Photoshop isn’t the easiest or the cheapest way to get into graphic design. There are several alternatives to Photoshop that are free like Pixlr, Paint.NET, and more. But the software that really stands out to me is GIMP. This software is completely free to use and is updated constantly. It also provides support in several languages and has numerous features that can also be found in Photoshop. Tasks like enhancing or retouching are made easy with this software.
You can export your images to several different extensions as well, including the most popular .png, .gif, .jpeg, .jpg and if hard drive space is an issue, it will export and compress files into .zip, .bz., and .gz as well. Probably my favorite feature though, is being able to manipulate windows to create an environment you feel comfortable to work in; you can move the tools windows freely.
Need a vector editor alternative to Adobe illustrator? Then check out Inkscape. This software is also open source and is extremely powerful, capable of developing professional logos, illustrations, and art that require high resolution scalability. What makes Inkscape unique is the use of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) as the native format, not only that but you can export your projects to formats friendly to web browsers and commercial printing rooms. Inkscape also has a great community backing it, which contributes to tutorials and guides as well as the software itself, reporting bugs and testing out new features.
So we have the resources above to create vector art and professional artwork, what if your main goal was to tie them together into animation? The next solution would be Synfig Studio, a 2D Animator. Like the software mentioned above, it is completely free and open source. It eliminates the need to create animations frame-by-frame, allowing for higher quality work. With work flow in mind, Synfig can create projects and results in a more efficient manner and with fewer resources. The feature that stood out most to me was that you can use the software with pen tablets, adding to the efficiency. This allows for pressure sensitivity in your creations, giving you natural line weighting.
Paint.NET was originally conceived as a more feature-rich version of the default Paint tool that shipped with the operating system, but has evolved over time to become a favorite of Windows users for several years now. It’s less powerful but easier to use than GIMP, and comes with a more familiar interface.
You have full control over the translucent interface, so you can drag around windows and dialogs to suit your own preferences. As for its capabilities, Paint.NET takes care of all the basics and then some: it features layer support, and a small but useful list of effects, while plug-ins developed by the community extend its capabilities even further (adding support for extra file types, for example).
It’s certainly one of the most human-friendly Photoshop alternatives around, and though it doesn’t have too many top-end features, there are plenty of users who’ll be glad for a less cluttered toolbox and list of menu options. With text, shape, and brush tools available it’s a decent option for creating artwork too.
It is possible to find the graphic design program that fits your budget that allows you to create clipart, logos, illustrations and photorealistic vector images. Whatever your reason for avoiding Adobe Illustrator it shouldn’t be difficult to find one that has a comfortable interface and does what you need it to do.
In the long run, getting a graphic design degree or certificate based around Photoshop or Illustrator will be more beneficial, and help you develop skills that are beyond what the software mentioned above is capable of, however these are great tools to get you headed in the right direction.