Free Or Cheap Open Source Image Editing / Creation Software
Hi All, Got a question about image editing and creation (digital art) software. I know Photoshop and Lightroom are sort of the kings of this particular hill. But, I haven't quite bought into the Adobe rent software forever model. So, I'm wondering if y'all have experience with and recommendations for free or cheap open source software for image editing and digital art creation. I'm aware of GIMP and have an old copy on my PC. I haven't yet taken the time to get good at it. I've also heard about Inkscape for vector art I believe, but haven't played with it. I'm biased toward programs that run on my PC and store all data there and don't require the internet to run. It doesn't have to be free but I would want to be under $ 100. I'm just tire kicking at this point as it's hard to find time to really get good at these things. But, I guess it wouldn't hurt to know the basics. I'd definitely prefer to own it, not rent it. Let me know what you think. All help is appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Many use gimp, but its a pain to install all the filters then install the new one and do it all over again. But it has almost as many features as photoshop. It really depends on your skill level.
You can use a raw converter to turn it into a dng like I do, then you can import it into other programs.
It really depends what you want to do with it. Just basic color touch up? Then gimp would work, almost anything would work. Advanced cloning and healing, then a photoshop might be needed. And I think corel has something too. Or adobe lightroom. You might even be able to find an old copy of photoshop from scanning software. They used to include it in there.
I think there is a trial for the newer photoshop, maybe.
@Mike Savad I've been looking at Gimp for literally years and threatening to learn it. I even have a book on it. I keep hearing that it's very powerful and also hard to learn. I need a brain funnel to pour the knowledge in. The idea of a free and powerful program does have its appeal.
re "You can use a raw converter to turn it into a dng like I do, then you can import it into other programs." - Did you mean DNG or PNG? Do you know one that converts Canon CR3? That's not a topic I know anything about, other than they say RAW is way better for editing than JPG.
If I can, I'd rather the image work just as it comes out of the camera. Of course, that's not always possible.
I had the thought that if I buy a negative scanner or something, maybe it would have and image editor. My wife bought a vintage 35mm Mamiya film camera that we're going to try to get running. I haven't shot any film in decades.
@Jessica Jenney Thanks for that link. That is an interesting idea. I may have to watch some YouTube videos on Photoshop vs Photoshop Elements vs Gimp, etc.
Are these tools good for creating digital art, versus just photo editing?
digital negative. I call them Dung files. My old photoshop can't read my raw's. I have to convert them. It will convert it. You can always try it. Gimp is complex. Photoshop is complex. Both programs are for advanced users. Learn each thing one at a time. Do it till you know it and move on. Don't do it all at once.
Raw is always better than jpg. There is more content in it. You won't see it by eye, if you adjust the exposure you'll see more detail in the highlights and more in the shadows. You have control over contrast etc. Jpg's are meant to look pretty.
Scanning film adds another layer of editing.
Any program can make digital art, but you will have to define digital art, its a wide subject.
I have been using Photoshop Elements for many years. I started with version 2.0. Back then I also had access to the full Photoshop but preferred Elements for photo editing. I now have the current version of Elements and note that it has three levels of complexity. There is an Easy, a guided and an Expert level - so your learning curve can be done in steps.
I would recommend "The GIMP"... The poor mans Photoshop. You'll never get a higher quality editing software for free!
If for some reason you don't want the best free software, try ON1. I think I remember a price in the past of about $60 (maybe that was on sale). ON1 is really getting better these days including for RAW files. Maybe the price is going up because of that but I believe it would still be much cheaper than other high quality software you might pay for.
I would also look into Lightroom for a version before "the cloud", if that's the way you want to go.
Hi all. I've been following your replies with interest and also viewing a bunch of YouTube videos on Canon CR3 files and DNG files and some of the photo editors. I've been binging on learning about Fine Art America and studying the issues in this thread. My time to do these things is very sporadic and goes from hours to minutes to nothing at various times. Next week I'm probably going to have to get back to the real world and dealing with some of the total chaos going on. But, for now, I've got a little time to deal with this. I try to share the research I do to help other people. @Brian Wallace, @Adam Jewell thanks for the additional info.
So, the main contenders now are Gimp, Photoshop Elements, Paintshop Pro, ON1. I'm a fan of Humble Bundle. They do cool stuff.
I'm leaning toward Gimp with the DarkTable or Rawtherapee plugins, but Paintshop Pro might be attractive if it loads Canon CR3 and DNG files natively. I've seen both pros and cons to converting everything to DNG, so I'm uncertain about that. Some of the editing people do is pretty mind boggling from my point of view. Here are the YouTube videos I've found, with the 1st two being specifically related to Gimp and the plugins. I like to set the YouTube videos to play at 2x speed to save time.
That image has like 20 instruments and plumbing from each. If that's your goal and you know only the basics, that may take a while. I mostly have to use the DNG because I have a really old copy of photoshop. And it doesn't know from my camera. Other programs may just know how to deal with your files.
Adobe Photoshop Elements is a really great program to start with, it's not expensive and has plenty of videos and guided a section to help beginners. The other thing is if you want to create digital art you need a program that will allow plug in's and Adobe Elements does just that. It's a great bang for the buck!!
I still use Photoshop CS6, you might be able to find a cheap copy somewhere. I have decades of experience with Paint Shop Pro, I much prefer PS (and Corel's customer service absolutely sucks). I have experience with Affinity on iPad and it's very nice too.
This thread is generating lots of interesting info. I want to thank each person even if I don't mention each by name. Everybody has their own workflow and their own tools, and everybody is different. But, it's cool to learn about the different alternatives and the different nuances involved in each.
So, my software contenders list (for editing) now includes (in alphabetical order):
Affinity Photo, Gimp, ON1, Paintshop Pro, Photoscape, Photoshop Elements
@Mike Savad, I wasn't implying that I could reproduce an image like your train picture without lots of practice. You had asked what I meant by digital art, and that image piqued my interest. Right now, I'll just be happy figuring out how to eliminate background objects or trademarks in images, creating a transparent background, tweaking basic brightness, contrast, color, rotating, resizing, and cropping. I may end up with an all DNG workflow for editing. It does seem more universal in the same way that PDF is more universal than the various word processor documents. I don't like the idea of keeping both the CR3 and the DNG files as these things are already huge.
@L A Feldstein, Glad to help. I'm getting lots of useful info too.
@Tina LeCour, Interesting point about plugins.
@Revad David Riley, Ah yes. Metadata. In Windows Explorer, you can right click on a JPG or probably other common format image and click properties, then details to see the metadata. I thought you could edit it, but when I tried just now, I couldn't. The camera itself embeds some cool data into the image. On my M50, you can put a copyright notice into the camera itself. Most people reading this may know this, but if you don't want people to know where you were or are when you take a picture, you have to turn off or strip out the GPS data. I keep the GPS turned off in my camera.
I second Affinity Photo. Apart from the latest Photoshop, at less than $60 it delivers the most bang for the buck of any photo editing software I've used, and I've pretty much used all of the contenders.
I played with GIMP for a while, but it was just so hard to master that I gave it away. For a while I used the Nikon software (Capture X, I think it was called) which was good but then it took a dive when they had a falling out with Nik who contributed some of the cool stuff, since then it's just been Lightroom - way easier to use than Photoshop (which I look upon as richmans GIMP) but Ps now comes as part of the Lr package so is always there if I get motivated to give myself some grief - I very rarely feel the lack of anything more than Lr. It is powerful and user friendly ( a MAJOR plus for me), and for the subscription you get continual updates, some of which are really cool. I'm more interested in photography than learning software, so reasonably happy to pay the monthly subs for the sake of an easy life.
I use an older, pre-subscription version of Lightroom for most things but also have PaintshopPro if I want to do something fancier. I'd say I use Lightroom for most straight editing and PaintshopPro when I want to put together composites like for ads and such. I really light the workflow of Lightroom and hope my version keeps working with any Windows updates that happen. I don't want to get stuck in a subscription situation. I also use an older Adobe Illustrator CS5 for vector images and have the same feeling about that. But I have purchased Affinity Designer when it was on sale and hope that will work with my vectors if Illustrator ever stops functioning.
Most of my editing is done using Photoshop - I don't particularly like renting it, but it's what I've been using for years so it's what I'm most proficient with. My dad has started trying out Affinity, so I've fiddled around with it while at his place wondering if it'd be something I'd switch to. From what I can tell, it has quite a lot of the same functionality as Photoshop, but it uses different names for things and puts things in different places. I believe once you get to know the Affinity way of doing things, it'd be a pretty good substitute.
To avoid a trademark - you don't shoot it. That is the easiest way, it starts in the camera. Otherwise you'll have to learn how to clone well.
Transparent backgrounds are easy. Just make the image on a new layer, and cut out the background with any number of lasso's or masks. I think the new photoshop may be able to do it on its own now.. Clean the edges, save it as a png with one layer but not flat.
Keep both your files. The CR3 is your negative, save that in your directory that has your images from that location. Then make the dng and put that into an edit folder. It takes twice the space though. But it is what it is. A large hard drive is cheaper than renting a program. The files from my current camera are like 30-50megs each. The camera I'm looking into is larger than that. If you had to go to court to prove its yours, then the original image is best. And while I can't prove it, the dng might strip info. I only use it because i have to use it to make it work with the program.
If you get Xnview, a browser, you can add your own data, but keywords are a pain.
Don't turn on the GPS in the camera. It drains the battery rapidly, and it identifies where you were in case that creeps up in the future. Like it can prove you were on private property instead of telling them you were on the road zooming in over the fence. Its not worth having it on. I have it on with my phone, but I don't sell too many things from that.
Right now I would look for the basic programs. You want:
layers most have color adjustments, but if it has curves, you should learn how to use that. Lasso abilities and general transform tools.
Thanks all for the suggestions you're providing even if I don't mention you by name.
@Jack Torcello Thanks for the link.
@Brian Wallace Also thanks for the link.
@ Mike Savad lots of good info. The trademark issue came to mind when I think about two of my images which I haven't posted to FAA yet. One is a nice picture of a rainbow after a storm when I was in a commercial shopping district. Every building and sign in site has a trademark. It's very frustrating as I want to keep as much authenticity in the image as possible. I also have a picture of a dog sitting beside my car at a park. In the background is the car tire with the logo for the car maker and the logo for the tire maker. I don't know how paranoid to be about those things but I figure more paranoid is probably better. I see what you mean about the CR3. Xnview - cool. I agree about the GPS.
Based on the discussion and lots of YouTube video viewing, I'm leaning toward Affinity Photo and eventually Affinity Designer. I just have to find time to learn these things. Rather than quote all the Affinity YouTube links, which you can look up as good as I, I am going to cite 3 here. At least some users are having difficulty with Affinity Photo 1.10.?? which apparently dropped a few weeks ago. I don't know if the problems are pervasive, and I didn't find many other videos that were that new. Also, something I personally have to think about is that I'm running a Windows 7 laptop with modest resources. So, hopefully, the new software would run on that.
For what they're worth, here are those YouTube links.
Its best to not add them to the keywords, because that will attract lawyers like chumming the waters with tuna fish. But some do go crazy, like john deere, you can't even have a tractor using their colors.
Stuff in the background I wouldn't worry about that much. Its when the central image is about that one item.
Xnview works pretty well. You can add to the IPTC by hitting ctrl I, then add what you want there. And it views almost every file
whatever you choose just learn one thing. Like I learned how to use Color mode, then overlay. Made little things and learned that. Have a project in mind and then learn each piece as you go. No matter what you choose, there will be a learning curve.
I would consider it but I'm afraid I live in a modest and very full house where every square foot of floor space and reasonably accessible wall space is in use. I don't even have a good place for a 30" x 20" test print of my own image.
But, just for kicks, I just looked at your profile and glanced at the 1st screen of thumbnails for each of your collections. You have LOTS of images. So, I can say to anyone reading this that, from what I can tell from that limited exposure, @Mike Savad's collection has lots of very cool pieces that are diverse, comprehensive, and well designed. Definitely worth considering for your art needs.
Hi all. I want to thank everyone for the great dialog being posted on this thread. I'm learning quite a lot and enjoying it. As this weekend ends and the week cranks up, my time to contribute will decrease. Given that today is labor day, I may still be doing art / photography stuff rather than more boring things. But, my time does vary a lot. I do plan on keeping an eye on the forum and interacting when I can.
I found these two Affinity books that I put on order that look neat. DOH, now I have to find time to READ them. For novels, I like audio books. Unfortunately, training books don't work so well that way.
Ron, You didn't specifically mention asset management software, and some editing programs (such as Elements) offer this anyway, but Adobe Bridge is free (once you have created an Adobe account). I use Bridge to browse / search / keyword my photographs. (I use non-Adobe software for my editing.) You can configure Bridge to launch your editor of choice (e.g. GIMP or whatever). It will display .CR3 files.
Thanks for that info. Yes, I'll probably have to look into some type of cataloging software. There's so many moving parts to a workflow plan. That program sounds interesting. @Mike Savad recommended https://www.xnview.com/en/ for viewing, but I don't know what cataloging capabilities it has. Thus far I've just been organizing pictures into folders per camera with sub folders for the 1st set of file numbers (which will roll over after img-9999) and sub folders for those images I think might be able to sell or at least consider selling. The thumbnail function in Windows explorer can display JPG images, but the CR3 images just show up as blank to Windows. So, something like what you mention might be very handy.
You can sort by name, extension, dimension, file size, vertical, horizontal I think something like that. I just use it to view files, and make my own directories. Basing it on location then dividing that up.
Bronx zoo --animal - hippo --animal - horse etc
I couldn't do it by number.
I sort the images out by whether I might edit them or not. Everything is stored neatly so I can find it, and those files are backed up a few times. Convert the images, double check I backed it up, erase the extras and put the rest in the edit directory and pick at it over the years. Erasing stuff as I get bored of it.
That sounds like a cool system. I like the idea of categorizing images as I accumulate more of them. I'll probably have to adopt something. The following will sound obvious, but the thought occurred that to take a photo, unlike creating an original artwork, I have to be where the photo is. I have to be near the animal, or the bridge, or the building, or the tower, or the dam, or the flower, or the mountain, etc. That's actually a problem for me. I have very little time and money to do any traveling, even regionally. And, with the "complications" of the modern world, I have little desire to do any traveling or be among big crowds. So, I try to take "photos of opportunity" when I see something that catches my eye in my local environment. I saw a huge cloud bank while driving out to supper that was brightly lit up by the sun. It took me 5-10 minutes to get in a position to take a picture, and by then the effect was gone. Of course, if I learn to create original art, like some of yours, I could create whatever scene I want in my mind and on my computer.
Just thought I'd pass this along. At this point, it looks like Affinity Photo is my software destination for photo editing. But, it looks like you can also use it for digital painting. Here's a cool video I found.
I am not a photographer but use some programs occasionally. For most photo editing I found I best like Adobe Photoshop Express (free) and Gimp.
I am working my way through Gimp with tutorials on you tube. I found if you just stick with learning one thing at a time it works best. There are great tutorials - one channel I like a lot is Logos By Nick. Search that on you tube. Does a good job of explaining and gives good screan shots so you can see what he is doing.
Gimp is the best free out there, ( that comes from many experts - not me) , and is well worth the effort learning the program (also not form me )
@Liz, Affinity Designer is vector, Krita is a true painting tool, rather like Corel Painter, but free. Personally, I use Procreate on an iPad Pro for my digital painting, and then process in Affinity Photo if needed. I use The GIMP for processing images from my Raspberry Pi studio cameras and output from my Processing and Python algorithmic sketches. I still use Photoshop CS2 to run some of my (now) old action scripts. Scripts that have yet to be, or can't easily be, replaced by my own Processing code. I use Windows, Mac, Linux and iPadOS because of my history with all of these as a systems engineer. I would recommend anyone starting out pick a software package and stick with it. Persistence will pay off.
I started this thread with mainly photo editors in mind. I'm leaning toward Affinity Photo. But, I've come to also realize that it can be used for digital painting as well. So, I might eventually branch into that as well. I'm primarily interested in raster or pixel painting versus vector, at least at first. I know there's some crossover between Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer but am not totally sure of the difference. So, if any of you have experience with digital raster painting in Affinity Photo or Designer, feel free to share your experience. Also, if you have experience with those and other programs like Corel Paint, Krita, Procreate, etc., let us know how they compare. I also ran across the term photobashing, which, I guess means taking original photos and munging them up and altering them to make new images. So, I'd enjoy learning about that as well as original digital painting, although I have a slight preference for the original work.
I know nothing about this site except that I found it while googling and it looks interesting.
I use Ribbet.com they have both and Windows and Mac version as well as bowser and mobile apps. They have a pro editor that is like a light Photoshop. If you upgrade to the paid version it is not only more economical than Adobe but you get unlimited cloud storage ... are are soon adding search with EXIF in tact. I have been using this for several years and very happy with it. I don't know how it works with RAW as I've not been shooting that format for at least a decade.
I also agree with affinity photo; it was in the past known as Serif paint. My suggestion is try it for 90 days (register for a trial licence) You might find that it offered to you at a reduced price during the trial period.
The interesting question would be is it Adobe subscription model you do not like or any subscription model. Boris Optics is amazing; you can by it outright (but it is outside your stated price range) or you can get it on subscription. The subscription model is more appealing than Adobes; in that you can dip in and out as you like. I sure that others will point out that it in fact a set of filters rather than a image editing software; however, it has a stand alone version, and it can do almost anything that a image editor does and quite a lot more. Just as Topaz Studio does; in fact just one of there filters Topaz adjust is that editing option of choice for a number of Photographers.
If digital painting is your thing you might look at Clip studio paint; the pro version which just happens to be the cheapest version is very reasonable priced and very good.
In terms of you question re affinity paint rather affinity design. I effect it is the same as the difference between Photoshop and Illustrator; affinity paint is pixel based affinity design is vector based.
If you want to do both in the same package then Sketchbook Pro might be the best choice.
HI all. Thanks all for the great stream of info. Keep it coming. I personally dislike all forced subscription models or all requirements to be online to use software. I prefer to buy something outright. If I want to pay upgrade fees, hopefully reasonable, every year to get upgrades and continued support, so be it. But, I don't like being forced to do so. Also, if I want to just keep using old software that works for me, I should be able to do that.
Ron firstly even with software you buy outright there is still the need to be online every so often. I lost the internet connection on one of my computers; I soon found the a number of pieces of software I brought outright were no longer were available to me. I looked at pricing and worked out you could buy both Affinity Photo and Clip Studio Paint (the pro version) within you budget. With that there would be very little you could not do. For digital painting, many artists consider Clip Studio paint to be streets ahead of Photoshop. Procreate (mentioned above) is also very good; however, it is IPad only.
@Scorpion Design Hi. Thanks for the note. I just ended up buying Affinity Photo. Considering its ability to do photo editing and digital painting, I'm sure it will keep me busy for a while. I also bought a couple of books that I mentioned earlier in the thread. But, it's great to know that there are all these alternatives and I'm enjoying the discussion of those. Thanks a bunch for the info.
A good choice Ron. One good feature of Affinity Photo is that it runs most if not all the filters/plug-ins that were designed for Photoshop. These run from free (and some of the free ones are good) to very expensive.