When In Doubt Go To The Library Svg Graphic Design Meets Open Source

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Graphic Design Meets Open Source

Being a graphic designer can be very expensive. We love having powerful computers and expensive enterprise software. I’m looking at you Adobe Create Suite…. options aimed at meeting our business and product needs. Graphic design is an art and software is a tool like a paint brush. Open source software development comes with great free products like Mozilla Firefox, Apache and Linux. I know they sound all kinds of geeky and thus have something unapproachable about them, but hopefully what you see here will help you overcome your fears, uncertainties, and doubts. It’s all free to use so there’s not much risk involved. Open source is not a solution for everything, but it is a public service that we can use often. We’re an adventurous bunch, so try something different.

Here are some free graphic design programs that might bring graphic design to artists who can’t or don’t want to spend money on the high-priced corporate versions.

GIMP

GIMP is the most popular alternative to Photoshop. Most of the functions you can use in Photoshop are implemented; You can crop, adjust colors, save as different file formats, use different filters and brushes. CMYK is supported but fairly weak and difficult to handle which may be completely unacceptable to most of us in the print industry. However this won’t be a problem for web design as it natively supports the RGB color space. Photoshop users may want to look into GIMPshop (http://www.gimpshop.com), a modification package intended to help GIMP mimic the Photoshop user interface. GIMP is available on Windows, Mac and Linux.

PDFCreator (http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator)

This handy program adds itself to your Windows printer menu. Everything you print can be converted to PDF format or various other graphics formats for your manipulation. Very handy to have on any system.

Inkscape (http://www.inkscape.org)

Inkscape is a vector editor similar to Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator. It uses the standard [[SVG]]format that makes it compatible with other graphics programs. The interface is streamlined and familiar as they focus on usability. It also includes tutorials and tooltips to ease your transition. They have reduced the number of palettes and all palette options are available as keyboard shortcuts. The interactive tutorials and simple interface make it very easy to get started, especially if you are familiar with other drawing programs. It’s definitely worth a look. Inkscape is available on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Scribus (http://www.scribus.net)

I’m a heavy InDesign user and since it’s what I use at work, it’s unlikely to change. It’s good to know that there is an open source alternative to InDesign, Pagemaker, QuarkXPress or even the unfortunate Microsoft Publisher. It is designed for print creation and runs on Linux/Unix, MacOS X, OS/2 and Windows. If your printer accepts PDF or any other format supported by the program, you’re pretty much set. It is designed to work with professional equipment in a prepress environment. This is a great idea if you are interested in designing books, brochures, business cards. Many designers have Photoshop and/or Illustrator and try to use them for publication layout.

Kompozer (http://www.kompozer.net)

KompoZer is a WYSIWYG html and css editor, think FrontPage or Dreamweaver. It is based on the same rendering platform as Firefox. It is easy to use for beginners and non-technical users. Advanced users of Dreamweaver will miss out on some features, but everyone else can do better with the free option and save some serious money. It also creates nice and valid html that conforms to your preferred standards.

WordPress

WordPress offers designers an easy-to-manage system for implementing highly complex websites. This community creates many plugins, templates and widgets that give it a lot of weight. So I couldn’t leave it off this list!

Fontforge

FontForge is a nifty font editor that supports common TrueType, PostScript, OpenType formats. Besides allowing you to edit your fonts, it supports automatic format conversions and transformations. The documentation is easy to follow so you can develop your font project.

Open source fonts

Fonts are also software. And not very cheap either. Fortunately open source efforts have provided some relief. Typeforge is a project that aims to use Fontforge to create new fonts and help designers of various levels create typefaces. You can help them just by using their fonts and giving feedback. DejaVu and Linux Libtertine are open source fonts that are freely distributable and free to use in your projects. Unicode is an open source medieval style font that looks pretty versatile. Free UCS Outline Fonts combines a wide variety of open fonts. The Open Font Library collects public domain fonts.

A few endnotes

I still love the professional design software out there. Open source software is still in its infancy compared to commercial software that has been developed for decades. In many ways, these programs can’t compete with that right now but still serve an important niche in our industry as an entry point for new designers, experimenting for those of us who want to do something a little different. and playground for innovation.

Nobody thought Quark would ever go away, now we have InDesign. Although it is a commercial product, Firefox is an open source project that is now a major player in the world of web browsers. There are also lots of little open source programs that make my life easier, but not necessarily design related. It’s kind of a sophisticated and fringe kind of thing sometimes and other times on the productivity side.

One last thought, does the open source community really need to hire some designers or what… these things often lead to ugly programmers creating technical looking skins that are the biggest turn off in the world… someone think about it!

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