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Free Graphics And Software

While FunDraw may be very cool for designing graphics quickly and easily online, it's not intended for professional grade design. Sometimes, you need the extra oomph of items that have teams of developers and professional pedigrees. Or sometimes you just want it.

Here's a list of programs and web sites I have tried and like and would personally recommend.

Vector Graphics Editors

What is the difference between vector graphics and bitmap graphics? At the most simple level, vector graphics are drawings that are defined by shapes and colors while bitmap graphics are photos that are defined by a grid of tiny colored dots called "picture elements" or "pixels".

For more detailed explanations please see the vector graphics and bitmap graphics (also known as "raster graphics") articles at Wikipedia.

Inkscape

Inkscape is not only free and powerful, it's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The pros are good drawing tools and tracing tools (tracing helps you convert a bitmap graphic to a vector graphic and is very useful for line drawings), plus some good commandline tools for batch jobs.

Open Office Draw

Open Office, if you haven't heard, is considered by many to be the open source world's top competitor for Microsoft Office. It has a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation maker, and more. It also works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. A while back they added a drawing program to the suite. It hasn't impressed me as anything that will knock professional programs like Illustrator from their thrones, but it's solid, not too difficult, and FREE.

Bitmap Graphics Editors

What is the difference between vector graphics and bitmap graphics? At the most simple level, vector graphics are drawings that are defined by shapes and colors while bitmap graphics are photos that are defined by a grid of tiny colored dots called "picture elements" or "pixels".

For more detailed explanations please see the vector graphics and bitmap graphics (also known as "raster graphics") articles at Wikipedia.

The GIMP

The program's name is not intended as an insult to the disabled. It stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Widely touted as the open source world's closest competitor to the famed Adobe Photoshop, it's actively developed by a group of dedicated programmers. Personally, I prefer PhotoShop, but that's what I'm used to using. It's a bit hard to compare when you're trying to adjust to a different interface. The GimpShop version tries to eliminate a lot of those adjustments. All in all, The GIMP runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux and it's free, but there is a bit of a learning curve because it is very powerful.

Irfan View (Windows Only)

This freeware bitmap viewer and editor opens and displays dozens of file formats, lets you crop them, make minor adjustments, run a few filters, and then save them or convert them to a different format. It also offers easy slide shows and batch conversion tools. I'm not the only Mac user who says this program is in the top 5 Windows programs they miss most.

Free Graphics

A lot of the graphics used on FunDraw come from these sources. We don't use all the graphics each has available for three reasons. First, to be used on FunDraw, vector graphics have to translate well into four different formats, and that doesn't always happen. Second, we try to only use those graphics we consider high-quality and some of the graphics these sites have are too amateurish (though some are pure gold). And third, for bitmap graphics, we require a minimum size so they'll print well at decent sizes, and not all the bitmap graphics at these sites are big enough for print use (though almost all work great for web use).

The Open Clip Art Library (Vector Only)

Thousands and thousands of vector illustrations are available not only free for personal use, but free for any use because they've all been dedicated to or are in the public domain (meaning no copyright restrictions). Upside is that they're all free. Downside is that they're all in SVG format which is not as consistently implemented across various platforms as one might like. Most have been created with or optimized for Inkscape and they generally work well with it, but can sometimes be hit or miss when trying to use them with Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw.

Wikimedia Commons (Vector & Bitmap)

These graphics come in a variety of free-use licensing schemes, ranging from public domain to the GNU Public License to various Creative Commons licenses. So, depending on how you want to use the images, you need to check the license to make sure that use is allowed. They come from a variety of sources, including some of the sources in this list.

Library of Congress Prints And Photographs Online (Bitmap Only)

A great resource for thousands of older government-produced and news photos that have entered the public domain either due to grant (a photographer willed the rights to the public domain), age (the copyrights finally expired), or public funding (many government agencies put all photographs and artwork produced for them into the public domain because they were paid for with our taxes and thus should be free for us to use). Most of the photo backgrounds we offer for drawing on came from this collection, Wikimedia Commons, or photo archives maintained by individual government agencies.

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