You’ve probably heard from many a designer or good design-oriented blog that Photoshop is the only graphics program you’ll ever need. But while Photoshop unquestionably offers a lot, it’s definitely not the only software capable of getting the job done.
When it comes to any software, it’s nice to have options. And a quick Google search will reveal that there are LOTS of options available for design software in particular.
But you probably don’t want to pay extra for software that has functions you’ll never use. So, how do you choose which tool is right for you?
The answer: You try them on for size!
Get started checking out your choices today with these 5 totally FREE design programs full of both features and fun!
The GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP as it’s more commonly known, is open-source software you can download right to your computer. Not only is GIMP free to download, install, and use, but you’ll also get all GIMP upgrades at no charge!
Widely touted as the most advanced free image editing software, GIMP has gained quite a following since it’s original debut date in the early ‘90s. GIMP is well known for it’s powerful set of Photoshop-like features including layers, custom brushes, paths, and photo actions with an extensive library of tips and tricks to using them. You can also open, edit, and save Photoshop files within GIMP. So, if you’ve been sent a Photoshop file, you can use GIMP to edit it without even having Photoshop at all.
Pixlr is a happy culmination of image design and photo enhancing tools in an easy to use online portal for design and photo editing.
If you’re looking for quick and fun effects to enhance your blog images and social media posts, you’ll love using the Pixlr Express Web App. And if you crave a bit more control and fancy yourself a graphic artist, the Pixlr Editor is worth a peek. While the base plan is free (and super feature rich!) for just $14.99 for the whole year, you can unlock even more cool effects.
Pixlr boasts an incredibly user-friendly approach to design and image enhancement, with an online portal, downloadable program, and mobile apps for design on the go. Design features range from a variety of filters, effects, and level adjustments, as well as one-click creative effects, overlays, and borders. The Pixlr blog is constantly showcasing new features, techniques, and tricks, and they even do weekly Instagram challenges and feature their favorite followers’ works on the blog.
With a slogan like “Amazingly simple graphic design”, Canva is a design force to be reckoned with. The program is online based. And, once you register, you can log-in anytime, from anywhere, and start creating with their drag-and-drop design builder and point-and-click photo-editing capabilities.
Canva comes fully stocked with a massive library of free photos, hundreds of free elements and fonts, and supremely cool effects ranging from vintage inspired filters to color enhancing layers. You can choose to use Canva supplied images or upload your own graphics to edit and enhance. They also provide tons of templates and tutorials to get you started designing beautiful Facebook covers, blog images, wedding invitations, business cards, and so much more!
PicMonkey‘s photo editor, graphic design features, and collage maker are designed to be super easy to use. You can add fun patterns, textures, clip art elements, and do “re-touching”, like teeth-whitening, spray tanning, and even adding lipstick, all with the click of a button. And don’t forget the sunglasses and party hats! (Fun birthday invites, anyone??).
PicMonkey has quite a robust free version (and tons of free tutorials and how-tos!) as well as paid memberships that unlock additional features and techniques.
Equal parts image design and paint functionality, Sumo Paint has paint features down on lock!
Sumo Paint is arguably leaps and bounds ahead of other free paint-oriented sites and software programs with far more shape and layering choices. The program’s “Adjustments” tab lets you make adjustments to levels, brightness, saturation, and color balance. And Sumo Paint has a library of Photoshop-like tools such as brushes, layering tools, filters, magic wands, and patterns. Plus, you can check out other fellow users amazing artwork for some creative inspiration.
With free resources like these, getting started with design doesn’t have to be hard! You can get your feet wet and get some real graphics work done with them. Or, if you’re ready to dive into Photoshop to compare, you can sign up for a free, 30-day trial here.
And, if you dream of becoming a design whiz or just enhancing your design chops, join us for a Skillcrush Blueprint to learn web design fundamentals, get industry insights, and design (and build!) websites and web apps from scratch.
Image credit: CC by r. nial bradshaw