Artists, Meet Linux

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  • DevynCJohnson
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    • @devyncjohnson

    I have seen many graphic designers on the Internet asking about what kind of graphics software is found on GNU/Linux or what software will do X. So, I decided to write an article about the graphics software on GNU/Linux.

    GNU/Linux is a very suitable system for graphic design. The only bottle-neck in manipulating media (whether video or picture) is in the hardware, like any other operating system. GNU/Linux has many alternatives to MS-Windows software.

    Many may wonder which GNU/Linux distro is the best for graphic design. Well, this is largely based on opinion. The best choice (in my opinion) would be a lightweight distro so more resources remain for the graphics software. This means some good choices would be Arch, Slackware, Slax, Fedora LXDE (, and Xubuntu. Some people may suggest Ubuntu-Studio which is Ubuntu with graphics software. It may be better to choose Xubuntu instead of Ubuntu-Studio due to the lower resource usage of Xubuntu.

    One of the most popular graphics software for GNU/Linux (and Unix and Unix-like systems) is GIMP which is an alternative to Adobe's Photoshop. GIMP is a large program packed with many features and tools. GIMP can render fractals, Qbists, mazes, and other abstract images. GIMP can be expanded with more brushes and gradients. CinePaint (Film GIMP) is a program that forked from GIMP, so they have many similarities. However, CinePaint is very suitable for editing frames in video files. CinePaint works so well in video editing that it was used when making many popular movies like the Harry Potter series. (GIMP | CinePaint

    Xpaint is a GIMP-like application for the X-window system. XPaint is more lightweight than GIMP, but has more features/tools than Pinta. Xpaint uses fewer resources and needs less dependencies than many graphics applications. This helps make Xpaint compatible with many Unix and Unix-like systems. Generally, for projects not needing anything as powerful as GIMP, Xpaint may be a suitable choice. (

    If you want a paint program that is much more simple than GIMP or an alternative to Microsoft's Paint or Paint.NET, Pinta ( may be the best choice for you. Pinta has a little more features than MS-Paint, but is still lightweight and not bulky like GIMP.

    For those of you interested in SVG, Inkscape is a great choice. If you wish to make art for, using Inkscape to produce the SVG files may be a wise choice. Karbon (once called Kontour) is an Inkscape alternative for the KDE desktop. (Inkscape | Karbon

    Blender ( is a powerful autoCAD application with abilities to handle videos and physics. Blender can also be used to make video games. Blender contains many features and tools and is a suitable alternative to many 3D-graphics design and CAD programs. When doing any 3D-modeling or advanced graphics, Blender is the number one choice for most graphic designers.

    SweetHome3D ( is an easy to use autoCAD application that allows users to design and decorate houses. This can be used to make buildings for video games, make a prototype design for a house, or just for fun.

    POV-Ray uses ray-tracing to generate the created images. POV-Ray can be 3D and realistic like Blender. Now, some of you may be wondering which is better (POV-Ray or Blender). It all depends on needs and opinions. Overall (generally speaking), POV-Ray is faster, but with less features/tools than Blender (other differences exist). (

    Krita is perfect for graphic designers wanting the colored-painting look. Krita is Swedish for "Crayon" which emphasizes the main purpose of Krita - to make images that appear to be paintings (maybe the Swedish word for "paint" would have been more suitable, right?). Krita depends on KDE, so users who dislike KDE have an alternative as seen below. (

    For those of you who do not like Krita or the KDE desktop, MyPaint ( is a great alternative. Like Krita, MyPaint makes images that appear to have been drawn with paints.

    LibreOffice Draw ( is like a paint program for the LibreOffice Suite.

    TuxPaint ( is a very lightweight paint program with a colorful user-interface. TuxPaint is primarily aimed for kids, but it is still useful to other kinds of artists.

    GPaint (GNU-Paint) is an alternative to KolourPaint and MS-Paint for the GNOME (and other) desktop interfaces. (

    GNOME-Paint looks almost exactly like older versions of MS-Paint. However, this software is missing some features; not all of the tools work. (

    RGBPaint ( is a fork of MTPaint that is designed for the Sugar interface. RGBPaint mimics MS-Paint (as do many *paint programs).

    MTPaint ( is like MS-Paint, but with many more features and tools. This program can make animated GIFs, and this application supports graphics-tablets. MTPaint can open and create a variety of image files like XPM, Tiff, Bitmap, JPEG, and others.

    KolourPaint ( is an alternative to MS-Paint for the KDE environment.


    Mirage ( is an image viewer, but it can be used to change contrast and brightness, so this can be used for quick tweaks.

    Scribus ( is not for art; rather, this is a publishing tool for making posters, pamphlets, newsletters, etc. I included it in this article because artists could use this tool to display their art.

    KColorEdit ( is used to make palette files. This is helpful when a certain project requires a particular palette that is not included with your preferred image editor.

    Combination/Fusion Example

    Graphics designers can use many of these applications in combination to make the best art possible. For instance, when using Blender to design a game, GIMP can be used to make/edit textures. Smaller programs, like MTPaint, can be used for minor/quick tweaks. MyPaint could be used to make an oil painting to use in one of the rooms of the game. SweetHome3D could be used to design the furniture and houses for the game (roof-tops must be made with another program like Blender).

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