Free applications for design. How to choose the right one

Free apps for design

One of the most idiotic discussions in the software world is whether this or that free or open source software application is a valid alternative to a proprietary one. I have been insisting, unsuccessfully, that we stop promoting this type of program as “the replacement of…” and start talking about its virtues.

For example, The Gimp allows us to create our own scripts in Python. If you have knowledge of this programming language, and of the mathematics used in the manipulation of images (all the necessary information is on the Internet) you can extend its functionalities beyond the dreams of any user of a paid application.

The Achilles heel of free and open source software projects it was always the documentation. Disorganized, outdated and often incomplete, it was the main obstacle to the mass adoption of free applications.

Fortunately, little by little that is changing. In the repositories of the different Linux distributions we have perfectly documented design tools that are very useful for both amateurs and professionals.

Free applications for design. How to choose which tool to use

The best way to know which application to use in each case, is to distinguish with what type of images we are going to work.

Raster images are created with programs that work with pixels or captured with a camera or scanner. They are saved in formats such as jpg, gif, png, and they are used on the web and in documents created for viewing on screen. Some programs that we can use to work with this type of images are: The Gimp, Chalk, GrafX2 y TuxPaint.

. Vector graphics are created with specific software, and They are ideal for images that will be applied to a physical product. They are also used in CAD, engineering, and 3D graphics. Some open source alternatives are: Inkscape, LibreOfficeDraw y FreeCAD

Create an image with a raster program it can be compared to painting with a brush. This type of images supports color mixing. On the other hand, when using a vector drawing program the outline of the shapes is drawn. These shapes called objects show only one color each.

It is possible to create similar images of both types. As long as they don't include subtle color variations as vector graphics require there to be a shape for each color.

Some vector graphics creation programs solve this problem.umando the possibility of incorporating raster effects. This type of graphics will not be suitable for processes that require 100% vector content such as cutting or engraving.

The pictures they are raster images and their conversion to vector format will not have the same quality

Pixels and formulas

Raster images are built from pixels. A pixel is a point or the smallest element of a display device. If we zoom in on a raster image we will see a lot of little squares. Vector images They are built from mathematical calculations from one point to another that form lines and shapes. If we zoom in on a vector graphic it will always look the same.

A raster image has a specific number of pixels. When the image file is enlarged without changing the number of pixels, the image will be blurred. Although it is possible to try to solve this by adding the number of pixels, as these are added randomly throughout the image, the results are usually not good.

When we enlarge a vector graphic, math formulas stay the same, so display quality is maintained. Vector graphics can be scaled to any size without losing quality.

In conclusion, if we are going to create graphic content to view on the screen that contain many colors, it is best to use raster images, while if we need content for other supports, which need precision and do not require many colors, the best thing to do is to work with vector images.

In the next article we will comment more extensively on some options of open source applications for design

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