Macintosh’s are better for graphics and visual design, or so they say. But a Mac is only as good as the software that’s running it, and today’s top of the line graphic editing and design applications are extremely pricey. For aspiring graphic designers and artists with little cash to spare, all is not lost. You can find a number of open source and free graphic apps for Mac OS that get the job done right as well as, or sometimes better than, their paid equivalents. Check out some of these must-have free graphic apps below.
Gimp, which stands for the GNU Image Manipulation Program, is the open source alternative to Photoshop. Gimp runs on all major platforms from Linux to Mac OS to Windows and it’s every bit as feature-rich and powerful as its commercial counterparts. Gimp is excellent for photo enhancement and digital retouching and supports a wide range of file types. Gimp also supports plugins, making it highly expandable. The user interface is customizable and the program is relatively lightweight, considering the heavy work it does. With an excellent user community and thorough documentation, there are plenty of places to turn to for help as well.
Seashore is a pared down graphics editing solution for those who want a nice feature set from a free application but may be overwhelmed by the inclusiveness of Gimp. Seashore supports a wide range of file types, including Gimp’s native XCF and handles layers, transparencies, gradients, textures and other advanced features. Overall, Seashore aims to serve basic image editing needs, rather than replacing professional photo editing software.
Blender is a revolutionary piece of open source software that rivals its commercial 3D animation and modeling programs like Autodesk Maya and Luxology Modo. Blender is a full-featured 3D graphics suite with rigging, shading, animation, physics and modeling. Blender is suitable for 3D games as well as feature films. Blender was used in such major productions as Spider Man 2, The Secret of Kells and on The History Channel.
Pixen is a pixel-based editor for Mac that is evocative of Microsoft Paint but even more feature-rich. Pixen allows you to make bitmap graphics in style, with layered editing, animation, sprites, overlays and more. Pixen supports a number of file formats, including pxi, .gif, .jpg, .png, .tiff, .bmp, .ico, .eps, .pict, a nd .lif.
Skitch bills itself as a “fast and fun” image capture tool that lets you grab screenshots, add captions or comments, make drawings or edit photos and share them quickly on the Web. Skitch is part image editing, part social experience, with a focus on sharing your snapshots, ideas or screen grabs with your friends and colleagues.
There are so many open source graphic editing programs available for the Mac that it doesn’t make sense to plunk down thousands of dollars on commercial software. For casual users, students or hobbyists, these programs will perform well—and some are even sufficient for pros. Check out some of these free graphic editing apps and unlock your creativity without paying a dime.