Graphics tools – selecting the right tool
While vector based graphic packages offer flexibility and control, if you want more “natural” looking illustrations, the alternative approach is bitmap graphics. Features to look for in illustration software are, Masking, object retouching and colour separation. Different images can be loaded into a single file, but kept separate on different layers. This is a feature also found in CAD packages. In the case of CAD, different layers can be turned on or off to reveal different details. e.g. All dimensional information may be kept on one layer. This can be turned off while panning and zooming around a 3D image for instance.
Some Open Source graphics tools
The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) – an advanced, highly versatile image manipulation program that is the Open Source equivalent of Adobe’s Photoshop. The GIMP is included with most major linux distributions.
Draw – the graphics program which is part of the OpenOffice (now Libre Office) suite of office applications. Among the tasks that Draw can perform are manipulating objects (e.g., rotating in three dimensions), arranging objects (e.g., grouping and ungrouping). Smart connectors (to simplify the creation of flowcharts, organization charts and network diagrams). Rendering can be used to create photorealistic images with the textures and lighting effects.
Scribus mimics the functions of QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign. It includes vector drawing tools, and support for a large number of different file types via import/export filters, emulation of color blindness or the rendering of markup languages such as LaTeX inside Scribus. The Scribus file format is XML-based and supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK colors, spot color support, ICC color management.
Inkscape – an SVG editor for vector drawing logos, posters, scalable icons, etc. and having capabilities similar to Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw and Visio. Among the supported SVG features are basic shapes, paths, text, alpha blending, transforms, gradients, node editing, svg-to-png export and grouping. Inkscape is an SVG drawing tool that is fully compliant with XML, SVG and CSS2 (cascading style sheets version 2).
Blender – a complete suite of tools for three dimensional modeling, animation, rendering and post-production.