Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Suite Symphony Playing in the Key of 'Free' - Part One

I'd wager that most code hobbyists, like myself, lack the resources (read 'cash') to blow on expensive tools for their projects.

For that reason, I just thought I'd pass on a number of awesome - and totally free - goodies to help create your project content. Just because they're free does not mean they aren't powerful. Also, this does not necessarily mean that they're lacking in complexity and have no learning curve.

I'll start with a few of my favorite graphics tools.


GIMP - Gnu Image Manipulation Program [http://www.gimp.org]

Gimp is truly a powerhouse among 2D photo editors. Boasting most of the editing capabilities of expensive photo editors, like Adobe's popular Photoshop, Gimp is often the top free choice for spriting and other 2D graphics manipulation. There are numerous free plug-ins and brush packs available to extend its capabilities, as well.

Gimp handles all popular file formats like a champ.

Inkscape - Vector Drawing Program [http://inkscape.org]

Inkscape is a fairly simple, yet powerful vector graphics drawing program. With Inkscape, I found it tremendously easy to generate beautiful images for things like graphical buttons and logos. Of course, this is only scratching the surface of Inkscape's capabilities.

There are some really helpful tutorials and demonstrations of Inkscape's capabilities out on YouTube, and I found them to be very instrumental in getting me started.

GraphicsGale - Pixel Art & Animation Maker [http://www.humanbalance.net/gale/us/]

I only recently discovered this amazing little gem and it has totally altered my approach to pixel art and has dramatically decreased the amount of time it takes me to create sprites, icons, and tile objects for my games!

As a wanna-be game designer, I've found it surprisingly difficult to produce pixel art of any quality, and the more powerful photo-editors tend to only complicate the fine art of pixelcraft by possessing countless functions and menus that are really of little use for such up close and in-your-face artwork.

It really is so simple a seven year old can use it, but in its simplicity it is mighty.

To sweeten the deal even further, it can also be used to generate animations. This is a must-have tool, if you're designing your own 2D game!

Blender - 3D Modeling, Animation, and Game Creator [http://www.blender.org/]

Blender... Wow... Where to even start?? I still can't believe that this magnificent beast of a modeling program is free! Blender is right up there with the top dogs of 3D modeling. Possessing incredible 3D modeling, rendering, and movie production capabilities, countless plug-ins and extensions, scripting capabilities, and even a built-in game design environment, Blender stands in a class of its own.

I could rant and rave about it all day long, but I think I'd best just let the work of the Blender community stand on its own and show you what it can do:

Blender Art Gallery


Big Buck Bunny

More Blender Made Movies

Most of these are fairly old. If you Google about a bit you'll find tons of mind-blowing art produced with Blender.

Awesome as it is, one major drawback with any major 3D design suite is the learning curve. Be prepared to invest a great deal of time in conquering this behemoth.

Lucky for us we can stand on the shoulders of the Blender heroes that have come before us and kindly created countless awesome tutorials.

Several Blender masters have produced tutorials that are an invaluable resource to the aspiring designer. Among my favorites are:

Good luck out there! If you know of any other awesome [FREE] graphics tools out there that you'd like to add to the list, then please feel free to share!

Take care, all!

~ Aardaerimus

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