As a part of my renewed current interest in design, graphics, and messing around with technology, I’ve started testing out a couple of freeware products to replace Photoshop. Although I used Adobe throughout my college career in architecture, I have no real loyalty to the company. Actually, I’m just not a fan of corporations with software monopolies. True, I had full access to Photoshop at computer labs when I was in school, but for my personal computer Photoshop was always too much of an expense. And for that alone, Adobe irks me. There were alternatives. There used to be Jasc, which got bought out by Corel, and now is not up to speed. There’s cheap reduced versions, like Photoshop Elements. I’ve used both. But it’s really after knowing Mike that I was let in on the free versions. And I love free.
The problem comes with limitations. Photoshop Elements doesn’t have most of the features I need – it’s pretty much standard photo manipulation software, on par with whatever program you got free with your digital camera. Jasc always was a bit behind Adobe in their software functions and usability, and now that they’re gone, nothing you pay money for is really on par with Adobe.
So, on to the free stuff. I like both of the programs I’ve played around with so far, Paint.net and Photofiltre. Both are easy to use and seem to be pretty straightforward. Both are slimmed down from something like Adobe, but still with most of the features I want. If you combined them together, they would be my perfect program. Unfortunately, each one is missing something key.
Paint.net doesn’t have a smudging tool. There are assorted effects you can apply to an entire image or layer, so you could probably finagle a smudge somehow by selecting a line onto a different layer and then applying some effect. But it seems an annoying waste of time kind of way to solve a problem. Maybe I’ve grown lazy, but if I can do something by hand, I want to be able to do it on my graphics program.
Photofiltre does have smudging, along with a wide array of buttons that I have yet to fully explore. Unfortunately they too are missing one key feature that I’ve grown used to – layers. So that’s something that most people don’t use with their work, but remember, I was an architecture student. Trace paper is my middle name. If I don’t have layers, it’s increasingly hard to think while I’m drawing. And I was accustomed to having them due to Photoshop.
Both programs are worth extremely more than what I paid for them. And while I am probably pessimistic enough to have found something wrong with both of them regardless (for example, neither has a burn tool), I’m very very glad that someone put time in to develop them. Go nerds! Make me bigger and better software!