Start designing can be a little hassle, specially for students. Of course, the cost for an Art certifications are way over prized in the US. For example, an Associate Degree in Full Sail, Florida – Maybe the best option if you want to have hands on into new technology, can cost $80,000.00. If you don’t find a job among the thousands of students that graduate from any Art division you will start your career with an outstanding monthly bill, or a little monthly bill with no income. If you are lucky to find a job after you graduate don’t even think to pay the minimum they suggest.
Anyway, that’s another story. But if you are desiring to start designing and developing your skills but you don’t have over $2,000.00 to buy an Adobe Creative Suite, then you don’t have to quit or be disappointed. There’s a lot a free software out there for any design skill you have.
I will start with the one I fall in love with… Inkscape.
Inkscape (Windows and Debian – Linux)
Inkscape is the free version of the so famous Adobe® Illustrator or the old Macromedia® Freehand, and can be compared with Corel Draw. This Vector Image editor is so powerful that counts with tools that Illustrator lacks. The ability to create degradations to transparency without the needs to specify a masking is a boom. Hey… For a free software this is more that you can expect. Has everything you need to start designing like the professionals. Best to design icons, logos and web images. It natively saves in SVG format. What this means? That your images can be viewed in a web browser, no more cranky pixelated images. At the moment, there is no version for Mac. But if you have the money to buy a Mac then you probably have the money to get Corel Draw ($400 up) or Adobe® Illustrator ($500 up).
Gimp2 (Win, Mac and Debian – Linux)
Gimp has been awarded many times like the best Image Manipulation Software available as open source. Has been around for many years and has implemented many tools over they years that make it a very competitive options against it main rival Adobe® Photoshop. Though it lacks of many amazing tools available in the expensive counterpart, like 3D tools and 3D rendering, Gimp2 is far more advance that many other commercial Pixel CAD in the industry. With a lot of plug-ins available for it you can achieve almost all of the most needed task for Professional Offset or Digital Printing. Also, one tool that makes Gimp2 unique is the capability to create seamless texture for 3D images and icon creations with just few clicks. Something that’s not available for Photoshop out of the Box.
Blender (Win, Mac and Debian – Linux)
Even though Gimp2 does not count with the integration of 3D tools as Photoshop, these tools are available with the really state of the art 3D Design CAD Blender. As with Inkscape and Gimp2, Blender is a powerful open source software that has all the tools you need to create really advance 3D still images as a full length 3D movie. Tools like live rendering, texture manipulation, vector capabilities and node effects, Blender is definitely a most have software. Downside, is really complicated to learn but as with Inkscape and Gimp2, there’s a large community of users always willing to help, well, not all of them are so graceful, but at the end, they help. One site that you really need to subscribe to, if you are ready to get your hand dirty into 3D design with blender is http://blenderguru.com from Andrew Price
Now that you have cover all the graphic needs, then you need way to publish them. Either in the web or on paper, there are many free software to choose from.
Desktop and Web Development
To develop for web there are many software you can use, even with a simple text editor like notepad (Windows) or text edit (Ubuntu) you might want to have the power of code coloring.
Based in the same source of Notepad2 but with a lot of plug-ins and ad-ons. Is a little more advanced than Notepad2 but only available for Windows Environment.
Microsoft WebMatrix (Windows)
Amazing but true, a free web development tool from Microsoft, WebMatrix is probably one of the best options for web developing with support for MySQL and MSSQL as well, code coloring and code hints. Has support for the .NET environment languages as well as PHP open source language.
Microsoft Visual Studio Express for Web (Windows)
NetBeans IDE (Windows, Mac and Debian – Linux)
The best bet to develop to for C++, Java and PHP will be Netbeans IDE, a powerful software that now includes full support for HTML5, is even integrated with the Chrome Browser where you can test your web application in different formats like Desktop, Mobile and Tablets. And as you see is available for all main platforms.
MonoDevelop IDE (Windows, Mac and Debian – Linux)
If you are a Mac developer that wanting to target the 80% of Windows user, MonoDevelop is a powerful IDE that allow you to develop .NET application in any main platform. ASP.NET, C#, C++ and many other languages only supported in the Windows .NET Environment are available to you with this free open source project.
MonoDevelop is an IDE primarily designed for C# and other .NET languages. MonoDevelop enables developers to quickly write desktop and ASP.NET Web applications on Linux, Windows and Mac OSX. MonoDevelop makes it easy for developers to port .NET applications created with Visual Studio to Linux and to maintain a single code base for all platforms. ~ MonoDevelop.com
This is not the end of the line. You might want to publish your projects as PDF formats or as Microsoft® Word Documents you will need to count with an Office Software family. For the last 15 years Open Office has been the free solution to MS Office or Mac iWork.
Apache Open Office (Windows, Mac and Debian – Linux)
This software has been handed over through many distributors, originally from the former Sun Microsystems, then Oracle and finally Apache. You can get this amazing group of tools from the Apache Foundation Website. The software is develop by volunteers. That’s why this project is completely free.
Apache OpenOffice is developed 100% by volunteers. Apache does not pay for developers, for translators, for QA, for marketing, for UI, for support, etc. Of course, we’re happy to accept donations to the Apache Software Foundation, to keep our servers runnings and for similar ovehead expenses. But our products are developed entirely by volunteers. ~ OpenOffice.org
This project includes software to create Spreadsheets, Documents, Databases, Vector Images and more.
One Last Thing
The only left here is your imagination. As you see these are a few in a vast catalog of free software. These are the ones that has last for years, all of them has been tested by Designer’s Gate, and most of them are still in my computer because they count with some tools that other most expensive version lack of. Some of them uses Java platform if you are concern with that then this should be one thing you have to consider. Other than that, these tools will allow you to start your career with a push of a very competitive free toolbox so you can start making a little money to pay off your already initiated credit report.
Hope all these tool help developing your imagination… Happy Coding!