Fav programs for visual art and graphic design

What are your fav programs for doing your artwork and design, be it in 2D or 3D? I’m always looking for good programs, espüecially freeware, and already got some really nice recommendations here, so feel free to list everything you really like to work with!

Here is my current list of favs and some wishlisted things. You can see a lot of free stuff and I tried to list free alternatives for more expensive programs. If I don’t use the free alternative, I have reasons for it, but those might be related to my personal workflow, limited knowledge and so on, so always try out the free stuff first if you are interested.

  1. Basic 2D pixel editing and similar:
  • Gimp (my fav for most tasks) [free]
  • Topaz stuff for AI-based denoising, masking and other effects [rather expensive but can be impressive and I didn’t find good alternatives]
  1. Painting
  • Krita or Gimp [free]
  • Corel Painter or Escape Motions Flame Painter for really interesting and flexible brushes [both in different Humble Bundles]
  1. 3D
  • Blender for just about anything [free]
  • iClone for human animation [rather expensive; free alternative is Daz Studio, but they want to sell you models; Blender with additional tools or Mixamo would be other alternatives]
  • TwinMotion [was free but not anymore] or FlowScape [very inexpensive] for simple 3D environment building
  • Sculptris for simple sculpting [free]
  • Substance Painter (Adobe bought it, but it’s still a great program for texturing models) [rather expensive; free alternative: Blender]
  1. Game engines
  • Unity and Unreal for very flexible audio visualization [free]
  • Quixel Mixer and Bridge for getting lots of free assets [free, but only free for Unreal projects]
  1. Video editing
  • Hitfilm for anything video [Humble Bundle]
  1. Audio-responsive visuals
  • Resolume for audio-responsive effects and live visuals [rather expensive, cheaper alternative: Magic Visuals; free alternative: VSXu]
  • also (with various limitations): Blender, Daz Studio [with free Audiomation script], Hitfilm [see above]
  1. Additional one-trick stuff:
  • Amberlight and Inspirit for interesting abstract and Mandala-type animated visuals [Humble Bundle]
  • Mandelbulber and Mandelbulb3D for 3D fractals [free]

Let me know what you like to work or play with!

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GIMP, Darktable,
KDENlive, HitFilm, Olive
Reaper 6 and all DAWS i tried
Dota 2


@st3aLth: Thanks, good call with the free video editors! I remember I tried out KDENlive a while ago.

@xSANTAxDURSTx: Thanks for the list, but damn - how many image editors can one human being use in a lifetime? ALL the programs I know in that list are image editors… that is just overkill man! What did those poor pixels do to you that you give them total war? ^^
I really can’t imagine why you would need even 1/4 of all thjopse editors haha! Can you maybe tell a few words about the differences and why you can’t come to a smaller selection with all these image editors? Hard for me to imagine that all of these get used in the image editing workflow of one human being, but I guess that’s just because I don’t know all the pros and cons and special tricks! For me, getting Corel Paintshop Pro in a Humble Bundle with some other stuff already felt unnecessary because of Gimp.

Also, yeah, game engines are time killers, but lots of fun and the current possibilities are just crazy…

You know i almost learned Blender 2.6 (you know old skin) but then they published new version with completely new interface and i gave up.

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Something like that happened to me a few times, too! I was following tutorials but couldn’t finish it because some things changed… extremely frustrating especially for newbies, but I guess the changes made sense… IIRC it happened to me with Blender and Unreal so far… Even worse is only when you suddenly figure out that some things work in the engine, but generally not in any export/build - makes it all so much more fun! :wink:

I’ll just share my desktop and call it a day:

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@xSANTAxDURSTx: Thanks for the info, that makes sense! And yeah, I can see that it’s not exclusively raster graphics editors, but seriously, for me, these are mostly image editors, be it raster, vector or painting - Howler even has some 3D capabilities, but still all kinda similar from my perspective. But very interesting that you can make good use of all of these!

@Auto-meh-geddon: I remember from some thread that you wrote that you are doing game dev, which is really awesome! I hope you link to your game(s) at some point! Also, how do you get by with only one DAW and only one image editor? I’m glad I at least found two game engines :wink:

Pixlr.com cause its online freeware it’s great because it’s free, its online and it doesnt take up space on the hard drive.

I Dont really do video editing not my thing.
Tried data bending a video with audacity once…but failed so miserably.

Damn, I missed this when you originally posted it Meta, but I love the idea, so here you go:

Photo work:
DXO: My only RAW developer for good reason. It sucks at asset management so far, but they are trying (ala LR). Kinda spendy as they make a new version about every year, but I upgrade every 2, so average is €30 a year. Best denoiser in the world. Better RAW development (ymmv) than Capture One or LR when I shot them out.

Affinity Photo: for the “fun” stuff like adding text, borders, filters etc. I do not currently use it to develop RAW images, but I did shoot it out vs DXO. DXO won by a lot)

Graphic Design:
Affinity Designer: no brainer, such a solid piece of software for the money. I see a lot of you all have these Serif products too, that is really cool.
JSPlacement: funky generated textures as raw materials. Free
Flame Painter: I bought the same Humble Bundle as Meta. :smiley: It is really great, I use it all the time for inspiration and the cover of FORMS was made originally with this app (then edited in Affinity Photo)
Rebelle: see above. Not used a lot but I like having it. Really cool alternative to getting messy with paint, as well as ADesigner style vector stuffs. Therapeutic.
HxD: for glitching files. free. not really a graphics program but useful for manipulating pixels, so here it is.

tried Hitfilm, seems ok. never made a vid with it.
Blender: see above
FL Studio: my only music vid to date was made with that graphic app in there, forget the name. Pretty nice.


Humble has a package right now with some interesting looking video editing software…not sure I need it but sort of don’t want to miss the chance…

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Good info, thanks man. :slight_smile: I was just interested in comparing it to f.e. Hitfilm…maybe it would have been a tad better at something, but I do not work in video much at all, so whereas some tricks would be nice, I can live without. I was already leaning toward skipping this one.

I agree as well that these packages with like 5 DAWs from the same company in them just make me laugh. The last one had that many, I do not recall if that was Magix however…there are a few such brands.

In a sort of related rant to your shovelware comment, I don’t like Corel…they are the only company that has managed to get pop-up ads onto my desktop ( via their “update utility.” ) I am going to uninstall that and see if my one Corel app still works…if not, bye bye.

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You can disable the main popup stuff somehow, but even after switching everything off I still get a window reminding me to buy the latest update when opening the software…

Also I have to note that Mixer is a great free alternative to Substance Painter :smiley:

Resolume is really cool imho, so much fun to use all the options for automating effects and so on…
I see lots of Adobe, which I’m sure is great but I’m not using their stuff because of the subscription model. I tried the demo of Substance Painter, which was bought by Adobe recently and is really nice, but then I found the free Quixel Mixer which is nearly as good and free. There is another Adobe product I have used before and I think listed somewhere above: the free Mixamo online service for rigging models, a really cool thing.

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I hate Adobe for switching to subscription based model after CS6. Literally I paid for the last hard copy you could get of the Adobe Creative Suite and felt like an idiot immediately after lol… But it’s the visual software I’m most familiar with by far so that’s the only reason I’m really sticking with it… Also it can actually look good on a resume to use Adobe software too, which might be really stupid but it’s true. Lotta industry standard programs look better on a resume I guess even if other programs can do the same exact thing.

Yeah, not really relevant for me atm, but def a valid point! Although I’m not sure I would get into subscriptions because of that - it might be an idea for people used to other programs who want to pimp their resume to just get like one month of Adobe stuff to get familiar with it and add it. I haven’t looked at most Adobe stuff in a long time, but a lot of things are usually very similar.

I realize this thread is old as shit but there’s a lot of good stuff in here ^.

Recently (probably earlier this year, time flies) I found this cool program called Filter Forge that allows you to design custom filters for PS / Affinity Photo (and standalone, if you like that method). I’ve made a lot of weird shit in it that looks almost identical to pixel sorting algos (will post when I get picture privileges) without having to actually code since it’s all node based, but I highly recommend trying to demo to anyone who likes that style of editing and modular workflow for visual art.

Also, Processing is a lot of fun but my code game is still really weak.


That sounds great - I read about FilterForge a few times before but always thought that it’s just something like a collection of filters lol. Not doing enough 2D stuff rn to buy it, but node-based programs are always a lot of fun to use! I have been using more Unreal since I posted last time, but mostly the Metasounds modular synth system - also node-based, of course :smiley: - haven’t done much visual stuff lately, but have been watching tutorials on some stuff in Unreal such as doing cinematic sequences. Busy with some other things IRL rn, but looking forward to getting back into it eventually…

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That looks pretty swank. Too spendy for my needs atm, but what I notice is that it looks a lot like the texture building in Blender, which I have enjoyed fiddling with. If I get deeper into photo work at some point though, I bookmarked this. Thanks for the share!

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