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!


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


I use too much shit, seriously:

Black Ink
Affinity Photo
Affinity Designer
Clip Studio Paint
Photoshop (With nik collection, duh)
Paintshop Pro
PD Howler / Dogwaffle

Although I’ve bought shitloads of game engines and such throughout the years, I don’t really use any of them because there’s too much music and art to be made otherwise. Narrowing my scope a little has helped me to improve, so I won’t bother to mention stuff I’ve turned on once and never actually used.


@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.


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:


Actually Paintshop was one that I exclusively used for years before going to school for graphic design. The versions that Humble pushed afterward (post 2018) were just a hot crashing mess, but it used to be a good program!

Some of these just have a few features that are too killer to live without; affinity photo will pull shit from pexels and unsplash without having to open a browser, krita has insane brush options, opencanvas is insane for quick sketching (and quick mirroring for testing out logo designs), painstorm’s brush textures are practically unrivaled, etc. I also love the batch processing on artipic, just because it’s so damn snappy.

These aren’t all image editors exclusively; illustrator is all vector based (and so is affinity designer for the most part), and clip studio / paintstorm / black ink are mainly for drawing and painting. Aseprite is for pixel art, etc.


@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: