Five free tools to aid in graphic design

In conjunction with your favorite editor these tools will go a long way to help extend your capabilities and offerings.

When you think of graphic design, you generally think of Photoshop, Gimp, Inkscape, and other bitmap and vector image editing software. But most designers have more than just the standard tools in their arsenal. Whether it's a tool to aid in the selection of a color scheme, batch processing tools, or font tools etc. - there's always yet another tool to aid in your quest to create the perfect design. And these tools aren't just for the hard-core designers. Anyone can add secondary tools to their ever-growing graphics toolkit - but which tool is best suited for you?

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I've scrounged up five tools that meet different graphics needs. Alone, none of them will help you create a masterpiece. In conjunction with your favorite editor, however, these tools will go a long way to help extend your abilities and offerings.

Five Apps

1. Darktable

Darktable is an open source photography workflow software. With this amazing tool you can bring a level of quality to your photographs you've never had before. With this software you will enjoy a virtual light table and darkroom, similar to what professional photographers use. Darktable features: Non-destructive editing, run database queries against your image libraries, zero-latency fullscreen, zoomable user interface, powerful export system, and more. Darktable also includes a module system that can handle tasks like: Crop and rotate, base curve, exposure controls, highlight reconstruction, white balance, temperature, and more. If you're looking for an outstanding tool to bring professional quality to your photos, Darktable is what you need. Darktable is free and runs on Linux and Mac.


2. Phatch

Phatch is one of the more handy graphics applications you will ever use. What Phatch does is do batch editing on digital images - but it's much more than that. What you do is create a set of actions to run on a folder of images. There are numerous actions you can include in the set (such as color to alpha, colorize, contour, desaturate, crop, grid, invert, mask, mirror, perspective, posterise, rotate, rename, shadow, text, save, and much more). Once you've created your set of actions, you can then run the actions against a folder of files. You have the option of making changes to the source files, or creating a new folder so to retain the integrity of your originals. Phatch runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac.


3. Color Scheme Generator

Color Scheme Generator is one of those tools you may not ever use. However, if you need to develop a solid color scheme, you'll be glad you have this tool at the ready. The tool works by scanning an image (from your gallery or taken from you device camera) and then generating a color scheme to match the pallet of the image. With CSG you can generate small, medium, and large color schemes. The type of scheme you generate will depend upon how many colors you need. For more colors, generate a small scheme. For less colors, generate a large scheme. From the color scheme you can then retrieve HEX, RGB, and HSV values for each color. Color Scheme Generator is free and available on the Android platform.


4. Gpick

Gpick is there when you simply need to know various values of a color. There are tons of these types of applications, but Gpick (for Linux) is better than most of them. Gpick features: Fast color picking, create palette from images, select color from anywhere on desktop, automatically named colors, export/import, copy picked colors to clipboard, oversampling, mix colors, create harmonious colors, and much more. So if you're looking for a tool that will help you pick a color (and see its various values), Gpick is an outstanding choice.


5. Fontforge

Fontforge is not the easiest tool to use; but once you get the hang of it, you'll be creating fonts that perfectly meet your needs. Fontforge is an outline font editor that lets you create postscript, truetype, opentype, cid-keyed, multi-master, cff, svg and bitmap fonts. You can even edit existing fonts and convert fonts from one format to another. Fontforge does have a steep learning curve, but it is free, and it is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac.


Bottom line

If you're a graphics designer, you need tools other than the standard editors. Each of these tools offers up something for every designer looking to expand their current toolbox. Give these a try and see if your graphic designing tasks become easier and your palette of offerings becomes more expansive.