Libre tools for artists

Libre tools for artists

When it comes to artists, they have it the roughest with tools. Most people will misunderstand what an artist wants in terms of tooling and offer bad advice (like offering GIMP as a replacement for Clip Paint Studio, or offering Audacity as a replacement for Fruityloops), and this comes out of a lack of knowledge of the question, but having a good place in the heart. The point of this article is to rectify these mistakes and offer a proper, libre alternative for artists to use.

But why should I want Libre tools?

As I have learned, and from many artist's own testimony, they are not the best with tech. They don't understand, or need to understand, what a GPL, source code, or proprietary is, they just care about their tool functioning. That is understandable, not everyone has the time (or autism) to care about these things, but there are good, practical reasons why one should care. An article on that is linked here.

Visual Art/Pictures

  1. Krita - An alternative to Clip Paint Studio and other such drawing software - Besides following the KDE tradition of having one of the best waifus mascots mentioned on this page, Krtia is a strong, free software art tool with a wide array of brushes, effects, tools, and configurations to be used by any artist. Albeit, I am not the best drawer and what I make looks more like a third grader's scribbles, I have yet to run into any issues or problems while working within this program. It is, at the minimum, worth checking out.
  2. GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) - Replaces photoshop and other photo EDITING tools - A great, customizable piece of software that is featured packed for image manipulations and editing. The learning curve can be a bit tough at first (though, there are plugins out there that make swapping from photoshop easier), but once that is over, you'll never want to go back to paid (or pirated) garbage like photoshop.
  3. Pinta - Paint - For the simple editing, crude drawings, or other basic drawings this would be the choice. Its MS Paint minus the Microsoft and plus the freedom. This program is more akin to than MS Paint, but it gets the job done for being a very simple editor.

Audio Editing/Music

  1. LMMS - Fruitloops and the likes - LMMS is an free software tool that is used for making music. Not used by too many people, but is worth trying out. I'm no music producer so I cannot vouch to heavily for it, so your mileage may vary. The file comes as an appimage from their site, but most repos should have it.
  2. Audacity - WavePad or Oceaudio - Open source, visual based audio editor. Easy to use, hard to master. Great for making edits of audio, putting tracks together, making cuts, or even mixing and mastering. All around great piece of software

Video editing

  1. Shotcut - DaVinci Resolve - Shotcut is a simple, fast, and easy to use editor with a focus on splicing, editing, and basic filters/transitions. Its been my pick for ages, but when it comes to effects it can be lacking.
  2. Kdenlive - Adobe Premiere Pro - Kdenlive has way more effects than shotcut, but having the drawback of a learning curve. In shotcut everything is labeled and easy to use, in Kdenlive you will need to look quite a few things up to get started, but afterwards its comfortable to get into. There is little good documentation on the software, but do know that most of the effects are drag and drop.
  3. Natron - Adobe After Effects or Nuke - Natron is a Nuke-like, node based editor for making highly edited videos. Its great for special effects that Shotcut and Kdenlive cannot offer. It works in video only and has a high learning curve. Once this is over with, it works as a powerful, but niche editor to spend plenty of time in.
  4. ffmpeg - Adobe Media Encoder CC or ffWorks - ffmpeg is the swiss army knife of editing. It can edit pictures, videos, audio into a stupid amount of formats with a stupid amounts of effects, only drawback (or plus for some) is that its command line based. Most of the time its used just for converting a video, i.e converting a mp4 to webm or mp3 to opus, but it can be used for editing. If you are going to edit with this tool be warned that you might want to start scripting things and abstracting from ffmpeg itself, as the more complex an edit gets, the more and more parameters there will be.


  1. Vim - Replaces Notepad/Notepad++/or other forms of text editors - Vim is "the programmer's editor", but acts like an everyman's editor. Its fast, minimalist, and free. The learning curve is a bit to get over, but once over, it unlocks plenty of new potential. Using this editor, home row is rarely ever strayed from for more than a second. No need for the mouse to get around and spending precious seconds going through menus to do something like a find and replace. The main thing to know is that vim has two modes, normal and insert mode. You press I to go into insert mode, and in that mode you can type as you would any text editor, and you press ESC to go into normal mode, and that is where you can input macros, commands, etc. The macros are what make this editor amazing. Being able to at will add phrases or characters to any line (including the entire page document), auto-indent, advanced find and replace, and much, much more. Vim is easy to use but hard to master. I suggest sitting down and learning it, you'll never look back.
  2. LibreOffice Writer - Microsoft Word or Google Docs- Now if LaTeX or vim is too intimidating, you are still in luck. LibreOffice has you covered with their libre document editing software. This software is a freedom based equivalent to Microsoft word. Its easy to get into, but what you see is what you get.
  3. LaTeX - Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or LibreOffice - LaTeX is a mark up language used to compile pdfs. This may seem absolutely retarded for most people. Why would you want to code a document? Though, the benefits of this mount quickly when you can code LaTeX in a program like Vim, having a text editor of your choice be used to make a document. Much more control over the document is offered. If you wish to swap your document between MLA or APA style, you can do so on the fly with no effort at all. This leads to your document being extraordinarily flexible. This feature alone will make it appealing, but the number of packages for every niche wrote for the program make it even better. For example, something like citations (a very common aspect of formal writing and other papers) requires a person to manually type them out, manually keep track of where they are, manually put them in a bibliography or citations page, or other more cumbersome task, but with a program like BibTex this headache is removed. You can just tell the program you're using BibTex, define what you're citing, and use the tag \autocite, for it to cite itself. Then you can tell it where to output the bibliography and simply forget about it. It will automatically update with each document compile. Combine this with latexmk for automatic document compiling and viewing and you will spend way less time dealing with problems that machines were built for.
  4. pandoc - those bloated file converting websites - Pandoc is the king of document based file conversions. Input a LaTeX .tex file, a html webpage, or even a plain old text file and it will output a converted version to whatever output. This includes proprietary formats such as .docx. The program uses Haskell autism magic to function.