I use a lot of image manipulation programs while going through my daily routines, usually Photo Impact, Photoshop and a few others to get the job done. There is another program that I used to use all the time, but was forced to lay off because I didn’t have a copy in the office. The program was Adobe Illustrator, and it’s perfect when you need to create professional looking drawings or logos from scratch. There are just some things you can do with Illustrator that you can’t do with other programs. It’s frustrating when you are missing a capability that you really need and it can hold up your project, or force you to produce something you’re not 100 percent happy with.

This all became so obvious to me when I was working with some images a few weeks back and there were a couple of functions that I couldn’t perform with any of the software I had on hand. Frustrated because I couldn’t get the effects I wanted, I started searching for an answer. This search led me to today’s Download of the Week, and I think it is one of the best downloads I’ve ever had. It’s called Inkscape. It’s a full-blown illustrating program that can be utilized by first time users as well as seasoned professionals.

Inkscape is an open source drawing application similar to Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Freehand or Xara X. With an assortment of tools at your disposal, there is little you cannot do, graphically. With Inkscape, the sky is the limit when discussing drawing applications. Just take a look at current InkScape features:

Current Features

Object creation
· Drawing: pencil tool (freehand drawing with simple paths), pen tool (creating Bezier curves and straight lines), calligraphy tool (freehand drawing using filled paths representing calligraphic strokes).
· Shape tools: rectangles (may have rounded corners), ellipses (includes circles, arcs, segments), stars/polygons (can be rounded and/or randomized), spirals.
· Text tool (multiline text, full on-canvas editing).
· Embedded bitmaps (with a command to create and embed bitmaps of selected objects).
· Clones (“live” linked copies of objects), including a tool to create patterns and arrangements of clones.

Object manipulation
· Affine transformations (moving, scaling, rotating, skewing), both interactively and by specifying exact numeric values.
· Z-order operations.
· Grouping objects, with a way to “select in group” without ungrouping, or “enter the group” making it a temporary layer.
· Layers, with a way to lock and/or hide individual layers, rearrange them, etc; layers can form a hierarchical tree.
· Copying and pasting objects.
· Alignment and distribution commands.

Fill and stroke
· Color selector (RGB, HSV, color wheel).
· Color picker tool.
· Copy/paste style.
· A gradient editor capable of multi-stop gradients.
· Pattern fills (bitmap/vectors).
· Dashed strokes, with many predefined dash patterns.
· Path markers (e.g. arrowheads).

Operations on paths
· Node editing: moving nodes and Bezier handles, node alignment and distribution, etc.
· Converting to path (for text objects or shapes), including converting stroke to path.
· Boolean operations.
· Path simplification, with variable threshold.
· Path insetting and outsetting, including dynamic and linked offset objects.
· Bitmap tracing (both color and b/w).

Text support
· Multi-line text.
· Uses any installed outline fonts, including right-to-left scripts.
· Kerning, letter spacing, line spacing adjustments.
· Text on path (both text and path remain editable).
· Text in shape (fill shape following stroke).

· Fully anti-aliased display.
· Alpha transparency support for display and PNG export.
· Complete “as you drag” rendering of objects during interactive transformations.

· Live watching and editing the document tree in the XML editor.
· PNG and PostScript export.
· Command line options for export and conversions.
· Perfectly compliant SVG format file generation and editing.

Before you say it, I already know what some of you may be thinking. That’s great Chad, but I don’t have time to try to figure out such a robust drawing program. Well, that’s taken care of too, because besides having free alternatives to popular programs, the open source community is also known for a tremendous amount of information, support and tutorials regarding their programs. You can go out to Inkscape’s site where you have access to tutorials, FAQs and other resources to help anyone get up to speed. With Open Source programs, you always have somewhere to turn when looking for answers.

If you like to create and modify images on your system, then I strongly recommend that you download this program. You will be amazed with what it can do. I would match this program up with the industry leaders, which by the way, cost hundreds of dollars. Download it and try some of the tutorials found under the Help menu, which has terrific explanations for all of its capabilities.

Go here for all the information!

~ Chad

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