Top Open Source Creativity Apps

Monday Feb 29th 2016 by Matt Harley

Download these open source apps for all manner of creative tasks, from video to graphic image editing.

There is a common belief among non-Linux users that there aren't any good creative applications from the open source camp. In truth, this is absolutely false. The key is knowing which applications are needed to complete a specific task. In this article, I'll share my recommendations for the top open source creativity apps.

OpenShot – Despite the long delay, the latest OpenShot is the perfect video editor for the budding YouTube creator. Most compare this software to Premiere Elements. I think it's more advanced than that, but its user-friendly interface is simple enough anyone can use it reliably. Since OpenShot uses (at least the old version did) MLT profiles, there's not much one can't do with this software in terms of creating high quality video edits. If you need to work with ProRes, for example, ffmpeg can help with that. OpenShot 2.x is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Kdenlive – This is my preferred editor. It has a slightly different workflow than you'll find with OpenShot, but Kdenlive is a very powerful video editor once you learn how to use it. Like OpenShot, you won't find some of the expected pre-made effects you'd find in various Adobe products. But using Kdenlive and the features it provides does give you the raw ingredients to do just about anything you could want. I won't try to compare OpenShot vs Kdenlive in terms of which is best. For my workflow, Kdenlive offers professional results on my Linux desktop. It's not as easy to learn as OpenShot, though. I would even go so far to say that it's as close to the proprietary software known as Light Works as an open source video editor has ever been. Kdenlive is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

slowmoVideo – Slow motion effects have long been a nightmare for Linux users. Existing editors simply haven't had the back-end support to make believable, non-jerky slow motion effects like you see in the movies. That is, until slowmoVideo was unleashed onto the scene. While it has a fair learning curve to it, slowmoVideo's results are second to none. At this time, slowmoVideo is available only for Linux.

SimpleScreenRecorder – I've used a number of decent screen recorders in my time, but few have served me with the reliability I've found with SimpleScreenRecorder. This software is compatible with the ability to record OpenGL games and audio. I personally love the fact that it works very well with multiple displays. SimpleScreenRecorder is available for Linux.

qStopMotion – In theory, stop motion could be done with most video editors. However, I've found if you want to create a believable, no nonsense experience that looks like it was done by a professional, you want to use qStopMotion. The secret of this application is its ease of use. It's far easier to use than other commercial software available. Choose your input, create your scenes and you're on your way to your first Gumby fan film extravaganza. qStopMotion is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Blender – Creating cool 3D modeling work isn't for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of practice, skill and some impressive creative vision. Assuming you have some of these qualities, then I highly recommend taking a look at Blender. This advanced 3D modeling software has been used to create cool independent movies and fan films. Despite the fact that is doesn't cost anything to download, this application is considered to be high-end professional software. Blender is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Darktable – Despite Adobe's Lightroom not being available to all computing platforms, Darktable is and it's also completely free to download as well. Best described as a virtual dark room for photographers, Darktable lets you work with RAW digital images and make changes to them with a zoomable light table. Darktable is available for Linux and OS X. At this time, Windows is not included in its list of supported operating systems.

GIMP – I've used GIMP for many years. So many years in fact, that I'm more familiar with it than I am Photoshop! GIMP allows me to manipulate, adjust, tweak and completely distort images as I see fit. Many of its features are on par with Photoshop's abilities, with some minor exceptions. GIMP is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Krita – On the surface, Krita is considered to be an advanced painting application. I would go farther and suggest that it covers features found in Photoshop that are not found in GIMP. It's a crowd-funded program used in creating some amazing comic and fine art illustrations. A professional artist would absolutely feel good about the results Krita is capable of producing. Krita is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Inkscape – I've found working with Vector art is very much a love/hate situation. I love to see the cool creations that are possible, yet I would be lying if I didn't admit to the learning curve is steep when learning to make neat Vector art creations. Luckily Inkscape doesn't have any shortage of tutorials and there are no upgrade fees to each new release. It's open source and available to everyone. Inkscape is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Pencil – When you're looking to create GUI prototypes or simply illustrate your vision through diagrams, Pencil provides a solution. Simple to use, easy to manipulate creations, Pencil is a fantastic program for anyone needing to work with shape-based creations. Pencil is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Hugin – The first time I was presented with an example of a digital panoramic picture collection, I was understandably blown away. One of the best ways to build your own panoramic picture collections is to work with a program called Hugin. Despite its medium-sized learning curve, the end result of your time spent learning the software is simply amazing. Hugin is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

MyPaint – For skilled Wacom tablet users, finding the right program to unleash your maximum creativity is no simple task. Not because there aren't any choices, rather, because there are too many choices! One popular program that has met with tremendous success is a paint program aptly named MyPaint. Simple to learn navigation, fun to use, the creations from this program are impressive. Mypaint is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Other open source creativity software

I also want to cover less interesting but just as important items such as cameras, drawing tablets and color management.

If you're using Windows or OS X, chances are you've already got everything setup how you like. But for Linux users, I've found the best breakdown of what you need to know for these things goes something like this.

Color Management: Believe it or not, getting a proper color profile is quite doable under Linux. And after a while, setting up new ones will become a lot easier.

Cameras: While most cameras can be automatically mounted under today's modern Linux distributions, the absolute easiest way to retrieve media from a camera is to simply put the storage card into a card reader, then connect it to your PC.

Drawing tablets: On Linux, software such as Krita, Inkscape, GIMP and MyPaint support Wacom tablet functionality. You're also able to dial in the configuration at a deeper level if you like.

Do you have apps that you depend on to be creative? Are they also open source? Hit the Comments, share your favorites!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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