It's been my experience that most people aren't aware of the scope of creative software available for Ubuntu. The reason for this is complicated, but I suspect it mostly comes down to the functional availability provided by each application title for the Linux desktop.
In this article, I'm going to give you an introduction to some of the best creative software applications for Ubuntu (and other Linux distros).
Image manipulation Software for Ubuntu
GIMP – Without question, GIMP is my goto image editing program when using any Linux distro. Brushes, cropping, color addition/removal, GIMP does it all. Additionally, GIMP can import with general Photoshop layer compatibility. Granted, there are some features found in Photoshop not found with GIMP. But if you're not already a Photoshop user requiring an Adobe tool-set, GIMP is a marvelous option for advanced image manipulation. While it's Gtk based, it's installable on KDE based desktop environments as well.
Pencilsheep – If I was to point out an Ubuntu (Linux) compatible GIMP alternative, Pencilsheep is definitely on my list. With its similar tool-set, it's possible to emulate GIMP for the most part. Some users may even find that this application feels more like Photoshop overall, which is a handy for those who simply don't enjoy the GIMP way of doing things. Pencilsheep has full HDR support and GPU acceleration. Last but not least, this application offers full raw image import.
Darktable – At its core, Darktable is considered to be a digital lightroom and darkroom. It's designed to provide its users with the ability to work with raw images in such a way as not to degrade the quality of the pictures being worked with. Darktable also provides basic cropping, lighting and color management. If you're an Adobe fan, the closest competitor would be Adobe Lightroom.
Digital Painting & Vector Software for Ubuntu
Krita – If you're serious about painting programs, then Krita should be the program at the top of your list. Open source, easy to learn and it has some very powerful features. For me, the two biggest features that stand out are the brush stabilizer and pop-up palette. Bundle those features with stability and oodles of brush choices, it's easy to see why so many people are flocking to Krita. I was also surprised how well the Wacom tablet pressure sensitivity worked out of the box as well.
MyPaint – If you want a solid, no nonsense painting program, odds are MyPaint is the option you've been looking for. MyPaint balances a minimalist interface with compatibility for your Wacom tablet. Mypaint is perfect for anyone looking to do digital drawing in a distraction free environment. Don't let the minimalism get you down. This software comes with ample brushes to choose from and is quite stable as well.
Vector Drawing Software for Ubuntu
Inkscape – When it comes to vector drawing on Ubuntu (or any Linux distro for that matter), it's difficult to forget about Inkscape. It's widely considered the premiere vector drawing program for anyone in the know. Is it a straight across replacement for Adobe Illustrator? For someone who has never used either program, perhaps. But the bigger issue here is free and open source – two things Inkscape offers right away. Object creation, manipulation and fill/stroke functionality are all features Inkscape excels at.
Video Editing Software for Ubuntu
OpenShot – OpenShot is a very popular video editor. Most people I know prefer the older release due to features provided, however its ease of use remains a constant with each new release. Greenscreen, simple editing and even some limited Blender effects are all made possible using this editor. You can also count on OpenShot for Clip resizing, scaling, trimming, snapping, rotation, and cutting. OpenShot also has other features which are listed here.
Kdenlive – I love using Kdenlive because I know it so well. While the workflow might take a bit of getting used to, it has more functional features than most people probably realize. While it's short on decent titling, it's strong with configurable interface and proxy editing ability. Another great benefit is that you can also download new profiles, transitions and other resources from within the Kdenlive application.
Blender – Until Lightworks offers the same effects add-ons found on other platforms, I see zero benefit to use it. Instead, I recommend you give Blender's video sequence editor a look. Like Lightworks, you will be spending some time in the manual learning how everything works. Unlike Lightworks, Blender has the ability to make awesome 3D effects built in for all popular platforms, including distros like Ubuntu. Blender cuts and edits are extremely precise, plus the controls are surprisingly obvious once you become comfortable with the general layout of the software.
Audio Editing Software for Ubuntu
Audacity – This is my goto audio editor. It's simple enough to learn the basics in a matter of minutes, while the effects section of the software can do just about anything you could possibly want. In terms of recording clean audio for podcasts and tutorials, you simply can't beat it. Audacity works well with both PulseAudio and JACK sound servers. Finally, Audacity can even record based on a schedule, sound detection or simply append new audio to an existing track.
Ocenaudio – There was a time not too long ago when Audacity wasn't available on Ubuntu due to a bug. It installed, however audio playback was a mess due to an issue. During this period, I temporarily relied on an application called Ocenaudio. To be honest, I think Ocenaudio has a far better interface than Audacity. But outside of that, I think it's not quite as feature rich. Ocenaudio is worth watching and is great for simple editing and mixing. Its defining trait, however, is its ability to handle very large audio files without crashing. Best of all, copy and pasting those files is almost instantaneous.
Creative Software for Ubuntu not Included Here
Insert the name of your "DAW" here, other video editors, etc. – obviously there are going to be other titles I didn't include. The reason for this is simple: I wanted to highlight the best creative applications available for Ubuntu and other Linux distros. But I didn't want to bury a casual user in software that wasn't up to my expectations. The only application in my list that I've ever had stability issues with is OpenShot. And even then, it's usually due to available system resources.
One last thing I want to leave you with is this. If you're planning on working with audio (especially music), consider using Ubuntu Studio. This version of Ubuntu is setup with a low latency kernel, JACK audio and you will have a much better audio recording experience. If you're not concerned with latency or are willing to make other adjustments using PulseAudio, then don't worry about it.
My opinion on the matter is that you should try both and see what works best for you. I've used JACK in the past with a real time kernel. These days I just use the PulseAudio sound server. For my needs, JACK and low latency proved completely unnecessary. But as I mention previously, it's a must if you're working with low latency dependent stuff like music.
What say you? Do you have a creative software application that you can't live without? Hit the Comments and tell us about it. Who knows, perhaps there are some applications for Linux creativity I haven't heard of yet!