The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
There are quite a few graphics programs available for Windows, Linux, and for Macintosh. They have a multitude of uses, including restoring faded or damaged family heirloom photographs. By far the best-known graphics program is Adobe PhotoShop, a high-end powerhouse with a price tag to match. PhotoShop sells for about $600 or so. Adobe also sells a “junior version,” called PhotoShop Elements, for a much more reasonable “street price” of about $90.00. PhotoShop Elements leaves out a number of features that are of interest to professional graphics artists but still retains all the core capabilities. PhotoShop Elements is very popular among home computer users and hobbyists. Adobe also has numerous competitors who sell similar graphics programs with varying capabilities for prices ranging from $35 to more than $500.
However, I use a FREE, high-powered graphics editing program. The one that I like is available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. The one I have been using includes:
A full suite of painting tools including Brush, Pencil, Airbrush, Clone, etc.
Image size is limited only by available disk space.
Sub-pixel sampling for all paint tools for high quality anti-aliasing
Full alpha channel support
Layers and channels
A procedural database for calling internal functions from external programs
Advanced scripting capabilities
Multiple Undo/Redo (limited only by disk space)
Virtually unlimited number of images open at one time
Extremely powerful gradient editor and blend tool
Load and save animations in a convenient frame-as-layer format
Transformation tools including rotate, scale, shear, and flip
File formats supported include gif, jpg, png, xpm, tiff, tga, mpeg, ps, pdf, pcx, bmp, and many others.
Load, display, convert, save to many file formats.
Selection tools include rectangle, ellipse, free, fuzzy, bezier, and intelligent.
Plug-ins allow for the easy addition of new file formats and new effect filters.
Over 100 plug-ins already available
Supports custom brushes and patterns
Much, much more.
I have to admit that I am not an expert in graphics software. In fact, I have no idea what “Full alpha channel support” means. Some of the other terminology in the above list also confuses me. But I can tell you that I am impressed with this program. In short, it is a very powerful program that even this graphics-challenged person has used successfully to touch up photographs. I am just learning to use its many capabilities. I am very impressed with what I have used so far. I am also very impressed with the price tag of this program: zero. That’s right: it is free of charge for all users, even for commercial use.