A look back at open source creative tools in 2012

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For all of you free and open source creative tool fans out there, plenty of exciting developments happened over the past year—and there's some pretty awesome new things in the pipeline for 2013 as well! Here's a sampling of the good news:

Gimp 2.8 released

This long-anticipated release was 3 years in the making; its formal release occurred during the 2012 Libre Graphics Meeting in Vienna, Austria. Gimp 2.8 introduced a number of popular features, including single-window mode, layer grouping, on-canvas text editing, on-canvas progress indication, and improved drawing tablet integration. You can read about these new features and more in the release notes.

Gimp 2.10 on the way

The Gimp 2.9 development branch became available in 2012 and, among other cool features (including the GEGL-ization of many of Gimp's functions and filters) it has high bit-depth support for images so you can now produce 16-bit and 32-bit images using Gimp 2.9. You can read more about planned Gimp developments at the LWN LGM report.

Gimp Magazine

A new magazine focused on Gimp was announced in 2012 and the community project is up to 2 issues so far. The magazine is licensed CC-BY-SA and there are multiple formats available including print and PDF. The magazine features compelling tutorials and beautiful artwork and layouts created by Gimp artists.

The ColorHug

Richard and Ania Hughes started shipping their open source display colorimeter, the ColorHug, in early 2012. This open hardware device is an extremely affordable way to calibrate your computer displays for appropriate color output.

Inkscape 0.49 coming soon

While Inkscape 0.49 is not expected to land until 2013, exciting work-in-progress features have come about in the development builds of Inkscape throughout 2012. One such feature is the PowerStroke, which enables much more expressive, calligraphic-like lines on a drawn path. (More information from LWN's LGM 2012 coverage.) Another feature is the Symbol Library, which allows you to drag and drop a standard set of shapes (you can create your own) from the Symbol Library palette onto Inkscape's canvas. (More information available on the Inkscape wiki.)

A new FontForge release

A new stable release of FontForge came out  at the end of July 2012; the new release includes a number of bug fixes and patches that were queued up since 2010. A full list of improvements is available in the release notes.

Blender 2.65

Blender development appears to have been quite active in 2012, with 4 point releases starting with 2.61 this past January. Blender 2.61 introduced the new cycles render engine and motion tracking support with a movie clip editor. Blender 2.63 features the new Blender mesh system, BMesh, with n-sided polygon support, while among other things Blender 2.64 introduced a mask editor, improved sculpting, and color management improvements. Blender 2.65 added fire simluation to the smoke simulator. Many improvements were made to benefit the new Blender Foundation 'Mango' project—"Tears of Steel."

"Tears of Steel"

The fifth and newest Blender Foundation short film project, "Tears of Steel," was announced in 2012. The film will combine live action sequences with computer-generated artwork, and Blender's capacilities will be improved and refined in support of the film's production. You can learn more at the project's website.

GEGL-ized MyPaint on the way

MyPaint developer Jon Nordby started working on using the GEGL graphics library in MyPaint. While this work hasn't yet been included in an official MyPaint release, the speedups Jon observed with GEGL are pretty impressive and bode well for future MyPaint releases. You can read more about his efforts on his blog.

MediaGoblin 3D support

MediaGoblin is an open source media library platform. In October 2012, the project announced support for serving and previewing 3D models, a big step in the platform becoming a 3D asset management tool.

Adobe goes open source

One surprising announcement related to open source creative tools in 2012 was Adobe's announcement of Source SansPro, their first open source type family.

Darktable 1.1 released

2012 was a fruitful year for Darktable, the free and open source raw editor and photography workflow application. The first stable release, 1.0, came out in March and the latest stable release, 1.1, came in November. Darktable 1.1 has a lot of goodies such as a search tool that helps you find similar-looking images, a facebook exporter, a reworked plugins UI, a command line interface, live tethered shooting preview, conditional blending, and improved per-screen color management. Read more in the release notes.

Did we miss anything? What were your favorite open source creative developments in 2012? Are you looking forward to any particular developments planned for 2013? Also, I gave a lightning talk last year on a tour through some of these open source creative tools. See it here.

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Máirín is a senior principal interaction designer at Red Hat. She is passionate about software freedom and free & open source tools, particularly in the creative domain: her favorite application is Inkscape (http://inkscape.org).


Oh, here is some breaking news - MyPaint 1.1 was just released last week! Alexandre Prokoudine has a great summary at Libre Graphics World:


Good post, two more:



Thanks for the great article, you've pointed out some great software. Most is included with Dream Studio, though some of these are new to me, and I'll definitely consider adding them to our repositories.

Dream Studio includes GIMP 2.8 and Blender 2.65. We include the Inkscape PPA, and as such have Inkscape 0.48 - though as soon as 0.49 is released it will be in our repositories right away (as will GIMP 2.10 for the same reason). Darktable is at version 1.1, though I just noticed our FontForge is a little behind. I'll update that right away.

Fedora 17 has Gimp 2.8 (the first distro to carry it) and Blender 2.65 as well; Fedora 18 will feature most of the new versions featured in this article as well. Folks have a lot of distro choices when it comes to these tools, which is great.

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