Are you creative?  Here’s the Blender 90 List of the Best free creative software.

 

For any self respecting modern CGI artist, Filmmaker or Creative irrespective of whether you work for a large commercial company or your own home studio, it is impossible today to ignore the power that a suite of open source free software can bring you.

Disclaimer.  This list is mainly free creative software.  It also includes some paid inexpensive software options where we’ve determined that the software is so great and the price of buying it so low that it might as well be considered free.  Or where we have listed a paid software solution such as Spine 2d, then in the same category listed an excellent open source alternative such as Dragon Bones.  In that case the paid software is listed for you to have the link to compare features with the open source alternative.  That’s as clear as mud, right?  Don’t worry  We will make sure it is clearly listed for you.

If you want to spend big then you can still invest in conventional 3D and CGI software suites from companies like Autodesk and The Foundry and the software you will purchase or lease will have a dazzling array of tools, features and buttons.  However those big commercial software solutions are hiding a problem that open source solutions simply don’t have.  The problem of ownership of your creative content and ideas.

So if the monthly cost running your software is approaching a mortgage payment, then it’s time to realise that you are doing something wrong, and that that “free” state of creativity you think you are in is actually selling you down the river into bondage.  If you want to understand this further consider what Blender’s Founder Ton Roosendaal says here on this subject in this short video.

So let’s all get out of bondage why don’t we?

Here’s a list of amazing Open Source, Free or Very Low Cost software packages for your creative liberty that I recommend which I use in my Pipeline.


Main Pipeline.  These tools are my most essential.

Blender
(FREE, OPEN SOURCE)

https://www.blender.org/
Blender is a great tool to have at the center of your pipeline, it’s a fully featured 3D suite with one of the best unbiased renderers in the 3d workspace (Cycles) inbuilt to it’s core.  Blender is free and has the most liberal licence of all.  You can use it for any purpose and for all time.

BlackMagic Design Fusion
(FREE)

https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/au/products/fusion

BlackMagic DaVinci Resolve
(FREE)

https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/au/products/davinciresolve

Adobe Creative Suite
(PAID, INEXPENSIVE)

Adobe is a good example of a major corporation who got their pricing and thinking right.  While not completely free if you hunt around you can usually find monthly subscriptions to the full Creative Suite for as low as between $30 and $50 a month to lease and at that price considering the quality of the tools and the sheer number of tools provided, anyone who has a serious home studio or is wanting to work on commercial projects would be shooting themselves in the foot not to get the Creative Suite.  I use After Effects, Photoshop, Premier, Audition, Fuse, Illustrator, Media Encoder, InDesign, Lightroom and Animate (flash) multiple times a day.  I don’t think there’s been a day in the last fifteen years I haven’t relied on an Adobe product.  Creative Suite is the Swiss Army knife of the CGI, Film, Design and online Digital Industries and I class it as essential not least because if you want to interface with anyone else in the industry you’ll need to exchange PSD and Illustrator files.


Best Open Source Illustrator and Vector Art alternative software

Inkscape
(FREE, OPEN SOURCE)

https://inkscape.org/en/


Best Fast Sketching / Concepting Software

Mischief
FREE OR PAID VERSION WITH PSD EXPORT IS $25
https://www.madewithmischief.com

Alchemy
(FREE, OPEN SOURCE)

http://al.chemy.org/


Best Open Source Photoshop / Full Digital Painting Alternatives

Gimp
(FREE, OPEN SOURCE)

https://www.gimp.org/

Krita
(FREE, OPEN SOURCE)

https://krita.org/en/

Painter
($360)
http://www.painterartist.com/en/product/painter/

Clip Studio Paint Pro (Manga Studio)
(INEXPENSIVE $47)
http://my.smithmicro.com/manga-studio-ex-5.html

Mischief
FREE OR PAID VERSION WITH PSD EXPORT IS $25
https://www.madewithmischief.com


Best Open Source / Low Cost 2D Animation Packages

Blender Cutout Animation Tool (Andreas Esau)
Free
https://github.com/ndee85/coa_tools

Spine 2D
http://esotericsoftware.com/

Dragon Bones
Basically Spine except it is Open Source and Free!
http://dragonbones.com/

Creature
http://creature.kestrelmoon.com/

Live 2d
http://www.live2d.com/en/

Antics
http://www.antics1.demon.co.uk/

Animata
Open Source 2d Animation Program
http://animata.kibu.hu/

Animation Paper
http://animationpaper.com/

Digicel FlipBook
https://digicel.net/2danimationsoftware

Synfig Studio
Open Source 2d Animation Software
http://www.synfig.org/

Spriter
https://brashmonkey.com/

Pencil2D
https://www.pencil2d.org/

Crazy Talk
https://www.reallusion.com/crazytalk-animator/

Moho
http://my.smithmicro.com/anime-studio-pro.html

JPixel
https://emad.itch.io/jpixel


Best Audio Soundtrack Generating Software

Single Cell Software Caustic
http://www.singlecellsoftware.com/caustic


Best Open Source / Free Retopology Software

MeshLab

http://www.meshlab.net/


Best Open Source / Free 3D Fractal Art Generating Software

Structure Synth
http://structuresynth.sourceforge.net/

Mandelbulber
http://www.mandelbulber.com/

Fragmentarium
http://syntopia.github.io/Fragmentarium/


Best Open Source or Affordable Procedural Landscape / Terrain Generators

Wilbur
http://www.fracterra.com/software.html

Wfrac
http://www.fracterra.com/othersw/wfrac.zip

FPlot
http://www.fracterra.com/othersw/fplot.zip

World Machine
http://www.world-machine.com/

Terragen $349 but wow, wish list!
http://planetside.co.uk/


Human Basemesh Character Generators

Adobe Fuse
Part of the creative suite and a great way to generate 3D human 3D basefom meshes and unique characters.
Absolutely amazing tool.
http://www.adobe.com/au/products/fuse.html

Make Human
Free Open Source 3D Human Basemesh Generator
http://www.makehuman.org/


Best Texturing Software

Mari Indie
http://store.steampowered.com/app/433930/

Blender
Free
https://www.blender.org/download/


Alternative Open Source or Low Cost 3d Modelling Packages

Cheetah 3D (Mac Only)
http://www.cheetah3d.com/

3d Coat
http://3dcoat.com/home/

Modo Indie (on Steam)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/321540/

Houdini
https://www.sidefx.com/

TopMod
https://code.google.com/archive/p/topmod/
https://www.viz.tamu.edu/faculty/ergun/research/topology/download.html

Wings 3D
http://www.wings3d.com/


Neural Image Generating Art Software

Deep Art
https://deepart.io/


Screen Capture Software

Chronolapse
https://code.google.com/archive/p/chronolapse/

Bandicam
https://www.bandicam.com/

https://obsproject.com/

3D  Character Creation Basemesh Generators


Best Miscellaneous Utility Software

Microsoft Rich Tools (Rich Copy)
This is my favorite windows utility and one I use multiple times every day for my project backups.
http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/File-Management/Microsoft-RichCopy.shtml

J2K
http://www.fnordware.com/j2k/

Gource
http://gource.io/

Kaudro
http://kruelgames.com/tools/kuadro/


Open Source and Low Cost Bump / Normal Map Generator Software

XNormal
Free
http://www.xnormal.net/

Blender
Free
https://www.blender.org/download/

Knald
https://www.knaldtech.com/

Crazy Bump
$99 for personal use, $299 for commercial edition
http://crazybump.com/

AwesomeBump
Free Open Source Alternative to Crazy Bump
https://github.com/kmkolasinski/AwesomeBump
http://awesomebump.besaba.com/tutorials/


3d Scanning and Photogrametry

Autodesk Remake
https://remake.autodesk.com/about


3D Sculpting Packages

Zbrush Core
https://pixologic.com/zbrushcore/

3d Coat
http://3dcoat.com/home/

Artform Curvy
http://www.curvy3d.com/info.html

Sculptris  FREE
http://pixologic.com/sculptris


This list will be continually updated.  If you have any suggestions of software to include then please leave a comment below.