The Linux Creative Paradox

In many cases, being liberated from the grips of commercial software does not mean professional-grade graphics cannot be created. Patience and enthusiasm are required to demonstrate that Adobe isn't the only tool available capable of producing high-quality digital art. While the market has yet to justify a Linux download for Creative Suite, the benefits of having programmers and designers running on a single OS can no longer be argued. The demographic intersect of creatives running Ubuntu is probably larger than many of us would expect.

Ubuntu Studio is a collection of plugins and scripts running on native editing platforms designed to mimic the alternatives found on the paid for Adobe Creative Suite.


Warning: Deep bias ahead!

If you've ever wondered how most infographic videos on Youtube are edited by the likes of Vsauce in a way that captures the imaginations of 11 million subscribers, this program was made for you. It's not all applications made that can claim to be better than the paid versions they were based on, yet Inkscape stands head and shoulders above Adobe’s Illustrator. It’s regular updates ensure it performs within industry expectations making it a fun challenge to keep up with the functions it adds. Seasoned Lightroom users might find Inkspace's interface a challenge to get accustomed to but there is wide support for it online with tutorials and forums from novices and professionals.



There is an enduring (and dangerous) misconception that the great professional video editing is exclusive to iOS. Apple undoubtedly produces capable hardware, their mastery of perception has blinded many to the various open source option available free of charge. In 2005, this gap allowed Premier Pro to grant Windows users the opportunity of painless video editing. Sadly, this courtesy has yet to extend to Linux users. Lightworks is your best bet for an alternative. Although you'll have to settle for not being able to edit 720p instead of 4K and other features like timeline rendering, advanced project management, and Boris FX packages for $438 or $25 monthly you get no restrictions.
Interesting side note, the free version was used in post production The Wolf of Wall Street and The King's Speech.

Kdenlive can be used if you dont want to be tied down to a 7 day trial. It is actively developed and has a multitude of professional features.



While professional photographers fail to agree on which is a better tool between Lightroom and Photoshop, Linux users enter the fray with Darktable. Essentially a combination of the best features of Lightroom and Photoshop before any third-party plugins. Whether it's populrity amongst Linux users is due to it's light size rendering it accessible to a wider range of hardware options, or simply because it is optimised to be the first result on search engines doesn’t really take away from its capability to produce magazine quality images.

RawTherapee isn’t significantly worse or better than Darktable. In my experience, the major difference is the simplicity of its interface. Although it will take up more disk space it lacks some features which can be replaced with third-party plugins- a problem Darktable doesn’t seem to have.
Ultimately, nothing is lost from giving both a try and understanding the differences which would cater for your specific needs.



You might remember the program as Adobe's Flash Pro which was rebranded as Animate in the advent of HTML5.
Throughout this time, Synfig has been the viable alternative, with no name changes. If you’re looking to edit or create vector animation 2D using a free program that has been in active development for 12 years, then give Synfig a try. Advantages of this program include file format export capabilities from it’s own format to the more popular ones such as MPEG, SVG, PNG, and AVI. Even though it will require some effort to learn, there is a lot of support available on the internet.


Synfig works well with Scribus when you need to conduct desktop publishing to create interactive PDFs and is a pretty solid program on its own as a replacement to Adobe's InDesign. If you're creating publications like fliers, newsletters, posters or wireframes.
Scribus documentation is available on their library because, while this is a neat program, it’s not void of bugs which might make it challenging for the frequent users.


Adobe's digital audio underdog Audition hasn't escaped the grips of the open source world either. Should you need to organise your podcasts or edit your recordings to save them in lossless quality, Ardour makes this possible. The UI and functionality is made to mirror the same experience editing audio on Logic Pro for Mac. Ardour also introduces neophytes such as myself to the world of mixing and mastering audio. The free to download version only produces audio up to 10 minutes long and includes an option to pay for features as and when you need to use them.

Linux MultiMedia Studio is a free and simpler option. The interface is a maze and will take you a while to grasp but the examples on the LMMS Showcase make it easy to learn the different functionalities available to you.


GNU Image Manipulation Program is probably the best clone for Photoshop you'll find available on Ubuntu. Many users have moved over to Krita for a variety of features. The argument for which one is better is best left to individual preference. I find strength in their similarities. Even though GIMP has it’s flaws, a library of third-party plugins make it that much more powerful and feature-rich.
Krita, on the other, hand boasts a pull factor which has many Linux users abandoning GIMP altogether. It is primarily a tool for digital painters so it’s very useful when it comes to creating things like logos.


If you are part of the creative community running Ubuntu we want to hear from you! Drop us a comment below and share which programs you like to work with and whatever you want to share.

Related: 5 Great Plugins for GIMP