Free tools are awesome. They empower anyone with a computer and passion to develop their talents. I played around with GIMP and Photoshop when I was a high school student, and years later, I use GIMP in my professional life.
But GIMP isn’t the only option in town. If you’re looking for another way to create visual art, it’s time to check out Krita.
What Is Krita?
Krita is a free and open-source image editor built for the KDE Plasma desktop Linux interface. But you don’t have to know what KDE is or use Linux to fall in love with Krita. You can also download Krita for Windows and Mac.
What Can Krita Do?
GIMP and Photoshop are one-size-fits-all image editors that you can use for a large range of tasks. This makes them versatile, but this can also make them clunky. An interface tailored toward doing everything may not be ideal for the one or two kinds of jobs you find yourself doing often.
Krita is a far more specialized tool. Here’s a taste of what you can use it for.
Krita’s Painting and Drawing Features
If you know how to work a brush and like to do the same with a mouse or stylus, you’re part of Krita’s primary target audience.
Elements are in place to make you feel more like you’re working with actual art supplies rather than a mouse. The initial set of visible tools provide ways to draw using various pencil, pen, and brush styles. Krita lets you edit these brush presets and save your own. Plus, these brushes are pressure sensitive.
Other aspects offer advantages over using actual art supplies. A color wheel and sliders are there for you to select colors with a fair degree of precision. Layers make it easier to work with the foreground and background in whichever order you like. The various selection tools, such as lasso, provide you with the ability to make alterations that are harder to do when working with actual paint.
I haven’t done much painting, physically or digitally, but I found the tools straightforward enough for me to try my hand at drawing this picture:
OK, so it’s probably not going to be hung in a gallery anytime soon, but it’s a good example of what can be achieved quickly and effortlessly. Want a better example of what Krita can do? Over on its website, you can see a gallery of art that people created in Krita alongside interviews where artists explain why they use Krita.
Here’s one artist who uses Krita offering a tutorial on YouTube:
Krita’s Graphic Design Features
Say your work isn’t limited to paintings. You also deal with logos, create banners, and like to make icon packs. Krita can manage those tasks as well.
In addition to drawing freehand, you can drag straight lines or work with shapes. There’s also a basic text tool, making Krita something you can use for book covers and posters.
In older versions of Krita, the text tool leaves much to be desired. Fortunately, the latest version gives you more of the core functions you would expect, such as a window for adjusting the font size, line height, color, boldness, italics, and more.
That’s not all. Many of the changes for Krita 4.0 are geared more toward graphic designers than artists. The developers have updated the vector tools so that it’s easier to switch between the type of fill, stroke, and transform properties. The shape editing tool is now always visible in the toolbox, and nodes are easier to see.
Perhaps more importantly, vector tools now use SVG. Krita 3.0 used the OpenDocuments Graphics (ODG) format. That format was intended for office documents, so Krita’s implementation was not ideal. SVG is an open standard that you can export and open in many different types of software. This change is more likely to benefit graphic designers.
With all of this work, Krita isn’t just a replacement for GIMP. It may be a worthwhile alternative to the Inkscape vector tool as well.
Krita’s Photography Features
Krita’s photography related features aren’t immediately apparent, but if you dive into the menu bar, you will find much of the expected functionality. This includes the basics such as cropping and resizing, along with enhancements such as sharpening.
You will also find filters, such as the ability to turn a photo into an oil painting. Or you can manually tweak the colors in a photo that didn’t come out quite right.
If you are looking for a free photo manager, digiKam is a great option built on the same KDE foundation as Krita. You can download digiKam for Windows and macOS.
Krita’s Animation Features
Tucked away under Krita’s Window & Workspace menu, there’s an interface for animators. Like in a video editor, a timeline appears at the bottom of the app. Here you can track each individual frame of an animation.
This workspace could come in handy when creating video games or when producing GIFs. For a better look, check out Krita’s documentation with examples of how the interface works.
What Else Can Krita Do?
Unlike GIMP, Krita’s interface defaults to a single window. The initial layout is tailored to painting, but like most KDE programs, you can change the toolbars and panels however you see fit.
As far as customizing Krita goes, that’s just the beginning.
Krita 4.0 adds support for python scripting. These scripts can create and manipulate images, add menu entries, and perform various other functions.
You don’t need to be a technical user to benefit from this new code. With python scripting comes support for python plugins. One example plugin lets you manage the pages of a comic book. Another adds a docker window that helps you more easily switch between brush sizes, opacity, and other aspects.
If it feels like I’ve listed off much of the changelog, I haven’t. Take a look at the lengthy and detailed Krita 4.0 release notes. The Krita team has even provided animated videos and GIFs of many of the changes. You can see a number of them in this announcement video:
Should You Download Krita?
Krita isn’t more powerful than GIMP or Photoshop, but it is more focused. Which can be a great thing. One size doesn’t fit all, nor should it.
The same goes for Krita. Give it a try, and if it turns out not to be a good fit, here are more alternatives to Photoshop et al for you to consider.