Photoshop competitor Krita is a true creative tool -- and it's free and open source

Expensive, closed source tools won’t make you an artist; if you are an artist Krita will help you shine.

krita user interface
Credit: Krita

Open source has some of the greatest tools, which continues to prove that you don't have to lock-down the code behind guarded walls to make a better product. Some popular open source products that don't have any match in the closed source world include Firefox, Chromium, VLC, Blender, Android, one gem that is, surprisingly, less known but extremely powerful when it comes to creating a work of art.

It's called Krita!

Krita is a free and open source digital sketching and painting application developed by the KDE community - one of the most prolific open source communities.

I reached out to the founder of the Krita Foundation and lead developer of the software, Boudewijn Rempt, to hear from the horse's mouth what Krita really is and who its target audience is.

He told me, "Krita is first and foremost an application for creating images from scratch. It's a digital painting application -- and our audience are illustrators, comic book artists, matte painters, concept artists -- in short, everyone with an itch to sketch, draw and paint."

Recently, the ATI (Art and Technology of Image) department at University Paris 8 decided to quit Adobe Photoshop and switch to Krita. I have seen some work done by Krita artists and it's immensely impressive. Those works tell the story themselves: that in the hands of a professional Krita can beat any commercial application.

However, I wonder who is Krita competing with? When asked about the competitor, Rempt said, "There are a bunch of applications that are used for what we think Krita is the best choice for. Lots of people paint with Photoshop, but Krita tries to offer a better, more productive workflow. Many people use Corel Painter, but Krita tries to be more predictable when painting, instead of having random, weird physics simulations. Also, we try to do our best to not lose your work on saving, which is a major complaint we get about Painter. PaintTool Sai, Manga Studio and OpenCanvas are sort of in the same business, but we offer color management, high bit depth images and way more tools. Whatever people use, it's cool! But in my experience, people _love_ Krita when they give it a try!"

I agree with his statement. I am a heavy GIMP user on my Linux boxes and Photoshop on Mac, but after using the latest version of Krita, which was announced yesterday, I am tempted to give it a try.

The new version comes with many new features including support for loading and showing multiple images in one window, and viewing any given image in multiple views and windows. It also fully integrates the G'Mic set of image manipulation tools, enabling artists to, for instance, greatly speed-up their workflow. If you are a fan of HDR then Krita, you'll be happy to learn that support for painting in HDR mode got greatly extended in the new version, making it a true creative tool.

Many of these new features were financially supported by the successful crowdfunding campaign they ran on Kickstarter. Talking about the financial status, Rempt told me, "We get money through: selling training DVD's, the Krita development fund, selling Krita on Steam, one-off donations, support subscriptions, selling merchandise, sponsorship and so on. And kickstarter, of course. We're not quite at the stage where we can pay for both me and Dmitry [Kazakov ] full-time, and Dmitry comes first, but we're growing and getting there."

If you are an artist looking for a tool to put a digital brush and canvas in your hands give Krita a try. If you are someone like me, who once in a while needs to edit images or create some art give Krita a try -- it won't leave a hole in your pocket. Just grab Krita and see what visual magic you can create.

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