I get asked on a fairly regular basis for advice on finding software to do…things. Naughty, kinky, mind-control related things like create an animated spiral GIF or add some mesmerizing audio to a slideshow of pictures. So, I thought I’d put together a page of software recommendations and ideas that I could refer people to whenever the topic comes up.

My intent with this page is to provide a listing of free and/or low-cost software for both PC and Mac users. I’ll keep it updated as new information comes in and new tools become available. If there’s anything you think should be added to this listing, please let me know!

Photo Editing

Whether you’re going to caption an image, manipulate a photo, or create some graphics from scratch, these apps are an essential part of any artist’s toolbox.

Pixlr [Web – Free] Works in your web browser so there’s no need to install any software and its feature set is on par with where Photoshop was not too many years ago.

GIMP [PC/Mac/Linux – Free] An open source image manipulation application, GIMP has been around for a long time now. It has a bit of a learning curve but its feature set gets more robust with every update.

Affinity Photo [Mac – $50] Striving to be a tool for professionals and a viable alternative to the now subscription-only Photoshop, Affinity Photo is a tool that shows great promise with its professional feature-set and interface. Free trial available.

Paint.NET [PC – Free] An entry-level tool for Windows users. Paint.NET lacks some advanced features but makes up for it with its ease of use and a range of tools to cover everyday photo editing tasks. App is free but developer does suggest a donation in the amount of $15.

Pixelmator [Mac – $30] Pixelmator is an easy to use photo-editor with a deep toolset that creeps closer to parity with Photoshop with every new release. Its been hailed for featuring a faster workflow and more intuitive interface than Adobe’s flagship editor. Probably the best bang-for-your-buck value on this list.

Video Editing

If you’d like to create a video slide-show of images, do some simple motion graphics, add audio to some animation, or create animated GIFs a video editor is an essential piece of software.

Window Movie Maker [PC – Free] A simple entry-level editor that is a perfect entry point for anyone interested in editing existing clips or creating their own videos.

iMovie [Mac – Free] An easy-to-use video editor with a surprisingly deep feature set. iMovie makes it simple to edit video, add music, voice over, and still photos and has a large library of built-in effects and transitions.

Lightworks [PC/Mac/Linux – Free – $440] is a professional Non-Linear Editor (NLE) that has been used to edit films you’ve probably seen. There is a free version for personal use that has most of the feature set of the paid option but is limited to outputting compressed files suitable for sharing online. For those not familiar with traditional NLE workflow, there could be a bit of a learning curve but this tool offers more control than consumer-focused apps.

DaVinci Resolve Lite [PC/Mac/Linux – Free] DaVinci Resolve Lite is, technically, a color grading tool that just happens to have a built-in video editor. A professional application with a steep learning curve, the reward of discovering how to use Resolve is the professional results it can deliver. Fortunately, how-to videos are plentiful.

Composting

As Photoshop is to images, Compositing software is to video. Used for layering images and video together, animation, motion graphics & text, and much more.

Wax [PC – Free] Wax is a flexible video editor/compositor that has a surprisingly rich set of features including particles and 3D text. Some report the learning curve can be a little more steep than most freebie software, but the powerful features should make up for that.

Fusion [PC/Mac – Free] Fusion is a professional compositing/animation package with a rich feature set for working with images, video, 3D objects and text. It will take work to understand how to use this tool (plenty of free tutorials available) but the payoff is a piece of software that can do almost anything you can imagine.

Audio Production

As we all know, audio is one-half of video and if you’d like to enhance your audio with some hypnotic special effects you’re going to need one of these tools.

Audacity [PC/Mac/Linux – Free] A simple, yet powerful audio recorder and editor with an easy to use interface and multitude of built in effects for working with sound.

Reaper [PC/Mac – Free Demo – $60] Reaper is a powerful Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application that is geared towards sound professionals. There’s a bit of a learning curve if you’ve never used this type of software before. Reaper is powerful, customizable, and features a very generous licensing policy: $60 for personal use, $225 for commercial. A fully-functional, non-expiring evaluation version is available for free.

Encoding

Creating your masterpiece is one thing but compressing it into the smallest size possible while retaining excellent picture & sound quality requires an encoder.

Adapter [PC/Mac – Free] Adapter is a very simple, yet powerful, encoder that can be used to compress audio & video files as well as create animated GIFs with terrific precision. Features preview modes, watermarking, trim functions, audio overdub and much more.

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