Six years and several unstable releases since 2.8.0, GIMP 2.10 is out in the wild for the general public.
Release highlights include features that users have been asking the team all along:
Processing with 16/32-bit per color channel precision, integer or float;
Optional linear RGB workflow;
15 new blending modes, including Pass-Through;
Color management rewritten and now a core feature, all color widgets are now color managed, ICC v3 profiles supported;
CIE LCH and CIE LAB color models now used in a few tools;
Performance improvements for some filters thanks to multi-threading;
New Unified Transform (rotating, scaling, perspective etc. in one go), Handle Transform, and Warp Transform (think Photoshop’s Liquify) tools;
Gradient tool now allows on-canvas editing;
Digital painting improved with threaded painting, canvas rotation and flipping, new MyPaint Brush tool, symmetry painting;
Exif, XMP, IPTC, DICOM metadata viewing and editing;
Newly added support for WebP, OpenEXR, RGBE, HGT;
Improved support for TIFF, PNG, PSD, PDF, FITS;
Pre-processing of raw digital photos with darktable or RawTherapee at your preferences (more processors can be plugged);
Over 80 GEGL-based filters with on-canvas preview, including custom split before/after preview.
Having written most of the release notes for 2.10, I don’t particularly intend to do a full review here (yes, it’s my disclaimer that I’m affiliated and thus biased). Instead here is something I’d like to share regarding ongoing development of GIMP and future plans.
Is GIMP dead, stalled, or picking up pace?
Over the past few years, I’ve heard these and other ideas quite a few times. Pat David recently covered that (among other things) in his famous talk at SCaLE:
Essentially, since a couple of years, the workload has shifted from Michael Natterer (who, at some point, did ca. 80% of the work) towards other contributors. These days, Michael, Jehan (Pagès), and Ell do about the same amount of commits — 25%, 25%, and 24% respectively, per OpenHub’s data for sliding 12 months — although one might successfully argue that this is a stupid metric.
In terms of focus, Michael does most of the under-the-hood work and some user-visible stuff, Jehan does mostly bugfixing and adds painting-related features, and Ell does all of that and he makes impressive contributions to GEGL.
On the backend side of things, Øyvind Kolås is very active with GEGL and babl, and he gets a lot of help from Debarshi Rey (GNOME Photos) and Thomas Manni. Thomas, in particular, was instrumental in getting as many GIMP filters ported to GEGL as possible. If you’ve been waiting for Shadows-Highlights to become available in GIMP, Thomas is the one you should be thanking.
All in all, the development pace has been about the same throughout all of 2.10 development cycle. The difference that made people think GIMP was first stalling and is now picking up pace is simple: more frequent releases. Let’s have a look:
May 2012: 2.8.0 released. GEGL port for tiles management in future 2.10 announced.
3.5 years later: GIMP 2.9.2 released, that’s the first unstable version.
8 months later: GIMP 2.9.4.
13 months later: GIMP 2.9.6.
4 months later: GIMP 2.9.8.
3 months later: GIMP 2.10.0 Release Candidate 1.
1 months later: GIMP 2.10.0 Release Candidate 2.
It appears that developing major new features in branches wasn’t sufficient. Hence a new solution.
Relaxing development/release policy
During Libre Graphics Meeting 2017, the team decided to relax the policy and start introducing new features to stable versions, where it’s technically feasible, starting with 2.10. That way, most work would be done on the main development branch (master), and new features would be backported to the 2.10 branch when it’s possible.
One particular reason for that is the upcoming work on completing the GTK+3 port. Simply put, nobody knows how much time this is going to take, just like nobody knew how much time the GEGL port would take. If I wanted to scare you, I could say that we might be looking at another five or six years long development cycle. But noone really knows.
That’s why it’s important to keep giving users new exciting stuff, while “boring” work on internals is ongoing.
What kind of new stuff? Again, it depends. E.g. there is a certain interest and even some preliminary work to add mipmaps support to improve performance for resources-hungry operations. There are more painting-related optimizations to be done. Or there could be something completely unexpected. Completing the N-Point Transform tool maybe? I’d love that!
Which leads us to the next point.
People have been rightfully wondering, how much time it’s going to take the team to implement the most desired feature: non-destructive editing. Even if we are looking at a couple of years leading up to 3.0, there would be at least a year or two to complete 3.2 (but, again, nobody really knows).
And then the CMYK/spot colors support is in the Future section of the roadmap. So is the autoexpansion of layer boundaries… And the list goes on. So there’s this idea that priorities should be swapped.
The problem with this is that GTK+2 currently used for UI of GIMP 2.10 is barely maintained. While the GIMP team doesn’t like everything they see in GTK+3 (oh, some of the IRC conversations!), the newer version is vastly superior in almost every aspect.
But here is some good news: priorities do in fact change based on activity of developers, if the foundation for new features is ready.
Case in point: the Unified Transform tool was originally in the Future section too. Then Mikael Magnusson arrived and just did the work. So now you can enjoy doing all of your rotating, scaling etc. in one go.
And that’s where relaxing the release policy come in handy again. It’s difficult to engage new developers when their work is likely to see the light of day as a stable release in an unknown period of time. It’s a lot easier to do that when you have regular stable releases with new features.
Is this going to work? We’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, you can support the work of Jehan Pagès and Øyvind Kolås on both GIMP and GEGL on either Patreon or Liberapay. This page on GIMP.org lists all available options.
And the last revelation: I have both Patreon and Liberapay campaigns too, but frankly, I spend so much time on GIMP that I’m not even sure that my work on LGW is something you would be rewarding me for. Tell me!
As someone who maintains social media accounts for a few free/libre software projects, one of the top questions I keep being asked is how/where to learn using this or that application. So this is an attempt to a definitive guide to various learning resources on Inkscape, free/libre vector graphics editor
Please note that I compiled this list based on my own criteria of usefulness. This basically means that I watched and read almost everything there is to watch and read, and then made up my mind if I think it’s worth recommending. Thus it’s inherently subjective. The list also covers only the resources in English.
That said, if you think I missed a useful Inkscape educational resource (the popular expression seems to be ‘you forgot’), please do link to it in the comments section!
With that in mind, let’s go.
One thing that has to be immediately pointed out is that most books on Inkscape are somewhat outdated and cover v0.47 and v0.48 (all books published by Packtpub, in particular).
It has a lot to do with how book publishing works, and also with a 5 years long period between 0.48 released in 2009 and v0.91 released in 2015. Writing a book usually takes at least half a year, and publishers want to be sure that people who buy the book will actually have the software to go along with (it’s why there aren’t many new GIMP books, too).
Nevertheless, while there’s always a ton of improvements in each Inkscape release, all basics are the same even 10 years later, and many advanced techniques are the same as well.
The online version of “Inkscape: Guide to a Vector Drawing Program” book by Tavmjong Bah is probably the only exception where you get up-to-date material. Even though Tav is very busy with working on Inkscape and participating at the SVG W3C working group’s activities, he does his best at maintaining it.
The book works best as a reference rather than a user guide. You may not like Tavmjong’s dry technical style of writing, but he is extremely thorough, and for years it was pretty much the only comprehensive guide to Inkscape. Which is likely the reason it has been linked to right from the Help menu in Inkscape.
The online version is considered 5th edition and was last updated in 2017, while the last printed version is the 4th edition from 2011. You should keep that in mind, if you go for the hardcopy instead.
Dmitry Kirsanov‘s “The Book of Inkscape” is another book written by an actual Inkscape developer. Dmitry contributed numerous improvements and several new tools in the early days of Inkscape, under a nickname.
Released in 2009, his book is a likewise thorough user guide that can also be used as a reference, but includes a number of quick tutorials to help you practice using Inkscape. One particularly great thing about this book is that Dmitry makes a point of using Inkscape efficiently, via keyboard shortcuts. Which really does help mastering this software.
The author’s original intent, as explained in the preface, was to cover all Inkscape features and evangelize vector graphics. After 14 years of using Inkscape, I don’t think I need much convincing, so no particular opinion there. But covering all features is what Dmitry did brilliantly. Although the book is 9 years old, it’ll get you going just fine.
I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t watched all available courses on Udemy, as it would put a dent on my budget. But these are the two I picked and watched, based on user-submitted reviews.
“Inkscape For Beginners 2016/2017” by Michael DiGregorio will work best as an introduction and a reference to Inkscape’s toolbox and some basic features. Michael meticulously covered what each tool does. But don’t expect to get much creative during the course, and there will be no course assignments.
Also, you won’t learn to draw anything fun, unless it’s what you do additionally to the course. Another nitpick is that, personally, I found the quizzes not entirely representative of the information I was supposed to learn.
Still, for a video reference in features in a completely new application, this will work quite OK. And since audio quality is good, and Michael is a native English speaker, the course is quite watchable at 1.25x speed (stretching it to 1.5x might or might not work for you).
Since a few weeks, there’s the second part of that course available. It covers more Inkscape’s feature like live path effects, extensions, and more.
István Szép is currently the most productive Inkscape instructor on Udemy. He authored and co-authored 8 courses that involve using Inkscape. “Learn Inkscape now” is his top selling Inkscape course that is a rather good introduction to the application.
The benefit of István’s intro course over Michael’s course is that you get to make actual simple drawings in almost every video. It comes at the expense of not learning every single option of every tool though. So that’s a choice you would have to make.
István is a native of Hungary, and as a non-native English speaker myself, I was quite able to follow his instructions, but judging by reviews, several students had a problem with his pronunciation, so there’s that too.
Two out of three resources that I can wholeheartedly recommend are devoted to using Inkscape for game design. It sounds like a niche thing, but the fact is that both authors can teach you how to use Inkscape to draw something that looks nice and can be done in maybe a dozen of steps. Isn’t that what every beginner needs?
Olga Bikmullina is another author of popular Inkscape tutorials. She’s also a regular participant at the annual CG Event conference in Moscow where she talks about using Inkscape for game design (both the good bits and the bad bits).
Currently, Nick Saporito is probably the most popular author of Inkscape video tutorials, with over 150 Inkscape clips on YouTube. His videos are usually very easy to follow and focus on typical use cases: lettering, designing logos, making posters, drawing elements of infographics, and suchlike.
He also makes likewise good GIMP tutorials. All videos are neatly grouped into a variety of playlists. Check them out here.
The Grafikwork channel on YouTube can be a great source of learning new skills for illustrators. There is no narration, and all videos are timelapses. So it will be most useful for Inkscape users who have a good grasp of how various features work, but can’t easily go from a bunch of basic shapes to a complete illustration.
The author is from Ukraine, and until fairly recently videos in the channel showed Inkscape in Russian. Those are still more or less easy to follow, since the author mostly uses basic drawing tools.
Grafikwork has over 80 tutorials currently and is usually updated once or twice a week.
Siddhesh‘s “Sids Art – Inkscape And Drawings” channel has over 70 timelapse tutorals on creating illustrations with Inkscape. A lot of them focus on flat design.
Graphic Design Studio has over 200 silent real-time tutorials on using Inkscape for simple design: logos, gift boxes, shopping bags, infographics, game assets etc. Pretty much the bread and butter of graphic design.
Swapnil Rane‘s MadFireOn channel mostly features tutorials on designing flat art backgrounds, but also some logo and icon design tuts. Commentary is more or less OK, but I really wish he got a better mic.
Ardent Designs channel has over 130 voiced video tutorials for both beginners and experienced Inkscape users. Usual topics are icons and logos. Visually, they are a bit of hit and miss, but they are commonly easy to follow, and narration is quite OK.
Apart from making structured video courses, István Szép put a dozen of timelapses on YouTube. They are quite fun to watch and help getting into the head of a designer and illustrator.
Around 2015, Chris Hildenbrand decided to up his game and make video instructions on using Inkscape for game design. He ended up creating a little over a dozen of videos that are very useful, but a little painful to watch, since the text wasn’t scripted.
Butterscotch Shenanigans channel isn’t focused on Inkscape, it’s mostly about games they make. But Inkscape was one of their major tools during the production of Crashlands. So there are currently 9 illustration tutorials on just that: various illustrations for the game.
If you think you can learn from other artists’ workflows (and funny commentary), do check them out. Please note that unlike most channels in the review, they haven’t released any new Inkscape tuts since 2014.
One thing I think I need to stress strongly is that sticking to educational material on just Inkscape is probably the worst mistake you can make early in your career.
People who use other software make great art, there are workflow insights that can be easily transferred from app to app. And trying to replicate such tutorials with Inkscape will actually help you learn Inkscape better.
It’s arguable, but by now, it’s pretty safe to say that the proverbial year of Linux on the desktop is never happening. But… do we really need it so much? Especially if there an impressive lineup of upcoming libre software releases set for 2018? Let’s see what this year is bringing us.
Over the past 1.5 years since v0.16 release, FreeCAD has gained a huge amount of changes: massive updates in the PartDesign and Path workbenches, composite solids now possible in the Part workbench thanks to upgrading to newer OpenCascade kernel, improved BIM workflow for architects, new Spreadsheet workbench for importing Excel data, and new TechDraw workbench for creating technical drawings.
The Arch workbench in particular now features new presets to build precast concrete elements,as well as tools for designing rebars and a plumbing system.
Unfortunately, FreeCAD 0.17 won’t be shipped with any Assembly workbench, as available solutions are still experimental, and the focus seems to have shifted from Assembly2 to Assembly3. There are, however, builds of FreeCAD + Assembly3 on GitHub.
Originally proposed to be released “somewhere in 2016”, Blender 2.80 now seems complete enough to land somewhere in 2018.
Real-time PBR in the viewport, asset management, grease pencil improvements, complete overhaul of layers and dependency graph, UI cleanup… Blender 2.80 has the makings of a huge update that will indeed immensily improve the workflow.
The Blender team does an excellent job promoting new features in the upcoming major update. There’s a dedicated page that serves as intermediate release notes for v2.80. Moreover, Ton Roosendaal recently posted a great overview of new stuff expected this year. Do check it out!
Two of the major new features in upcoming Krita 4.0, vector graphics and text, were subject of the 2016 campaign on Kickstarter. For vector graphics, here is an overview from Jeremy Bullock, one of the leading OpenToonz contributors:
With text, the idea was to simplify adding speech ballons and suchlike in comics. That’s a somewhat specialized use of the text tool, although adding generic captions works just fine. The team also notes that due to all the troubles with the tax office they had to limit the feature set for 4.0 (at least for the text tool), aiming to enhance it in further updates (better OpenType support, more control over glyphs etc.).
As usual, you should expect many improvements in the painting tools: various user experience improvements, possibility to use brushes larged than 1,000px, better performance by realying on multh-threading. For painting-related changes overview, see this video:
After almost 6 years of work, the GIMP team is finalizing the next big update. The plan is to cut a beta of v2.10 once the amount of critical bugs falls further down: it’s currently stuck at 20, as new bugs get promoted to blockers, while old blockers get fixed. It’s a bit of an uphill battle.
The team initially intended v2.10 to be more or less a GEGL-based upgrade of v2.8 plus high bit depth precision support. Needless to say, the plan hasn’t exactly worked: there will be a lot more than that.
In fact, even now, when only critical bugs are supposed to be worked on, the team cannot resist making improvements that aren’t blocking the release. Just last night, Ell implemented masks for layer groups and updated the PSD plug-in accordingly.
So v2.10 is arriving later in 2018 with features including, but not limited to:
Processing with 16-/32-bit per color channel precision
Color management rewritten as a core feature, with all color widgets now color-managed
10+ new blend modes: Pass-Through, Linear Burn, Vivid Light, Linear Light etc.
80+ GEGL-based filters, with on-canvas preview
New and improved transformation, selection, and painting tools
Initial multi-threaded image processing
So far the community’s response to finalization of 2.10 seems to be mixed. A lot of people feel that the release is too long overdue (and developers readily admit that). Hence the decision to relax the release policy and allow new features in stable branches (when possible). This way, contributions will get to end-users a lot faster.
RawTherapee 5.4 and darktable 2.6
Quite a few free software users are torn between RawTherapee and darktable. Both are very solid digital photography applications with an overlapping feature set, yet different approach to the processing workflow and UI/UX.
RawTherapee 5.4 is currently expected later this February. The release brings quite a few much welcome updates, some of which are:
New tools such as histogram matching, HDR Tone Mapping, and Local Contrast
New RCD demosaicing algorithm to minimize various artifacts
Out-of-gamut areas visualization
Creating and processing Sony Pixel Shift ARQ files
Saving 32-bit floating-point TIFF files, clamped to [0-1].
Lensfun-based chromatic aberration correction
But there is lot more going on. In a conversation, RT developer Morgan Hardwood told us:
We have been putting off a major refactoring and unification of the four existing pipelines (main image, thumbnail, etc.) into one. That work will begin now and should make a lot of new cool stuff possible, like on-canvas editing.
Naturally, there are no estimations of release dates beyond v5.4 at this point.
For darktable, it’s hard to predict what’s coming in the next major version. The team traditionally releases a major update around winter holidays time, so we are a mere month into the new development cycle.
There are, however, two new features that might make it to the next big update. The first one is a Filmulate plugin that reuses Filmulator technology to emulate film development.
The other one is a new Retouch tool that performs various operations such as healing on wavelet scales. The team wasn’t originally fond of adding localized edits beyond spot removal to darktable. But they eventually gave in, when Liquify was submitted by a contributor (and it took quite a while to complete the feature). Releasing darktable with even more retouching tools could be… well, fun?
SVG2 to be finalized
In November 2016, we published an interview with Tavmjong Bah, Inkscape’s core team developer responsible for introducing several artists-centered features to upcoming SVG2. During the conversation, he voiced his concerns about the possibility of terminating the working group and moving the specification to W3C’s Web Platform Incubator Community Group (WICG) where its future would be rather uncertain.
The charter wasn’t renewed in January 2017, but the project wasn’t moved to WICG either. A new charter was announced in August with Microsoft’s Bogdan Brinza (Principal PM Manager, Microsoft Edge) at the helm.
The WG was rechartered for the sole purpose of getting SVG2 unstuck and making it reach the Proposed Recommendation status which is scheduled for June 2018. Not quite coincidentally, this is when this WG will be disbanded again.
The Charter page is very specific about the focus of this charter period:
As a primary focus […], the group will concentrate on the stabilisation and interoperability testing of the core SVG2 specification. As part of that testing, features which are in the reference draft of SVG2 and which do not meet the stability and interoperability requirements for a Proposed Recommendation may be moved to separate specification modules, work on which would remain in scope, but at a lower priority.
This is what the working group has been busy with ever since.
FreieFarbe/FreeColour is going DIN
In December 2017, FreieFarbe e.V. announced that their initiative for „Open Colour Communication“ standard was supported by DIN and will become a DIN SPEC (which is the first step towards DIN Norm). It is claimed that DIN intends to turn this into an international standard via ISO later.
The FreieFarbe / FreeColour initiative aims to provide an open alternative to Pantone, HKS, and other proprietary colour systems. They argue that unlike Pantone and some other proprietary manufacturers like RAL, FreiFarbe has an actual color system.
As part of the proposal to DIN, they submitted a prototype of a CIE LCH based color reference (printed by Proof.de), where colors are sorted by their hue, lightness, and chroma values in steps of 10, 5, and 10 respectively (hue would be in steps of 5 in the final version). Which is, in fact, quite similar (if not identical) to the color system of RAL Design.
The team has just published HLC Colour Atlas: a printed reference (A4, ring binder), a printed documentation in German and English, colour palettes with LAB values in ASE (Adobe), SBZ (SwatchBooker), and other file formats, a PDF master file of the atlas with layers for different output targets, a CxF3 file where color data is stored in spectral values.
The specification should be done by June 2018. Ink formulas might not make it to the spec, in which case FreieFarbe e.V. promises to publish them freely online.
Although projects like LMMS, MusE, and Rosegarden haven’t really gone anywhere and have their following, it does look like Ardour and Qtractor are the dominating digital audio workstations on Linux these days. Both projects have exemplary maintenance and get regular updates, although Ardour’s release pace recently slipped for a good reason.
Since mid-2017 or so, Ardour has been undergoing a completely boring procedure called refactoring and internal redesign. Hence Ardour 6, expected later this year, will feature mostly behind-the-scenes changes. Most of the work going into the next version so far is architectural (like proper handling of musical time), with one exception: cue monitoring.
At this point, it’s hard to tell whether it’s going to stay that way by the time v6.0 is finalized (after all, GIMP 2.10 was going to be mostly v2.8+GEGL, and we do know how this ended). That said, further 6.x releases are likely to gain what lead developer Paul Davis cautiously calls “some features to support a more “groove-centric” workflow”.
It’s not exactly a huge surprise that Paul has been interested in making Ardour more suitable for live performances for quite a long time. So we probably should be looking forward to something along the lines of advanced looping and sample stretching. Existing support for both Ableton Push 2 and NI Maschine 2 control surfaces would come in handy then.
So far, Ardour 6 looks like a summer-time release, but it’s too early to tell.
More synths awesomeness
Last year, VCV Rack stormed into the softsynths scene as a free/libre software implementation of Eurorack/modular synths and became one of the most exciting projects in the Linux audio ecosystem.
VCV Rack is designed as a real modular synth, and there’s an increasing amount of all sorts of modules available. And this thing is addictive as hell. We expect VCV Rack to keep rapidly growing this year.
In 2018, we are also likely to see further improvements of Zyn-Fusion, next generation of ZynAddSubFX. Although Mark McCurry only raised half the money he expected through selling binaries of Zyn-Fusion on Gumroad, he doesn’t regret this decision a bit. On the last day of 2017, he released the final bit of source code he wrote for that project, so now anyone can build ZynAddSubFX with new, improved UI from source code.
From now on, the old UI is getting just bugfixes, all new stuff is happening in the new UI. The 3.1.x series is expected to focus on workflow improvements. If you don’t have Zyn-Fusion in your Linux repo, you can have a go at build instructions.
After a spectacular launch around 2016, the free/libre Helm soft synth wasn’t getting many updates in 2017. It might seem that Matt Tytel lost interest in the project, but he was actually rethinking it:
There were a bunch of things I wanted to change in Helm, but they would require ripping out most features. I’m going to fix more Helm bugs in the future, but I will not not add any features. I’m working on a new synth with a new name.
Again, no release dates.
Unlike with DAWs, non-linear video editors is where it’s quite impossible to mention one application without hearing “But you forgot [my libre NLE of choice]!”. Indeed, there are just so many of them these days!
Pitivi, Shotcut, Kdenlive, Flowblade, OpenShot… Most of these projects have regular updates. Blender VSE reportedly still doesn’t have a maintainer, but is now being improved by Nathan Lovato et al. via his Power Sequencer add-on. And, of course, we still have three flavours of Cinelerra. Even Lumiera still shows signs of life.
So in 2018, you are in for a treat, whichever non-linear video editor you end up using.
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This week a horde of angry, pitchfork-waving readers descended upon the e-mail inbox of both OMG! sites, demanding to know why we weren’t writing about the “shocking evil” Google is waging against the open-source community. SHOCKING EVIL, PEOPLE. Firstly, Saturday is my (one) day off every week. It has been for the entire seven and a half years I’ve been doing […]
The hassle of needing wires is the only reservation I have whenever I think about the notion of using a phone as a PC — what most people take “convergence” to mean. The idea that I can pick up a smartphone (the beating heart of modern computing experiences) and attach it to an external display, hook up a keyboard and mouse, and have a full […]