My inspiration for this article was that the Free Software Foundation is reviewing the High Priority Projects list. Briefly put, the goal of the list is to achieve more freedom in computing for everybody, focusing in projects with the broadest possible influence.
To learn more about the project and find out how to send your input, read the announcement on reviewing the High Priority Projects list.
In this article, I won’t be covering any projects that would really affect the majority of computer users. Instead, I will talk about some areas which are important for graphic artists, including those who are working with non-digital formats as well.
Support for color managed documents
There are two main aspects to color management: color management in documents and color management for monitors. Ideally, you want them both set up properly. Unfortunately, both of the areas are lacking in Linux.
Many of the applications support CMYK color profiles only partially, or do not support them at all. Being able to work in true CMYK with a specific color profile is crucial if you need to send your work to a professional printing service.
The lack of pretty much any kind of CMYK export from Inkscape is the breaking point for me. It is also the main reason I still work with proprietary software under a virtualized environment. I acknowledge there are some ways to product a CMYK color managed document in Scribus and have even done this a few times, but it isn’t a perfect workflow.
As far as I’ve understood, calibrating monitors and using ICC profiles for them and making software use them as well isn’t unproblematic either. However, I don’t understand these issues enough to weigh in; other online resources cover these topics better.
Close the gap to commercial software
As Inkscape, Scribus, GIMP and other projects prove, great free software for artists exists. However, there is still gaps to commercial software here and there. These gaps need to be closed in order to get more professional artists consider free and open source alternatives to the proprietary software they are currently using.
One of the aspects is making free software look and feel more familiar to people who use proprietary software. While I don’t think this should be the main goal, it’s one that would help people migrate the most.
The Shimmer project started the Huego project to help this goal. Unfortunately, due to lack of time, it has been quiet after the first commits. As always, contributions are welcome! On another, more positive note, Martin Owens has created a set of Photoshop Tweaks for Gimp which you can start using right now.
Today, Inkscape is already a very important part of my workflow already; the only case when I won’t even think about using it is if I need to create a rather complex CMYK document. Even in the smaller CMYK works I prefer it in the drafting phase, because I can get my ideas out of the system so much faster with it.
As I said before, great free and open source software exists already and there are some software and hardware for color management. Now we simply need to make the software even better, to support the features artists need in their daily work and to give them the option to stop using proprietary software.
This will undoubtedly require both artists and developers to be interested enough to actually overcome the obstacles in the way and most importantly, work together. A masterfully built up software is useless if the artists don’t think it’s intuitive to use – in the same way as an idea of a great software in a head of an artist is if it’s not implemented in reality.
If you would like to shift your workflow towards free and open source software, but can’t because there isn’t an application avaialble – keep shouting out and support the developers who work hard to create more great software.
If you are a developer, keep on working what you think is important, and maybe we will some day have software that can help more people to switch to non-proprietary alternatives.