Programs to Use (reviews and ratings)


Here are all the programs I have tried out for different tasks in graphics so far. If you want to help change or rate a program, post your own take (and review if you want) below.


Rating System:

1-5 Stars in five categories:
  1. Pixel Art

    Defines the program's ability to create basic pixel art. If the program fails to color a single pixel only or such, it gets a LOW count of stars. If it easily colors one pixel, then it gets a HIGH count of stars.

  2. Realistic Art

    Defines the program's ability to manipulate/edit a photo AND/OR use the paintbrush tool and any gradient making tools to make a 'realistic' banner via layers and tool sets. If the program makes a clean-looking, easy-to-make, and beautiful photomanipulation AND/OR a clean, well-shaded, and easy-to-make banner, it will get HIGH stars. If not, it will get a low number of stars.

  3. Price

    Defines the cost of an item. The higher the stars, the LESS EXPENSIVE the item is. $1,000+ = 1 stars; Free = 5 stars.

  4. User-Friendly?

    Measures how user-friendly the features of the program are. Less stars = less user friendly, while more stars = more user friendly.

  5. Tool Set Power

    Measures how powerful the given tool set is... essentially the number of buttons and options you have when you use the program.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 (**, *****, *, **1/2, *****)

PSCS5 as I call it is an extremely powerful 2D and partial 3D art program. With it you can make standard art that looks extremely realistic and you can also do very high quality photomanipulation. The only downsides to PSCS5 are that it is NOT a pixel art program and it's price tag (which ranges between $70 dollars and $1,000 dollars, depending upon which edition you are getting and if you are a student/educator). Instead, it was built on the idea of Photo Manipulation.

Adobe Flash CS5 (****, ***, **, **, ****)

Although Flash is officially an Animation and Web Media program, it also contains a set of great drawing and 'painting' tools that help out a lot. It's animation interfaces let you also use it to animate character sprites easily so they don't jump around and such and the program itself exports to pretty much everything imaginable. The only downside is the $700 dollar price tag for the regular version. However, this is sweetened by the fact that if you are a student or teacher, you can purchase the $180 dollar Student and Teacher Edition, which is not different to my knowledge.

Microsoft Paint (Vista/XP) (****1/2, *, N/A, *****, *)


MS Paint, although being a very simple program, is the one of the best pixel-art programs available. I started out in paint and made various pieces of art before I discovered Photoshop. In all truth, it is a good starting place, but you will certainly need to go to a program like GIMP (mentioned below) or Photoshop if you want to be a serious graphics creator or make a graphic that doesn't look pixelated.

Paint also ONLY COMES with a Windows computer as far as I know... unless you have one, you'll have to find an alternative such as PhotoFiltre or Paint.NET.

MS Paint (Windows 7) (****, *, N/A, **, **)


MS Paint for Windows 7 has a slightly more powerful (and confusing) tool set. It is harder to use for pixel graphics than MS Paint for Vista and XP, but is still a strong tool for a middle step between pure pixel-art and pure photo-manipulation/painting art. As a side note, I have only observed this program being used, never used it myself.

GIMP (**, ****1/2, *****, ***, ****)

Gimp is GREAT for moderate artists or artists who want the same thing as Photoshop without the cost. Although I mainly use PSCS4 and its predecessor, Photoshop Elements 5, I have worked with GIMP and found it a sturdy and reliable program for doing most of the things that Photoshop can do. If you are working on MS Paint, I urge you to learn the ropes of GIMP as soon as possible if you plan to make anything but character sprites and pixel-based tile sets (like background images). I don't have any examples for GIMP because I don't normally use it, but I can tell you that most GOOD art done on a computer that is NOT done with a 'Pay-to-draw' program like Photoshop is most likely done with GIMP or other like programs.

By the way, I usually call GIMP 'Photoshop's Little Brother'.

Paint.NET (****, ***, *****, ***, ***)

Paint.NET is a transition program, as I call the programs that lie in between GIMP and Paint. It intergrades a few neat tricks and bits such as layers, gradients, basic text effects, and basic effects in general.

PhotoFiltre (****, ***1/2, *****, ***, ***1/2)

PhotoFiltre, despite appearing to be an 'old' program, is actually a very nice, cheap, and easy to learn step in between GIMP and Paint. For people wanting to switch over, it is a GREAT program to start using. The program also has more tools than Paint or Paint.NET. It contains a blur brush along with several KEY Photomanipulation tools that bring it close to GIMP while still holding it as a Pixel Art program. It is probably the most balanced program here.

GraphicsGale (*****, **, ****, ****, ***)

Although it was originally made for Japanese, this program still is an excellent program for sprite animation- perhaps it can be called 'Flash for Pixels'. A relatively easy program to get used to, this great pixel-art program is good for anyone who wants to make sprites easier than in MS Paint. It is made for everything animated- sprites, objects, and more! There is a free version and a bonus version for ~$23.00 USD, a small investment for people who are planning to animate a ton.

Other Programs to Try:

A list of 35 free graphics programs with little comments. Feel free to try one or two. If you have time, send me a message with your review and ratings and I will add it to this list.


The 'Bests':

Pixel Art Best: GraphicsGale (second best is MS Paint XP/Vista)

Pixel Art Worst: Adobe Photoshop CS5/GIMP tied

Realistic/Photomanipulation Best: Adobe Photoshop CS5

Realistic/Photomanipulation Worst: MS Paint XP/Vista

Price Best: -too many tied-

Price Worst: Adobe Photoshop CS5

User Friendly Best: MS Paint XP/Vista

User Friendly Worst: MS Paint W7/Adobe Flash CS5 tied

Tool Set Best: Adobe Photoshop CS5

Tool Set Worst: MS Paint XP/Vista

Best for Sprites: GraphicsGale


The guide can also be seen here:


I'm saying the program I use called pixlr (

It is a very basic tool which can be used like paint but has many nifty features. It is very user freindly and I create all my graphics on it.


Well I think photoshop is really user friendly...and deserves more than **1/2...
And I find Pixel Art in photoshop easy as just select the pixel and paint it...where's the problem?
The price is something I agree though...:p
Last edited by a moderator:


Well I think photoshop is really user friendly...and deserves more than **1/2...
And I find Pixel Art in photoshop easy as just select the pixel and paint it...where's the problem?
The price is something I agree though...:p

I just bought CS5!

the interface is soo annoying for me to use!

GImp is soo much easier


While the price is prohibitive for many in getting Photoshop, there are few graphic designers out there who would use anything else. The interface is simple and easy to learn and use. Plus the amount of tutorials that exist for beginners is amazing. Artwork made in Ps can be as realistic as you want it to be, and the huge amount of tools/applications that you can find or create for any deisgn is great. Ps soars above GIMP in that you can create your own brushes using either the Brush Manager or creating a new one from scratch. As for pixel art, if you're having trouble painting a single pixel, try using a hard brush instead of a soft one. Problem solved.

Ps CS5 - ****1/2 (there's a slightly steep learning curve)


I have to admit that Photoshop is hands down superior to GIMP. You can do so much more and there are many other reasons why this is the number 1 choice for Digital Artists. However, the price of photoshop is so high that Newbie graphics designers like myself use the free and still very capable GIMP.