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5 FREE Programs to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Explore five FREE tools and programs that can help provide you with some creative inspiration! Tutorials included!

Have you ever been in a creative rut? Or maybe experienced some burnout after doing the same thing over and over? It can be helpful to break up your creative routine and experiment with something totally new or even abstract.

We’ve gathered five (totally FREE) creative tools to help you do just that. Hopefully, they’ll help you spark some new creative ideas of your own!


1. MagicaVoxel

MagicaVoxel is one of my favorite programs for zoning out and having some good ol’ fashioned creative fun. Probably because it reminds me of building with Legos. And, it’s basically that easy, too!

MagicaVoxel is a 3D program that allows you to build your models using voxels, which is essentially a 3D pixel. Plus, it includes incredible lighting, glass, and glow effects that allow you to create some really moody and cinematic scenes. (Check out our tutorial for Creating 3D Voxel Art with MagicaVoxel above.)

If you want to learn more about voxel art in general and get a look how it works, check out our tutorial (below) on What Voxel Art Is and How to Create It. You’ll discover how voxel art can also be used in things like games, apps, and even animations. We’ve also included a voxel freebie pack!


2. Sketchbook

Next is an amazing drawing program from Autodesk called Sketchbook. Even better, Sketchbook was previously a paid application, but now it’s totally free. It has a beautiful user interface that’s easy to understand, and it’s the perfect starter program for upcoming artists.

Autodesk prides itself on making Sketchbook feel as if you’re drawing on paper—all of the brushes have a natural flow. You can also easily rearrange the UI panels to suit your needs.

Sketchbook also provides a lot of user versatility, since you can use the app on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. For filmmakers, it can be useful for creating “write-on” text animations or even drawing out storyboards.


3. Adobe Color

Adobe Color is likely an app you’ve heard of before, but maybe never tried out. (It was previously named Adobe Kuler.) It’s a web-based application that allows you to easily create, browse, and share different color themes and palettes.

This makes it perfect for when you might need some inspiration or just want to experiment with different color profiles. You can even sync color palettes you find or create yourself with other Adobe apps, such as Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign.

What I really enjoy about Adobe Color is using the color wheel and trying out the different Color Harmony Rules, such as Triad, Complementary, and Double Split Complementary. You also have the ability to extract color themes from your own uploaded images. (This feature is really cool!)


4. Piskel

If you’ve ever been curious about how to make pixel art, then you’re going to like the web-based app Piskel. It allows you to simply create pixel art and animated sprites from right inside your web browser. (They also have a standalone app you can download if you want to create your pixel art offline.)

The user interface is simple and intuitive. It also features some advanced features, such as layers, onion skinning, and various grid and tile settings.

Piskel has a variety of export options, such as GIFs, PNGs, sprite sheets, and their own native Piskel file format. You even have the ability to upload your own pixel art image inside of Piskel if you want to use it as a guide for creating more pixel art.


5. NVIDIA Canvas

Finally, I have to mention NVIDIA Canvas, which is a mind-blowing AI painting app for concept artists. Their tagline is “Use AI to turn simple brushstrokes into realistic landscape images,” and seeing it in action is believing.

You start by selecting a “style,” which is essentially a scene type, and then you select your landscape material. From there, you can draw a simplistic and crude version of the landscape you want and see it rendered in photo-realistic fashion.

You’ll need a NVIDIA RTX GPU in order to use Canvas. (Compatible GPUs are GeForce RTX, NVIDIA RTX, Quadro RTX, TITAN RTX.)

Jonathan Winbush has an awesome tutorial that demonstrates how to use NVIDIA Canvas and how you can export your landscape as layered PSD files for Adobe Photoshop. He even shows you how to upscale your exported landscapes using an AI-powered image upscaler.


Bonus Time!

You can find several more software ideas in this video tutorial I produced for Shutterstock Tutorials. However, not all of them are free.


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