Is it possible to use only open-source tools in order to produce professional level artwork? Has anyone actually done it? If not, where are the current gaps?

Assume I'm producing a small multi-page brochure including photos, line art and CMYK + a spot colour, and need to take it as far as a PDF I can hand off to the printers.

I've now added a bounty in order to encourage additional answers.

1 Answer 1


A bit of overlap with my answer here, and you can grab urls from there, but yep, a Gimp/Inkscape/Scribus workflow might be ok.

Actually done it? Yep. I indeed work with mostly free and open source tools with no complaints.

In my experience, you often have to heavily use your brain and create your tricks to achieve certain industry demanded requirements when the open source tool hasn't yet received some feature. For this reason, the time factor is key to decide. If what's needed is a very fast, stressful environment, no hassle workflow, very demanding on features, (often is the typical graphic artist job) imho only the best of the best commercial tools would keep it totally safe. Still so, I prefer open source workflows.

  • 1
    Good stuff. Where you talk about working around missing features - any examples?
    – e100
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 16:58
  • 1
    Eu. Would be very long to answer (not saying your question is vague..) because I was referring like he did, to most open source tools for this matter. Well, if want some examples, just the fact that Inkscape does not have yet a propper support of CMYK, neither (at least in Windows) a full support in Gimp, that makes it quite an obstacle for many situations. Still, you can do stuff (oh, btw, forgot the important sk1, terrible memory, just updated the other thread) with tricks and all.
    – S.gfx
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 18:38
  • 3
    How does the economics of FOSS vs. commercial work out to save money, then? The costs of Adobe and Quark are legendary in the industry, but it's not as though we have to pay them every time we output a job. If the FOSS tools don't support technologies as core to printing as CMYK and Pantone, then I would argue that the support costs associated with FOSS tools are just as much as the commercial licenses. Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 14:50
  • 2
    @philip...that's certainly true. From a pure cost perspective, it's an issue of scale. If a person does 20 hours of freelance a year, it's probably not profitable to dump a few grand into the Adobe suite. But otherwise, yea, it's likely cheaper to go with the mature 'standard' platform of Adobe. Lots of people, though, are looking more at FOSS from a purely political POV.
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 16:53
  • 3
    From a film or plate perspective spot/CMYK issues weaken. Before all these great color features designers realized that to the ink every plate is color agnostic. We routinely designed in B&W then relabeled film. We exported Photoshop spot color layers, flattened them, and printed them as grayscale and then instructed the printer which Pantone color to use for that plate. Often we manually added color names between crop marks. I’ve never found spot color to be much of an issue no matter the tools.
    – user179700
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 8:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.