I saw a similar question asked, but mine is more precise in what I am looking for.

Is there any (free) software or free web based software I can use for the following purpose:

I want to be able to create images. I tried using pixlr and it's not as advanced as the software (or web based software) that I am looking for. I'm not talking about simply adding or modifying images with photoshop, which is fine for most things. But, I want to be able to easily create something from scratch.

I find software like photoshop impossible to deal with in terms of actually creating images. The reality is that it does not possess the advanced power that images created with other professional software offer (I would presume). I don't think I could achieve something as nice as this image using photoshop.

enter image description here

Basically, I am looking for a software that allows that possibility but that gives you the ease of doing so. For someone with limited knowledge of design.

I am not a Graphic Designer, I am a Web Integrator. The reality is that I need tools to facilitate professional design work. I'm not looking for opinions per se, but websites that offer either this type of software for download or directly have it in their web browser.

To be clearer upon what I am actually looking for, imagine the following: you see an ad beautifully created with professional graphic design software. I want to emulate that work of art that you see. Imagine this specific picture, clearly this is not a real person, but rather it has been created from scratch, with the background that surrounds him. That is the type of software I need to get my hands on. Worst comes to worst, a paid one (but I would rather avoid that).

enter image description here

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    Hate to break the bad news, but Photoshop is a staple of image creation, not just photo manipulation. There is Painter, and ZBrush, but ultimately Photoshop is almost always a huge part of any processes for raster images. Photoshop ---> dusso.com There's no software which substitutes for talent.
    – Scott
    Mar 18, 2014 at 6:45
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    sry, but that second example you give is not 'created from scratch', it's this image edited in, most probably, Photoshop.
    – Vincent
    Mar 18, 2014 at 10:14
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    If it was as easy as just pushing a button, everyone would be doing it. Sounds like you're looking for Instagram for photoshop-style montages - such things do appear, with a few push-button effects, but clumsy artless over-use quickly makes those effects as cliched as, well, Instagram filters... @Bakabaka just curious, how did you find the original image? Reverse image search, keywords or did you just recognise it? Mar 18, 2014 at 13:32
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    I wouldn't close this question: it involves a misunderstanding, but a common, important misunderstanding, worth addressing (and despite that it's actually a well written question showing research and effort - arguably misguided, but that's what answers are for). Mar 18, 2014 at 14:18
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    The image of the "dancer" is made by Roberto Blake, an artist that has worked with art since he was a child. You could give him a call and ask if he has some suggestions as to what software you could get to replace him. robertoblake.com
    – benteh
    Mar 18, 2014 at 23:27

7 Answers 7


There's an expression about people who are very good at something: "He/she makes it look easy".

There's a related misconception about design or 3D software. You watch someone working. They do 5 things, and it looks okay. They do 6 other things, and it looks a bit better. They do 3 things, and you're scratching your head because now it looks worse. Then they hit a button and BAM suddenly it looks amazing! What's that magic button?

The answer is, that magic button would have done nothing at all without the 14 steps before it, and would make things look terrible if the designer hadn't chosen those 14 steps knowing they were going to use that particular tool to pull it all together to an idea they had in their head from the start.

You could learn to use...

...but no software can replace having that idea at the start.

You can learn to do any of these things - and maybe master them with time - but they all need patience and hard work.

...I do disagree with your assumption that software cannot replace talent. Check out Maxwell Render as mentioned in Mark's post. It looked pretty nifty

Check out the end credits in that first Maxwell video in Mark's answer:

  • three people credited "Models and textures"
  • three people credited "Rendering"
  • two credited "Concept and design"

Even ignoring animation, voice and compositing, you're not looking at something some magic software made when someone hit a button, it's the work of a team of eight skilled professionals, with three different specialist skill sets between them - who happen to be using Maxwell.

If they had used Blender, or Cinema4D or Autodesk Maya (like Blender but more mature with 4-figure price tags and slicker interfaces - I've heard Cinema4D is the most beginner-friendly but it's debatable), or cardboard, scissors, light stands and cameras, or even traditional ink and paper animation, it'd look similar (and might look more naturally lit...).

  • I totally forgot to mention ZBrush and Mudbox: 3D 'sculpting' software used mainly for creating detailed figures and objects (e.g. 3D monster heads). 3 figure price tags, difficult to master, but I hear they're not so difficult to get started with. Mar 18, 2014 at 14:29
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    I agree anybody who thinks Maxwell render will make images instantly cool should try photography.
    – joojaa
    Mar 18, 2014 at 19:13
  • You are a great person @user568458. Thank you for your kind answer. I have tried Blender yesterday and wanted to try that out before replying to you. I am enjoying following the tutorial (1:30:00 long), as the person is a professional creating a real masterpiece. Sometimes he's not easy to follow, but I always go back in time to see what exactly I missed. Concerning your comment about Maxwell, the reality is that the software was created to be used by people less talented. Nonetheless, thank you. I have used Gimp a few months ago but it is less appealing compared to Photoshop. Mar 19, 2014 at 16:42

Edit: Here you can follow the artists process

You are asking for a button: "create something I like".

As mentioned in a comment; the dancer is created by Roberto Blake, a guy who has been doing art since he was a child. You could give him a call and ask for tips on what software to get to replace him: http://robertoblake.com/

I think you have a very fundamental problem: you seem to lack the ability to see what an image cosists of. To you it is a pretty image, to some of us, we can almost count the amount of layers used, and in what software. It is a fair guess to say that there are more than one piece of software used. And some of us stand in awe of the work.

Leonardo da Vinci said that to love something deeply you must know it deeply; that is probably why some people here gets a little upset at your question. And I would say with good reason. Graphic design is a craft, as in skilled aritsan work. On rare occasions it can be unadulterated fine art.

The dancer consists of at least two photographs, those two are duplicated in a few layers, the wings might be vector graphics, the stars some custom made brushes, the swirly bits and their shinyness probably repeated also, there are a good few gradients, and another few brushes. All this is well and good. I can do a reasonable guess on how he made it. I might even be able to re-create it, if I had all the bits. But this does not mean that I could have made it in the first place. It is simply not the sort of visual language my brain creates on its own. And your brain needs to create on its own for stuff like this.

Software are tools, not an end in themselves. Photoshop, Maya, Blender, SketchUp, Gimp, Inkscape, Illustrator are the screwdrivers, chisels, hammers and spirit-levels of the designer.

enter image description here

You can give anyone a complete toolbox, but who can create a beautiful, ornate, baroque table? I have all the tools needed in my shed. They are even of splendid quality. But I know better than to even think about starting to create an art nouveau vanity.

We can make robots make baroque tables. But we cannot yet make robots that will create baroque tables, do the dishes, repair the car, walk the dog, build a house, paint the barn, lay a railroad, clean the chimney, take care of the children and reproduce Rembrandt.

So the "create something I like"-button; we will need to be symbiotic with machines, cyborgs for that to even be a vague possibility. We have come a long way in tech and software development. But not that far, that we can replace the brain, experience, years of training and intuition of Roberto Blake.

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    +1 anyway the guys at the end of the hall from me are actualy trying to build the fundamental theorems of all design so that a computer could do it. So far the have only managed to come up with a theory on what the orders of the stages should be. Provided you tell the right stages.
    – joojaa
    Mar 19, 2014 at 7:33
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    @boblet, imagine this from my point of view: an integrator with limited design knowledge has to start somewhere with the help of others more knowledgeable. If some get upset, that's too bad for them if they can't stomach the fact that someone is not as talented as them. You are correct to state that those programs are tools in and of themselves. They do help a lot, as for photoshop which is the only software I had limited knowledge about, I just don't like it in terms of what I want to accomplish. When I looked at Blender yesterday and followed a tutorial, it seemed like the tool I needed. Mar 19, 2014 at 16:49
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    @boblet, I have to say the following: I disagree with your first statement. I don't see how you and a few others can believe I said I want "for a button to create something I like". I never said that. If you use Photoshop for example, you can add certain effects with the click of a button. So, what is different with Pixlr for example? Nothing, except that you could have never used Photoshop before, while being capable of using Pixlr. So, I think that the belief some of you held in terms of wanting a button to do everything is an unfair assumption. But rather, a tool that has the functionality. Mar 19, 2014 at 16:54
  • There is always the possibility that I have entirely misunderstood you.
    – benteh
    Mar 19, 2014 at 17:27

I created the Dancer Image Celestial Being a few years ago. It has since been published in Advanced Photoshop and Photoshop Creative. It has been one of my favorite pieces since it was done when I was defining the basis of my own visual style, which has evolved over the years.

I was quite surprised to see that it has sparked such intense debate and good discussion and the image to this day is still so well received and praised.

To address the question, software can't create what a human being can instantly or magically. When I created this image there were decisions that I made based on emotional and aesthetic considerations rather than purely logical ones.

Even the vector work was not "precise" it was something I did in Adobe Illustrator and purposely didn't measure the spacing so that it would be somewhat more organic and not feel calculated.

The tonal contrast was done completely by eye over and over until it "felt" right. This is not like intricate knot work that a machine can analyze and duplicate. And since I combined Photoshop and Illustrator and a number of techniques and layers to produce this, it is something that can't be emulated quite as easily without guidance from a visual artist who has worked in this way.

While there are quick one button pushes in Photoshop to do somethings, most digital artist and graphic designers don't use these because they don't achieve the purpose we specifically want.

While you can record actions and processes in Photoshop for anything you do in order replicate it, again it won't work to create this sort of piece.

I think the reason that many people are drawn to this image and this style is due to the organic approach to it, and the flaws in things like the manual light casting I did with the brushes and other details that would be difficult to outrightly copy.

@boblet, your breakdown and analysis of the methods I used was very good and very accurate. You and this thread have actually inspired me to do more artwork in my signature style and take it to its latest evolution, as lately I've been doing less personal work to focus on tutorials and commercial work. Thank you for that.

  • 3
    How splendid! To have the artist here; and that this thread have inspired! I think you touch on a point that is absolutely essential: flaws. In my opinion it is the "flaws", irregularities, human doodling that often makes or breaks a piece; it gives in often an undefinable humanity and energy. I draw on paper, and the tiny slip-ups are very important. And therefore, it cannot be programmed.
    – benteh
    Mar 29, 2014 at 15:52
  • Thank you for your post Roberto. Having the artist himself post is actually pretty nifty :) Apr 28, 2014 at 18:21

Blender and Gimp are both professional-grade design programs that are free.




GIMP is a good option and it can be done more than 90% of Photoshop's functionality but is a bit slower.

If I understand you correctly, you want to make some design or process for different images, GIMP has a new plugin can help to record some activities and run it for other images quickly (Like action in Photoshop). you can find more information about that here: http://registry.gimp.org/node/25305

  • uhm, the website has encountered a fatal PHP error. Too many connections it says :/ I am not sure what you are saying. Are you saying a plugin to create different effects more easily? Mar 19, 2014 at 16:56

No, there is no such a thing as a software that can create something like that automatically. Skilled artists do that. I can list a dozen tools that those artists might use to create something like that on, but that is not the point. It is all about skills and technique.


Well, Photoshop is only to manipulate existing photos. If you want to recreate real-looking photos from scratch, I'd recommend LightWave 3D with the Maxwell renderer.



  • I checked out Maxwell Render before LightWave 3D, and it looked pretty damn good. Unfortunately, I cannot afford such expensive software. Spending $1,800 on software is way too much for me. Mar 18, 2014 at 7:10
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    @user3298911 and it wouldnt matter much if you spent 1800 on maxwell your design wouldnt be cool without the skill to get the renderer to do what you want.
    – joojaa
    Mar 18, 2014 at 17:29

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