You can easily spend a great deal of time having fun with graphic software – I know I do. Sometimes though you want something simple and wading through menus, toolbars and dialogues saps your creativity.

The Overview
The question is “how do I to bypass the menus, toolbars and still produce an image?”. You need a program that will accept a simple text file. You can create this file in any basic text program such as notepad with Windows, gedit with Linux or TextEdit with Apple Mac. Then you paste your text file into the graphics program on Windows and Mac. Linux allows you to run the program directly from the command line which is the quickest way to see your work.

The Tools You Need
The program I suggest is called “POV-Ray”, That stands for Persistence of Vision. This is a reference to the way our eyes briefly retain an image. It is easy to use and comes with a good set of examples.

Here is the text file to build the sphere image

// green-orb.pov
camera {
 location <0, 0, -8>
sphere { <0.0, 0.0, 0.0>, 2
 finish {
 ambient 0.2
 diffuse 0.8
 phong 1
 pigment { color red 0.2 green 0.65 blue 0.1 }
light_source { <-10, 3, -20> color red 1 green 1 blue 1 }


I only had to change the line

pigment { color red 0.2 green 0.65 blue 0.1 }

to make the three colour variations. Note the American spelling of ‘colour’ as ‘color’ Here is blue

pigment { color red 0.0 green 0.2 blue 0.75 }

This is red

pigment { color red 0.75 green 0.0 blue 0.2}

Download It
You can  download a free copy at :

You will find some tutorials to give you a start here :
tutorials 1
and here :

tutorials for POV for windows

Practical Uses
I use POV-Ray to create web graphics, animations and various abstract experimentations. It is very easy to create the same shape in different colours. I have shown three colour variations for each simple image. POV-Ray can also do a lot more than these simple shapes as the villa image shows.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” – Leonardo da Vinci

You create a picture, that is static art. What about if you move your mouse drawing circles as you go? The shapes you draw become the drawing. The picture with the coloured circles you can see here was controlled by the mouse. The default is red but when I press the left mouse button it draws blue circles. This is a simple example of interactive art.


So what is generative art then? Suppose you create a picture that is constantly changing, that is generative art.

The Tools You Need
The only program I know of that will handle both these types of art is called ‘Processing’. Processing is designed for artists not programmers and it uses sketches to generate the images. You can download and run the sketches to create live art on your computer.

Download It
Processing will run on Apple Mac, Linux and Windows.

You can download a free copy at :


You will find some video and text tutorials to give you a start here :


The other pictures I have included were created by the sketches called griddlestix4 or fractalsCD5. You can download them from abandonedart. You will find a lot more sketches there.

Practical Uses
I use Processing to create images to inspire me while I work on my art and music projects. I take screen shots and use them to create texture in other programs. I also use Processing to create short videos to accompany the music I produce.




A fractal is a pattern which is created from a small version of itself. Fractal is the name that mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot gave his geometric patterns in 1975. He took the name from the Latin word “frāctus” which means crushed.

Fortunately we do not need to become involved in any maths to make a fractal; so put away your calculator. Here we are only concerned with making pictures and not how they are made.

There is a wide selection of free and commercial fractal generators to choose from. The two leading commercial programs are “Chaotica” and “Ultra Fractal 5” which cost 89 and 99 Euros respectively.

Suggested Free Alternative
My favourite free fractal generator is Apophysis. It is written for Windows but it will also run on Linux using a program called WINE. When you load Apophysis it will automatically create a selection of fractals for you. You can explore them, choose your favourites and easily modify them. Apophysis can also be used to produce a video of a morphing fractal.

I use Apophysis to blend images into my art work to create highlights and texture. I also use it to produce short videos to accompany music.

You can download a free copy at :


You will find some tutorials to give you a start here :



You can find out more about WINE here :



What is a 3D image and how do you create one? A good artist can make their
drawings look real by suggesting depth with subtle shading. An image will
appear to be 3D if we give it depth.
To draw a line on a graph we plot a point left or right which is the X value
and a point up and down which is the Y value. We can draw a box by plotting
two X and two Y values. To change the box into a cube we plot points from
each corner that appear to be away from the viewer, these are the Z values.

There is no market leader in 3D graphics. You will have seen the results of
some very expensive 3D programs that are used for TV and Film work.
Popular choices are Maya, RenderMan, 3DS Max, Cinema 4D and Lightwave.

Suggested Free Alternative
I use a program called Wings. It is easy to produce something interesting
and the shapes it produces may be coloured using a paint program such as GNU
G.I.M.P. Wings will run on Mac, Windows and Linux computers.

I use Wings to produce graphics for CD covers, web graphics, animations,
letterheads, business cards and posters.

You can download a free copy at :


You will find some tutorials to give you a start here :


Animation is the art of showing a series of drawings in succession so that the image appears to be moving. The Warner Bros and Disney animators had to draw everything by hand. Now we have computers to make it easier.

The Pixel film company brought ‘Toy Story’ to the big screen using RenderMan Animation software. RenderMan is a very expensive program originally written by Pixel for their own use. Pixel now market RenderMan to other film makers.

Now, for a lot less money you can be your own film producer and director. Build your sets, move your actors and set up your camera, roll ’em!

Suggested Free Alternative
My choice for animation is Anim8or. This program runs on Windows and Linux. Linux needs a program called WINE to run Anim8or. WINE will also run many other Windows programs on Linux.

Although Anim8or includes everything you need to make a video I prefer to use Wings (see part 3) to build objects and import them into Anim8or.

I use Anim8or to produce short videos for product adverts and to accompany the songs that I and others write.

You can download a free copy at :


This is the manual :


You will find some tutorials to give you a start here :


You can find out more about WINE here :


A drawing program allows you to use lines to draw shapes. Take a pencil and paper and draw a square, circle and a triangle. Many objects can be constructed from these simple shapes. This method of using lines to draw shapes is the essence of a drawing program. You can colour the lines and the inside of the shape.
A drawing program allows you to resize your drawing up or down with no loss of quality, the image will always be pin sharp. You can export your drawing to a paint program such as GNU G.I.M.P.

The market leader for drawing programs is Adobe Illustrator.

Suggested Free Alternative
There is an Illustrator inspired program called Inkscape. It works well, is reliable and is excellent for home and commercial work. It will run on Mac, Windows and Linux computers.

I use Inkscape to colour in my pencil drawings. I scan them and trace the pencil lines with Inkscape and then colour them. I also design CD covers, web graphics, letterheads,business cards and posters.


You can legally download a free copy at :


Inkscape is a professional quality program and you will find some tutorials to get you started here :



I have found that there are people who want to use graphic programs but are prevented from doing so by the high cost. Some try using illegal copies of the professional programs. There is a way to satisfy both those users, without breaking the law!

This article describes some free programs that I have successfully used for many years to produce a wide range of work including :

  • Web site graphics for buttons and banners
  • Photo retouching and restoration of damage photographs
  • Designing book covers
  • Designing CD covers
  • Colouring in my drawings
  • Converting pencil drawings to computer graphics
  • Simple animation

The free software I mention in this article will all run on Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

Photo and Painting Software
For many years graphic artists have been using Photoshop. This software is so popular that there is a now a verb “Photoshopped” which means “to alter an image in some way”. Photoshop can be used to clean up photos, remove “red eye” and more substantial alterations such as restoring old photographs. You can also use the product to create pictures using an impressive set of tools.

Suggested Free Alternative
There is a Photoshop inspired program call GNU G.I.M.P. This stands for Graphic Image Manipulation Program.

You can download the complete program for free at this web site :

Gimp download

If you have never used a professional quality graphic program before you will need to try out some tutorials to get you up to speed.

Gimp tutorials