Colour us “jumping to conclusions”, but we’d have to guess that Photoshop is the best-known graphic design tool out there. but it’s not an optimal solution for everybody – the price tag is high, it has a steep learning curve such that you could spend years studying it and not know all of it, and it’s also aimed more for print graphics than web graphics.

For those of you looking for a more compact and economical solution, here’s a list of tools you might want to look into. These are all less costly (all but one is free!) to download and use, and are geared more towards smaller solution sets as well.

  • GimpShop – As the name suggests, this is the version of the open source G.I.M.P. program geared to Photoshop users. G.I.M.P. stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program”, after the GNU.org general public license. It’s about 90% feature-compatible with Photoshop, and is a much smaller, cheaper, and easier-to-learn program.
  • Paint.NET – This is the free graphics program using Microsoft’s .NET 2.0 framework. It’s come a long way since its origins as a better alternative to Windows’ Paint program (the one that comes with all copies of Windows). Now it’s a nice half-step between a Paint-level application and a Photoshop. Just right for slapping together a quick design.
  • PIXEL editor – This is the non-free one – but it’s only US $32! For that price, it’s barely paying for more than the bandwidth to download it. PIXEL is highly-praised by many users, citing it’s vast features, light-weight system demands, and easy-to-navigate interface.
  • Inkscape – Another GNU-licensed free program, Inkscape produces vector graphics that are right up to par with Adobe Photoshop. Even more so than other GNU competitors, Inkscape is simple enough that a child can use it, yet can produce professional results. It’s actually the one that’s fun to just sit and play with!
  • Google’s Picasa – While Picasa isn’t a full-featured web graphics workshop, it is a very handy photo tool. It’s geared more towards home users who want to organize and post a web photo album, with some common photo-editing tools built-in such as cropping, rotating, and colour-correction. It can still be useful for working with stock photos before posting them in your blog.