Free Tools and Software: Ways to Keep Making at Home

Free Tools and Software: Ways to Keep Making at Home

Hey, everyone!


With DePaul’s campuses closed down, we know there are a lot of students who don’t have access to the resources they usually would. As one of those resources, we’re looking for ways to fill those gaps. Right now, though we can’t provide physical tools, we can help you out on the digital side! Our spaces use a lot of programs, which are very accessible from the computers in both IRL labs, but aren’t so easy to use at home, depending on your situation. And if you’re trying to do some specific 3D modelling or graphic design work, it can be hard to find resources that work for you. To help out, we’ve compiled some free tools that can help with a variety of tasks!


3D Modelling/Design



Maya is the industry standard for 3D animation; it also happens to be free for students! Make an account and specify your institution as DePaul, and you should be able to access its full functionality.



Another Autodesk product, Fusion360 is a software we often use in the IRL labs. It’s excellent for 3D modelling industrial pieces, either for prototyping with specifications in mind, or for mimicking real-world objects!



If the above two programs are a bit daunting, don’t worry! There are more accessible and beginner-friendly softwares out there. For instance: TinkerCAD! If you’re looking for a place to get started with 3D modelling, this is a great tool for you.



If you’d prefer a software that’s free and will stay free after you graduate, check out Blender. It’s a free and open-source creation suite — meaning it has a ton of extra features beyond just 3D modelling, such as video editing and animation. This software’s tons of fun to experiment in, and also has a huge community of makers; as a result, there are tons of tutorial videos ready to help you do whatever you’d like!



This free software is browser-based, so it takes a bit less setup than the others on this list. It was made specifically for graphic designers and visual artists who want to get into 3D, so if that’s where you’re coming from, it might be the best orientation for you!





This free, open-source tool is primarily used for page layouts. You can use it to make newsletters, magazines, books, and other print pieces! It has useful features like vector drawing tools, making it helpful for graphic designers.



Another software for vector graphics, this program stands out for its ease-of-use and intuitive tools. It has both an online version and a desktop app!



Similar to Adobe Lightroom, this program gives you a ton of options for editing photos. It includes a step-by-step instruction, which makes it helpful to beginners!



This program is similar to Photoshop, and offers picture retouching, free form drawing, and general editing tools. It’s also free and open-source, so it’s pretty popular among artists!



Another Photoshop-like program, Pixlr works in your browser and allows you to simply upload a photo and get to work. It’s not as versatile as Photoshop or GIMP, but works very well for simple edits.



This free graphic design tool mainly works to create infographics; if you have a data report or other collection of information, it’s ideal for presenting that info in a comprehensive, engaging, and stylish way.



Similar to Easelly, but maybe a bit more versatile, Canva gives you a variety of templates for presentations, posters, logos, etc., which you can then edit as you please. Don’t be fooled by the website selling you on “Canva Pro,” the base program is powerful and free.


Adobe Color Wheel:

An accessory to Adobe’s other programs, the color wheel helps you out with deciding colors for your designs. It gives you a variety of color palette types, and the hexadecimal code for those colors! It’s helpful when used in conjunction with the other software here.


Sound Production



Without access to Pro Tools, audio editing can be difficult. Audacity is a free, reputable alternative to Pro Tools that, although it has a bit of a learning curve, is very versatile, and should let you cut and manipulate audio from almost any machine.



Another asset in sound generation, BFXR is a tool that allows lots of customization in the creation of sound effects. It had a great randomization system, and an easy-to-use interface! It even exports to .WAV files, which are usable in a majority of game engines.



Finally, we have Mixx, a DJ suite that provides features like looping and pitch bending! If you’re looking for things to play around with, this tool should keep you busy.


Other Projects


Hitfilm Express:

This free software is a great alternative to Adobe Premiere Pro. It has similar commands, though there are slight differences, so there’s a bit of a learning curve.



If you have access to a sewing machine, take a look at this software: it’s an open-source pattern-drafting tool! With the versatility of making your own patterns, this should open up a lot of options for your sewing ambitions.



If you’re getting into the nitty-gritty of typography, take a look at FontForge! This is an open-source font editor that can take your visual design to the next level.


Staying creative and engaged may be a challenge as we all get through the coming months. This is especially true if you have a roadblock like not having the software you need to put your ideas into action. Hopefully, some of these options can work for you, whatever projects you have in your head!

Stay making, folks!

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Riley O'Brien
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