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Computers in Collage
A computer coupled with a digital camera, flatbed scanner, and printer is the best tool a collage artist can have. Need art 5" high to complete your design? You can print an image to exact size!
To acquire images you can use a digital camera, flatbed scanner or download public domain art. A flatbed scanner is used to scan reflected art, such as an original drawing or Dover clip art. Some flatbed scanners can also scan film negatives and slides. Most scanners use a USB 2.0 interface, a few have Firewire or IEEE 1394. You can also scan 3-D objects, just place them on the glass and scan! Many scanners include a software bundle, such as Photoshop Elements.
You might also consider a Wacom graphics tablet, for about $100 or so you can get a small tablet with software included. A tablet is a natural user interface for photo editing and a must for original drawing with a computer.
The choice of computer platform and operating system does not much matter. I primarily use Lenovo towers with an Intel i7 and Windows 10. I also use Apple Mac Mini's with OS X. Either platform is fine. I also run Linux on several systems. Linux is a happy choice for an older, slower system. Ubuntu Studio 14.04 is the version I use. It is better for more experienced users, especially the installation.
You have two main options in graphics printers: ink jet and laser. Ink jet printers output in color. You need to look for water resistant, archival pigmented ink printers. These are available from Epson and HP. Epson calls it UltraChrome K3 ink, printers start at about $400. I use an Epson9880 which can print 44" wide on paper or canvas. Dry prints can be covered front and back with acrylic medium with no problems. Make sure the print is completely dry! Ink jet printers interface with USB or an Ethernet connection.
While you can get color laser printers, black and white laser printers are more versatile for collage. The toner is pure carbon and very archival, especially when printed on rag art paper. You can then glaze color of your choice over the prints. A good letter size office printer (8.5" x 11") costs as little as $200.
Best Free Graphics Software
Adobe Photoshop is the professional software standard for editing bit-map images. I quit upgrading when Adobe went to subscription based pricing. Adobe has never been customer friendly! I do still use version 6 though.
I also use a great deal of open source software. Open Source means the actual source code used to compile the application is available. While you are probably not going to personally do that, groups of programmers worldwide do. This helps to fix bugs (errors) and enhance the software.
These download sites usually have documentation too. Look for either on-line or .PDF manuals. You can also find documentation and tutorials in commerical books, free books and video tutorials on You Tube. You are able and encouraged to pass these applications to everyone you know! Your office, employees, friends, other artists. Once again - free and legal!
Here are some free alternatives to Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. The software is mature and unless indicated available for Windows, Macintosh OS X, and Linux.for Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
There are two main types of graphics applications - bit-map and vector. Bit-map or raster grapahics use an array of pixels (picture elements). All digital cameras are bit-map devices. If enlarged to extremes you get aliasing or jagged lines, sometimes called jaggies.
Vector software uses geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes to represent images. Since vector does not suffer from jaggies. These images are often drawn with a mouse or on a graphics tablet.
Gimp is a classic open source bit-map application. It's very powerful and very complex. Download at www.gimp.org. Use the Single Windows Mode of Gimp 2.8 and it's easier to use.
Paint.Net is another easier to use bit-map editor. Highly rated. www.getpaint.net. Available for Windows only.
Dia is a fun diagram creation program. It has a wide variety of built-in symbols, scientific, business and even jig saw puzzles. www.live.gnome.org/Dia.
Inkscape is a full featured vector graphics creation program. The web site has tutorials and documentation. www.inkscape.org.
Libre Office is a full featured office suite that can read and write Microsoft and other file formats. I have been using Libre Office for several years and it's great! If includes Draw (a simple vector drawing program), Writer (a word processor), Calc (a spreadsheet), Impress (a Power Point like presentation application), and Base (a fairly complex database). I use Libre Office every day and it has never failed! Libre Office is a spin-off from Open Office, which is also available.
Download Libre Office at libreoffice.org. For all platforms.
Download Open Office at openoffice.org. For all platforms.
I have more free, open source non-graphics software listed at my ham radio website, http://n5lxi.com/open_source.html.