Here is a list of software that I have used over the years. Everything in the list is free, open source software.
Art of Illusion is a complete package. It’s a modeling, texturing, and animation suite. It’s one of those programs that you can’t believe is free. AOI was first created in 1999 and development continues strong to this day. The best part about AOI is its interface. It has a very simple, well organized UI that makes learning very easy. There are great tutorials on the website for beginners, and it has one of the most friendly forums out there. I strongly recommend AOI to anyone interested in 3D modeling. Another fantastic feature is the procedural editor. It is hands down my favourite part of the software. You can build textures and materials from the ground up by connecting modules together. It’s difficult to explain, but has limitless application.
You know about the GIMP already. It’s a very powerful image editing tool very similar to Photoshop. One of the best tools for making textures. It has a great “Make Seamless” feature. I don’t really know when development started, but it was a long time ago. The GIMP was one of the pioneers of the open source world. It features layers, plugins and community of users that ensure the GIMP will be around for a long time.
A feature-rich vector editing program. There is very little that Inkscape can’t do. Although, recently the developers have been adding weird, new features instead of fixing bugs. For example, there is a tool that connects two objects with a line. You can create other objects and tell the line to avoid them. You end up with a line that snakes around a bunch of object, while still connecting the two original objects. I have never found a use for that. It’s a neat feature that goes unused. It’s as if the developers are running out of ideas, yet Inkscape can only export files to PNGs. No other format is supported. Whatever, it’s still an amazing piece of software.
While it’s not open source, it is free and mind bogglingly awesome. It’s a photo-realistic landscape generator. Terragen has limited capabilities on it’s own, as you can’t add trees or foliage. BUT, it creates magnificent heightmap images. You can export, or take a screen capture of the heightmap and use it in AOI. This is what I did for my ‘The New World v2’ image. The other great use for Terragen is for creating background scenery. You can render the landscape from multiple directions and stitch them together to create a panoramic background for 3D scenes. You can use HDRShop 2.0 to create the panorama.
A polygonal-based 3D modeller. It has a bizarre, yet intuitive interface. It’s fast, lightweight, and can export to OBJ files. AOI loves OBJ files.
An open source tree modeling tool. You don’t model the trees as much as alter their parameters, but the results are pretty good. The easiest way to make a tree, is to open one of it’s sample trees, and change some numbers around. It doesn’t give you total control, but it’s small and user friendly.
A tree modeller with way more options than Arbaro. It lets you completely customize a tree. You can alter everything down to the texture and mesh-shape of the leaves. It also allows you to adjust the density of the final mesh. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post this here, but the POV-Tree website disappeared a while back, and the program is very hard to find. POV-Tree.
Now here is a bizarre program. Teddy is 3D sketching tool. You use simple mouse gestures to create shapes and extrude them. At first glance it seems very juvenile, but the power of Teddy lies in it’s ability to create things that seem organic or rough in some way. It creates models that seem to be made out of clay. I used Teddy to create the staff it this scene.