Draw and edit images with FireAlpaca

Create and edit images with this lightweight, free drawing tool.

FireAlpaca is a free image editing and drawing tool that can hold its own against premium packages. It includes the essentials, such as layers, multiple image capability, and flexible tools, and is nicely organized. It's not a match for Photoshop but doesn't really try to be, nor is it optimized for digital snapshots. It's well suited for freehand drawing, though, especially with a digital pen, thanks to some interesting features.

We fired up FireAlpaca and opened a stock image from our Pictures library. We performed a range of operations on it, including cutting and pasting, drawing and shading, color changes, and merging layers. We could save our image as a JPEG, PNG, Bitmap, FireAlpaca document, and Photoshop document (PSD). The ability to open and save PSD files adds significantly to FireAlpaca's capabilities. FireAlpaca's tools work well, and we like the Brush Control, Color Picker, and other tools displayed in the tools menu to the left of the main view, though some of our favorites seem to be missing, such as the smudge tool. But the pen, pencil, airbrush, eraser, selection, Magic Wand, eyedropper, hand, bucket, and other tools had familiar controls and functions. FireAlpaca worked well with our Wacom tablet, too.

We had the most fun with FireAlpaca when we opened a new, blank image and started drawing. FireAlpaca's Snap feature creates a variety of perspective overlays: Parallel, Crisscross, Vanishing Point, and Radial. You can drag these overlays around the image, zoom in and out, and make other changes. They're great for creating comics, anime, and illustrations. We applied the Radial Snap, in which lines radiate from a central point that we could resize and drag around. It created a dramatic perspective overlay we could follow as we built up an image and remove when we were done, leaving behind a dynamic, action-filled finished scene. FireAlpaca lets you draw and color your own image elements, paste in and modify other images in multiple layers, and do many of the things you usually need a pricey premium tool to handle. We'd like to see a Help file and some more tools, but we have no problem recommending it, especially as a drawing tool.

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