Media & Techniques

3 Powerful, Free Programs to Use in Your Art Room

3 Powerful Apps Title

I clearly remember a bit of advice my principal gave me at my first teaching job. It was, “I’ll never cut any classes that are using technology.” I immediately adopted technology not only as an advocacy tool but also as a logical pedagogical stance.

At that time, technology was quickly becoming commonplace in my students’ lives. Keep in mind, this was back in 2005. Now, the expectation that all teachers use and teach technology is even higher. Thank goodness it’s also easier.

Despite how much has changed over the past ten years, much has stayed the same. Putting top-notch software into the hands of art students can be incredibly expensive. Licensing agreements and platform issues can also cause problems.

But art teachers don’t need to feel hindered by their budgets. There are some powerful, free apps out there. Use them with your tech classes like graphic design or digital photography, but keep in mind, they’re great for introductory classes too.



GIMP is a free image manipulation program that emulates Adobe Photoshop. It can be installed on almost any platform and has regular updates and improvements. It’s now available as a cloud-based app on Chromebooks, which is great because you can use it without downloading any software. However, be aware that this feature is new and they are still working out some kinks. While I’ve used SumoPaint in the past, I’m looking forward to exploring GIMP with my students this year.

Find it here:

2. Inkscape

Inkscape has filled a void in the category of useful, free vector-based programs. (Vector images can change size without becoming pixelated, while raster images cannot.) Like GIMP, Inkscape is totally free. If you’re using GIMP in place of Photoshop, use Inkscape in place of Illustrator. All you have to do is download and install it and your students are good to go! It too was recently released as a cloud-based app on Chromebooks. The same warning pertains. The feature is new, so proceed with caution.

Find it here:

3. Blender


I’m looking to take my Technology in Art classes to the next level this year. I’m especially excited to have my students try their hand at 3D modeling and animation with Blender. Blender is powerful. One reason is that it’s totally open source. Other programs may claim to be free but only allow you very basic options. If you want the good content, you have to pay. This isn’t the case with Blender, which makes it a perfect program for the art room.

With Blender, students can realistically sculpt and render 3D objects for virtual spaces or to export designs to 3D printers. They can also make quick prototypes and avatars, rig and animate original characters, edit videos, and create original video games. The sky’s the limit with this program. It’s kind of a head-scratcher that it’s free! If money is no object, maybe your school already has Rhino3D or Autodesk’s Maya. But, for the rest of us, Blender is a great choice.

Find it here:

So, the next time you are looking for tech programs to use in your classroom, check out these free options. They may end up saving your budget.

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Have you ever felt limited by your budget or your school’s technology infrastructure?

What free programs do you use in your room?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Andrew McCormick

Andrew McCormick, a STEAM, PBL, and tech integration specialist, is a former AOEU Writer and middle school art educator.

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