dark fiction review

Free Tool for Independent Creators | Episode 11 | Independent Art Series

Welcome to the last episode for Independent Art Series, Free Tool!

Since Cottonseeds issue 3 is at the tedious stage of putting all images together in one digital file, I really don’t have anything to say about Cottonseeds, for now.

I’m also working with a Canadian company for my book, The Ash Garden. I don’t have firm info yet, but I can tell you there will be Crowdfunding. When I have more definite info, I’ll let everyone know.

For Episode 11, I’ve decided to talk about a few free tools that I personally recommend for any independent creator online who’s on a shoestring budget as I am. Actually, I have a budget of zero, but I’ll save the starving artist rant for another post.

Jump to:


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Free Tool for Writing

I highly recommend OpenOffice for writing. It’s open source software, a free download, and a small program that packs a punch. Writer, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, database, and support for many different file formats. Not to mention, a really nice export to PDF.

I’ve used OpenOffice since 2002. I’ve seen the good and the bad updates. I can’t recall exactly when, but roughly about 10 years ago, between updates, OpenOffice had the worst bug. The program froze and you lost all your work. Gone. Forever.

It was a bit traumatic at the time and, unfortunately, OpenOffice gained a bad reputation as a result.

With the next update, all bugs in OpenOffice were fixed and new features are now included such as auto-save and save earlier versions.

What I like the best about OpenOffice, especially Writer, is the many different language dictionaries. I can switch from Canadian English to American English or UK English. I would say the accuracy is about 99%, which I’ve yet to see in any other spell checking software.

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Free Tool for Ebook Management

My number one choice is Calibre, open source ebook management software. Whether you’re a reader or a writer putting an ebook together, Calibre has what you need. There is a learning curve involved, but once you get the hang of Calibre, everything is easy. Calibre is like a digital library where you can edit books as per your needs.

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Ebook Creation

All you need for ebook creation is well-structured headings and a PDF. Add your well-structured PDF to Calibre, convert to Epub ( you have to convert to Epub first), edit book, save as whatever formats you want. Calibre has wizards to help you every step of the way.

On a side note, I recently had a huge problem creating ebooks for The Vault because it’s been a while since I’ve used Calibre, and I had to relearn. You don’t have to insert a Table of Contents in OpenOffice. Headings in a PDF will be automatically imported in Calibre, and let the wizard do the rest. Lesson learned.

Free Tool for Web Images

This may shock you, but this is what I recommend.

Windows Paint.

Have you survived the shock yet? Good.

The internet changed a lot in more recent years. You can no longer trick search engines with SEO and it’s rapidly become all about content. Personally, I applaud this evolution. The internet did become overripe with spammy sites that had no content, but showed up in search engines anyway, based on the SEO. Sad, but true.

Another big change is responsive design. It’s not enough to have an eye-catching banner with a standard web page width of 720 pixels. Yes, I’ve been on the internet for that long and remember those banners like yesterday.

The key here is the resolution. High resolution = bigger size that covers the web page. Low-resolution = smaller image size, best for icons or small logos. Simple math.

High-resolution does not mean better quality on a website. All it means is huge file sizes, your website will take that much longer to load, and responsiveness will be harder to auto-calculate. You don’t see all the blips and cog turns that happens with a responsive website. All you’ll see is failure to load.

This is where Windows Paint comes in handy. Windows Paint produces the smallest file sizes. Many times I find there’s no need for big photos with high resolutions. I used nothing but screenshots of my working files for Cottonseeds 3 in the Independent Art Series, then resized them in Windows Paint.

I didn’t need anything else to communicate in images on my blog. If I used gigantic Photoshop images, they’d take forever to load, and my view count would dwindle to zero.

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Art Lesson

However, I must stress that Windows Paint and similar free programs, are not a substitute for professional art creation.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a free tool for professional art creation. If you want professional art quality, you’ll need two things: an investment and a lot of disk space.

Find the art tool that’s right for you and your budget.

There are two main art digital software. Pixel based programs such as Photoshop. Or, vector based programs like Illustrator. Pixel based is for imaging, and vector based is for drawing or illustrations.

Personally, I create everything in Photoshop, because that works for me.

Independence is all about solving problems with creativity.

Thanks so much for reading!

All Episodes in the Independent Art Series:


Note: Cottonseeds has been removed from the website and will be uploaded again when the whole story is complete.