Major companies make their software free for everyone


In March, both Google and Dwango announced they would free software collections by the end of the month. These industry giants decided to make their software free to use for everyone. Dwango even went one step further and is offering their award-winning animation software as open source for anyone to develop!


Nik Collection

Acquired by Google in 2012, Nik Collection has gained a lot of traction in the professional photography community. The collection comes equipped with multiple plugin tools that are time savers for any professional. Normally image-sharpening and HDR tools claims are grander than what they can offer. This isn’t true of Nik. There are multi-step processes that Photoshop purists can completed with a few clicks—and the results are really incredible.

Google’s announcement on Google+

I originally became aware of the Nik Collection at a photoshoot over a year ago. The photographer’s assistant was digitally correcting images on the fly in just a couple seconds to see if we got the shot. The results were really impressive for such little effort. I was sold.

Before (left) and after (right) testing lighting and subject with Nik Collection filters on set. Click to enlarge image.
Before (left) and after (right) testing lighting and subject with Nik Collection filters on set. Click to enlarge image. Images courtesy of Cade Martin
Final images with effects included. Images courtesy of Cade Martin
Final images with effects included. Images courtesy of Cade Martin

Nik on Affinity Photo

After I heard the announcement by Google, I came across a video showing Affinity Photo users how to load the Nik Collection natively in their software. Now I have the Nik Collection FREE and in Affinity! Life is good.

You’ll need to do one extra step to make all the plugins recognized in Affinity. When you have the preferences window open and see all the possible effects available, mark ‘allow use of unknown plugins.’ Once you do that, the entire collection will be available.



If Dwango doesn’t ring a bell for you, Studio Ghibli probably does. Toonz was the software that helped to create great films like Spirited Away. Dwango has spent decades developing software for major studio, down to hobbyists. Their recent decision will free up their software, making it open source and free for users. This resulted in a name change from Toonz to OpenToonz. Dwango is also bundling scanning and image processing/effects software as an added bonus to their users.

Toonz announcement that it's moving to open source!
Toonz announcement that it’s moving to open source!

The software is free, but larger studios will be able to purchase tech support and server integration solutions. The amount of enthusiasm in the animation/art community has been massive. I’ve never seen so many people clamoring, commenting, and trying out open source software. The amount of interest on social media is almost deafening. All of my friends who normally never use FOSS (Free & Open Source Software) have already downloaded it on their computers.

Mac is the Opentoonz ugly step-sister

I have tried Opentoonz on Mac and it’s not been a successful experience. Unlike it’s PC counterpart, the Mac version has issues with pen input and constantly crashes. Also, simple functions like quitting the program are currently unavailable. Once the kinks are worked out, which I’m sure will happen with all the community participation, this will be a pretty amazing piece of software.

Large companies starting to get it

It’s nice to see large companies confidence in offering free software and leveling the playing field for those who want to learn, while still making money. Hopefully more companies will take note of these models.

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