In this article, I will like to list some essential but free graphic programs. These programs should be sufficient for most graphic related works for personal usage and projects. I have used them extensively and find them indispensable.
1. Free 3D modeling and rendering programs. There are a few free 3D programs out there. The best in my opinion is Blender 3D. What is Blender 3D? It is a powerful but hard to use 3D modeling, rendering and animation program. It is comparable in functions and performance to commercial 3D applications.
2. Free graphic image editor. The best of the graphic image editors are GIMP and Paint.NET. My own preference is GIMP. However, many feel that Paint.NET is easier to use. I guess it is a matter of personal preference. Despite the funny sounding name, GIMP is very powerful. Many people have compared it to the powerful but quite expensive Photoshop.
3. Free 2D vector drawing program. The best in this category is Inkscape. About Inkscape, it is a free and open source vector graphics editor that is functionally similar to Illustrator, Freehand and CorelDraw. This program saves in the SVG format.
4. Free image browser. My favorite free image browser or graphic viewer is Irfanview. This cool software has thumbnail / preview option, File search and Print options. You can even save the images as an EXE Slideshow or for burning into a CD.
Well, these are the essential tools. In my opinion, these are very useful programs for non-designers and layman alike. In fact, I think they are powerful enough to be used in a commercial design environment.