Commercial Art With Libre Software

by Raghavendra Kamath at Swatantra 2017


Hello Everyone, My name is Raghavendra Kamath, I am a commercial artist and an open source enthusiast, I have done graphic design and illustration for some of the renowned ad agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, Grey Worldwide, Leo Burnett and enterprises such as Unilever, Cadbury, Axis bank etc in India. Today I am going to talk about producing commercial art with libre software.

What is Commercial Art?

Commercial art unlike fine art is creating art for others or creating art which communicates the ideas of an individual or an entity to a larger audience. Whereas Fine art serves the purpose of satisfying one's own creative urges. Creating for somebody else, conveying their vision & message to others by speaking through their voice and identity, has its own set of challenges. As art is subjective, It requires a great amount of patience, ability to guess what our clients have in their mind or how people may perceive a color, font or a drawing in the message, the process is hard which involves tight deadline, many iterations, lengthy discussions, reworks and feedback such as “Hey my wife thinks that this color is too blue can we make it less blue”, “Can you make the logo a bit bigger” etc.

What an artist wants?

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So amidst these challenges, the artists like me who work in this field want tools that enable us to find the message that clients want easily without adding more complexity to our process. While our skills matter more than the tool, good tools help us in making the process more enjoyable and creative. We need tools which aid and help us by increasing our efficiency by adapting to our workflow and not make us change our existing workflow based on the behavior of the tool itself.

And what does the client want?

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From my experience, the only thing that matters to the client is the result. Art directors or clients won’t ask you how you achieved the result, what software you used or what steps you used to create the art, They just want their message to be clear and how they wanted it. The process doesn’t matter for them. This makes things easier for artists, they can choose whatever tool that they want to create the art. So using libre software to create commercial art is easier now.

Things are different now!

Earlier when computers got introduced in art space, creative tools in libre software world were not popular or were not easy to use. But this is not true now, thanks to the hard work of free software developers and involvement of artists themselves, they are more robust, powerful, easy to use and are on par or above in terms of feature set they provide than their proprietary counterparts. These features are often built in consultation with artists from the industry.

My Own Libre Creative Suite!

libre creative suite

Bonus tools!

How does libre software help?


Libre Software is great for a freelance artist where the entire process is handled by one artist what about the collaborative aspect of art? This question arises often in my discussion with fellow artists. I believe that art collaboration should be without restrictions, it should not have rules or limits. So the tools shouldn’t matter and if they matter they should be readily available for both parties easily. Libre software fits the bill well. One example of collaboration is pepper and carrot by my friend David Revoy. Many contributors help him in the translation of the comic. They are not required to buy or purchase anything, they help him by using Inkscape which is free to use and readily available. It is also an example of the future of creative process in collaboration.

While collaborating with other people in the industry I found that most of the libre software that I need is able to open proprietary formats that people send me and export to those formats as well or at least to a standard format that can be opened by anyone in their proprietary software. This makes working with other people in the industry a breeze.


So to conclude my talk, I would say that libre software has given a great robust and free platform for commercial artists like illustrators, type designers, graphic designers etc to express themselves and to collaborate with each other. Be it in the field fine art or commercial art, libre creative solutions are really helping the artist to earn their bread and butter. In turn, these artists then collaborate with the developers by donating and contributing back, this is a classic example of how free software ecosystem should work.It’s not just geeks and nerds now artists are joining the libre side too. It is just a beginning, and I believe we as artists also have the responsibility to spread this awareness to other artists and I must say we are passionately doing this already. Limitations and problems are only in our minds all it takes is some effort with an open mind and a fresh perspective.

Feedback & Questions

If you have any questions and feedback regarding this talk, please mail me at