I have always enjoyed the Adobe Suite for both vector and bitmap graphic design. And while I continue to use this professional software suite, it often does not fit a school’s budget when trying to support a 1:1 laptop program. As such, I continue to explore less expensive (or free) programs that students can use.
In years past, the free programs of choice were Gimp (replacement for Photoshop) and Inkscape (for Illustrator). Both work sufficiently well for the needs of middle school students. Recently, however, with my school’s 1:1 Chromebook program, I needed to find a tool that worked on the web, or at least had a Chromebook extension.
Gravit Designer has both. It also provides versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. There is both a free and a pro version of the program, and the company provides reasonable education pricing upon request.
Gravit is a simplified version of Adobe Illustrator, not overwhelming but enough to meet the needs for basic graphic design. With the ability to export designs as .PDF, .SVG, .PNG and .JPG, it works well for output to digital fabrication tools like laser cutters and CNC machines, something we do often at Westside Neighborhood School.
To help my students and teachers learn Gravit, I created a few resources. The first is a Table-Top Tips handout, which I place on tables during lessons and professional development workshops so that learners can access additional information or refer back to concepts taught during the day.
Secondly, I developed a series of instructional videos, starting with basic navigation and working with primitive shapes. I move on to converting shapes to paths, using the Pen Tool, and modifying text. I plan to add more topics in the coming weeks. These videos are short and generally cover one or two concepts at a time. They are designed for the middle school mind, but I hope learners of all ages will benefit from the content.
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