Tux Paint is a cross-platform drawing program created specifically
for children. Little kids as young as 3 years old have no difficulty in
finding their way around its clear and intuitive interface which
features large buttons identified by a label as well as an icon so that
the child can easily recognize them. At the center of the screen there
is a white canvas for the child to draw making use of a wide variety of
tools and paint brushes. As a start, the child can load outlined
pictures to be colored, as in a coloring-book.
The program includes all of the most common drawing tools such as
lines and brushes for free-hand drawing and coloring, geometric shapes,
sizing, an eraser, the "Redo" and "Undo" options, plus sound that plays
while painting and a special tool called "Magic" for impressive effects:
rainbow, glitter, chalk, blur, flip, and more.
Along with the Magic tool, the other popular feature among children
is "Stamp", which contains loads of pictures and clip art that can
be "stamped" on the canvas, such as plants and flowers, animals, holiday
art, planets, and much more. Many of these stamps are provided with the
program out of the box, and others are available as separate collections
to be installed. Many users contribute their own art work to be included
as stamps in the program; here we are going to see an example of
how this was done by a group of children from a school in India, thus
putting into practice the software freedom that the program guarantees.
Tux Paint is available in more than 80 languages, including minority
and right-to-left languages. Such a large number of languages is the
result of contributions made by users from all over the world.
To learn more:
Tux Paint Official Website
Who's Using It and How
Comments by home users
and stories from schools
using Tux Paint are presented in the official website. There are reports
that the program is one of the most helpful tools for children to get
acquainted with basic computer graphic skills while providing a highly
attractive environment for them. However, the distinctive feature that
makes Tux Paint preferable to similar drawing software for kids is
the fact that it is Free Software, meaning it comes with no restrictions
of any sort and the user is granted a series of freedoms. For example,
one of the freedoms is that the user is allowed to install the program
in as many work stations as needed, which is specially important for
Another significant freedom that Free Software guarantees is the
freedom to modify the program so as to adapt it to the user's needs and
to redistribute copies of the modified version. It is thanks to this
freedom that Tux Paint is available in so many languages, including
those spoken by minority groups. In fact, translations into less widely
spoken languages have been provided by the users themselves. This is so
because most of the time, companies whose business consists of
development of non-free software adopt policies on the basis of market
size: if the market is not large enough to ensure profit, they are
generally reluctant to invest on it.
Listen to a student
pronounce the name of the Appooppan Thaady flower in Malayalam.
Listen to a student
pronounce the name of the Anthoorium flower in Malayalam.
A good example of how software freedom can be applied in Tux Paint is
the work done by 11 and 12 years old students from the
school in the State of Kerala, in India. The work consisted in adding a
series of stamps to the program, from photographs taken by the students
themselves. They took pictures of autochthonous flowers and processed
the digital images with the free libre GNU Image Manipulation Program
GIMP, adding also
the name of each flower in English and in Malayalam, the local language.
As Tux Paint has a sound function, students also recorded with their own
voices the name of the flowers in Malayalam, so when one of these
flowers is chosen to be stamped onto the canvas, the user will see and
hear the name of the flower in Malayalam.
An additional useful activity done by this school by applying the
freedom to modify the program, was the translation of the Tux Paint
interface into Malayalam, the language spoken in the state of Kerala.
The freedom to modify the program is an important resource that was
used by the school to reach beyond the scope of teaching basic computer
graphical skills or entertaining children. It was used to show them
that information technology is not something to be subjected to, not
something that should be imposed upon the user, but an instrument to
serve users according to their requirements.
The freedom to install the program in all computers in the Lab was
also important, since the school has limited economical resources to
invest in licenses. By distributing copies of the original and modified
version of the program to the students, the school provided
assistance to families undergoing economic hardship.
Adding stamps to Tux Paint was an exciting and enriching experience
for the students. First, they analyzed how the program works and
discovered the mechanism that the program uses for the implementation
of stamps. Then they learned how this particular characteristic of the
program permitted the addition of stamps and how to do it. They also
acquired a deeper knowledge of GIMP during the manipulation of the
images. The whole process gave them an opportunity not only to develop
new technical abilities, but also to identify and appreciate local
flora. Most importantly, they learned that anyone, even non programmers
or children, can actually influence and improve information
technology when software freedom is granted.
Images of the Tux Paint interface in Malayalam with native flowers,
of the Appooppan Thaady and Anthoorium flowers, as well as both sound
files are courtesy of the Vocational Higher Secondary School Irimpanam
and are licensed under CC-BY-SA,
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.