Gimp. A free, open-source alternative to Photoshop. GIMP can do most of the things that Photoshop does, certainly enough to create a simple rendering.

PhotoShop is the industry-standard when it comes to manipulating photographs. It has a full set of painting tools that allows one to create very effective color renderings. For students and teachers, Adobe offers an educational version for just under $300.

WYSIWYG. The name stands for "what you see is what you get." It is a lighting visualization program that allows you to see what light will do. Among its many features: you can connect to a lighting control board and use the board to control the simulations. Additionally, WYSIWYG will simulate moving lights in real-time. There is a student version available for around $300. This student license expires after one year.

AutoCad is considered the standard of the architectural and engineering worlds. There are several renditions of the base program, as well as several sets of macros available that are designed specifically for entertainment lighting. AutoCAD is much more expensive than VectorWorks, but it is also free for students and teachers to use on their own computers. Also, because of the software's use in a wide range of fields, it is more likely that students will find AutoCAD installed in university computer labs.

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