Build Your Own Linux Based Graphics Workstation

Workstation. It’s a term in the IT industry that either gets you very excited because of the sheer performance of such systems due to the hardware associated with a workstation. Or on the other hand, the term may scare the hell out of you because workstations usually cost many thousands of dollars.

More so than an everyday desktop system designed for checking your email. Workstations are specially designed and built systems set for a specific task. The graphics and animation industry is a prime example of what workstations are used for. And that’s what we’re going to do today in this article. I’m going to show you that you can put together a Linux based workstation designed for graphics based tasks that can easily rival that of commercial workstation systems.

Recommended hardware extras

Dual LCD displays

Software requirements

  1. GIMP
  2. Inkscape
  3. Dia
  4. Blender
  5. Abiword
  6. Gnumeric

Operating system: Ubuntu 10.04.4 LTS

I’ve chosen to recommend Ubuntu 10.04.4 for our graphics workstation primarily for the fact that it has great support right through to 2015 as it is a long term support release. And also, because it still uses to Gnome 2.x base for the graphical interface. Which is a very capable graphical interface. And especially suited to the tasks required by running graphical software on a workstation. Probably more-so than Unity or Gnome 3.

All the software below should be in the default Ubuntu repositories. So no extra tweaks or modifications are necessary other than the installation of the mentioned packages. Which can all be installed with one easy command:

 sudo apt-get install gimp inkscape dia blender abiword gnumeric

 Or if you wish, you can install each package individually.


GIMP is an absolute essential piece of software for anyone interested in image editing or design. With a large variety of functions to suit amateurs and enthusiasts right through to professionals. it features awesome file support too. GIMP is the first piece of software that you need to be installing.

– Inkscape

The complement GIMP, you need Inkscape. Inkscape is a vector image designer and editor. And regarding its functions, it is the closet software on Linux that you’ll find to CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator. Inkscape is similar to GIMP in a sense that it does take some getting used to. Especially for users migrating over from standard commercial Windows applications. But once you get used to Inkscape, you’ll soon realize that it does everything required, plus more if you really get involved, to very professional standards.

– Dia

Dia is a neat little package that differentiates itself from both GIMP and Inkscape. Dia is designed for diagram and layout creation. Dia is very

 simple to use yet so powerful, at the same time. Once you’ve used Dia for the design and layout of your projects, you’ll never use another package again. Definitely one of my favorites!

– Blender

Blender is an awesome package to say the least. And out of all the packages on the workstation, Blender is easily the most powerful, yet demanding of them all. It is powerful in a sense that it can easily compete with any commercial grade 3D creation software, which usually costs many thousands of dollars alone, on top of the cost of the workstation hardware and system itself.

The Extras: Abiword and Gnumeric

The last two packages really are not necessary for your workstation, but may come in handy. And almost an essential for any modern system, regardless of its primary purpose. Abiword for word processing and Gnumeric to handle your spreadsheet requirements.

Once you add Abiword and Gnumeric, your workstation is ready. So go and get creative and enjoy the awesome benefits and raw processing power of what can be done on a Linux based workstation and potentially saving you thousands of dollars in the process.

  • rishidev

    very important and interesting read

  • Carl Friend

    Kdenlive, Digikam, 

  • Jvin248

    look up avlinux, ubuntustudio, artistx live cd’s.

  • guest

    There are finally some fully usable drafting (CAD) programs available that run well on Linux. They are not open-source, but they do make it possible, finally, to use Linux professionally as a CAD platform. (Bricscad and Draftsight).

  • RW

    And why exactly is it you cannot do graphics work with unity?

  • Gary

    Ubuntu 10.04.4 LTS is supported on the desktop until 2013. Otherwise, great article!

  • Dean Howell

    If there were an LTS release with Unity (which there is not yet), he would probably have chosen it.