“The Essential Blender,” edited by Roland Hess; $45 from

Blender is one of several high-end graphics and animation programs that are available free. They are a great way for people interested in these fields to start learning at low to no cost. A copy of Blender 2.44 is packaged with the book, and you can also download it from Blender works with PCs, Macs, Linux and several other operating systems.

If you do a Web search on this topic, you will quickly find several dozen graphics programs and add-on tools available for free. If you want to see whatEssential Blender these programs are capable of, go to the producer’s Web site, where you will often find a section called “gallery” or “user showcase.” These galleries are filled with great images and are worth the visit.

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