I use GIMP for my 2d images. It is like Photoshop but free. Once you get into 3d look up Blender, it too is free.
I compile on Windows 7 64. Using Java 64. I don't use an IDE. I use Notepad++ and a self made bat file for compiling, signing, and compressing of java applets mainly cause I cannot figure out how to compile and figure out how to run my apps using Eclipse or NetBeans.