red bullet all things design

10 February 2010

The Right Graphics Tools?

There are so many different graphics applications available that it can be confusing as to which one will do the job best.  Each program is designed to do a particular job well and knowing which programs to use for a project can save time, frustration and dollars.  In the name of expediency and space, I am going to concentrate on the graphics tools used to create print media and leave animation, video, web software and business applications such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint for another time.  Here is an overview of some of the various graphic design software packages and what job they are designed to do.

In order to better understand the different software, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of the various formats of graphics.  There is 2 dimension or 2D, which is basically flat art and 3 dimension or 3D which gives depth to the image.  Two dimensional art can be raster, vector or continuous tone.  Raster art is produced by working with pixels and printing with dots to create an image.  Almost everything you see that is printed is done using the raster process either with shades of black for a grayscale image or using 4-colors cyan, magenta, yellow and black dots overlaid to create full-color images.  Vector art is comprised of points, arcs, lines, shapes and fills.  Illustration, and architectural/engineering programs employ the vector process and the files are usually much smaller than an equivalent raster image. The last format of 2D art is continuous tone.  Photographs are continuous tone, but, only until they are scanned when they become raster images.  Three dimension art starts as vector models and then is rasterized into flat art or animated to video.  Obviously, there is a lot more information about each of these formats and the following sites can help you learn more:

Each graphics format has software programs designed especially for them.  If you are working on a raster image, say a digital photograph, then Adobe Photoshop is the premier image manipulation program on the market today.  This is the program used to put a head on a different body, or some of the amazing collages of images produced for ads and marketing pieces.  Click here to see some amazing examples of Photoshop art.  Photoshop has been around since 1988 and is in its 11th major release with CS4.  Adobe also has a light version of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements that has a lot of the features of full Photoshop at a fraction of the cost.  Some other image editing programs worth mentioning are GIMP, Corel's Paint Shop Pro, Google Picasa and Paint.NET.  Most of these programs are very inexpensive or free.

If you are doing logo work, or creating lines and shapes, Adobe Illustrator, considered the industry standard, is the program to use.  Illustrator has many tools to make working in vector illustration or modeling easy and efficient.  Other vector based graphics software are CorelDRAW, Corel Designer, Aviary and OmniGraffle for Macs only.  For creating vector plans and engineering designs, Autodesk’s AutoCAD reigns supreme.

To put the raster and vector art together into a cohesive graphic communication you need a page layout program.  Adobe InDesign is considered the leader in this arena.  It has all the tools to help you create everything from business cards to multipage brochures.  Some of the new features even allow you to export your brochure out to an animated electronic book complete with page turns and transitions.  Other page layout programs to consider are the former leader of the pack, QuarkXpress, Serif PagePlus, and Adobe PageMaker that is no longer being updated but still available for purchase.

You probably surmised by now that for most projects, you would most likely use two or more different graphics applications.  It would be a matter of course to need an image editor such as Photoshop to color correct and crop the images that you would then combine with text in the page layout program InDesign.  Luckily, the Adobe suite of tools work symbiotically with each other. You can be working in InDesign and select an image that needs editing and it will open in Photoshop.  You can then make any necessary changes and when you save it and close Photoshop, it will take you back to InDesign with the newly edited image updated and in place.

It is programs like these that give graphic users the tools they need to work on a multitude of various projects.   Whether you are editing your digital images or designing and creating the graphic communications business need, the proper graphic applications can help you do the job faster, easier and with much less frustration.

‘til next time, take care.


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red bulletall things design - 21 Dec 2009 - Wrapping It Up
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check this out

Here is a site with hundreds of free Photoshop tutorials for all levels of user.

Here are some more very cool images done in Photoshop.

This is a site that show examples of how 3D text in Photoshop can be used to create amazing images.


You have got to checkout this Photoshop make-over video. This is a lot cheaper than lipo!


If you have trouble visualizing great vector art, look no further. Here is a site the has amazing vector images.


37 cool movie poster and text effects Photoshop tutorials.


Here is a site that offers free brushes and textures for use in Photoshop.