Image Editors (pixel/bitmap-based)Also known as paint applications, this is the most popular type of graphics software. Image editors allow you to create bitmap-based images from scratch with a variety of painting tools intended to mimic natural painting tools. Almost all image editing software includes features for photo enhancement and retouching as well.
Images that are created and edited in this type of application are referred to as bitmaps because they are made up a series of pixels in a grid. The advantage to bitmapped images are that you can get a great deal of detail, as much detail as a photograph. The downside is that you will always be confined by the pixel resolution of the image.
Image editors are used to edit digital photos and scanned images (which are always bitmap-based) and for creating continous-tone and photo-realistic artwork.
These are some well-known image editing programs:
- Adobe Photoshop
- Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo
- Corel Painter
- Corel Photo-Paint
- Microsoft Paint
- Ulead PhotoImpact
Illustration Software (vector-based)Illustration software allows you to create drawings using lines and curves. These drawings are called vector illustrations. Vector illustrations can be easily edited by moving points, adjusting curves, and changing the colors of various objects.
Vector illustrations, because they consist of points and objects rather than pixels on a grid, are free from the confines of pixel resolution. Unlike bitmapped images, they will always print at the highest resolution possible, giving you printed output with smooth fills and crisp lines no matter what size you print it. However, vector graphics generally cannot contain the high level of detail as bitmapped images so they often have a cartoon-like appearance.
Illustration software is most often used to create stylized, cartoon-like images, logos, maps, and other design elements that need to be output at any size.
These are some well-known illustration programs:
- Adobe Illustrator
- Macromedia Freehand
- Serif DrawPlus
- Xara X
Object-Based Graphics SoftwareIn recent years, more and more graphics software is blending the features of both bitmap-based image editing software and vector-based illustration software. Today's graphics software uses more of an object-based way of working. In most graphics software today, your documents can contain both vector-based and pixel-based elements, and the tools provided in the software allow you to work on a pixel-editing basis or on a vector-editing basis.
For example: Photoshop, which is categorized as an image editor, has tools that allow you to create vector-based paths, shapes, and text. CorelDRAW, which is categorized as illustration software, allows you to work with bitmap-based images and perform photo enhancement functions. So why is Photoshop categorized as an image editor, but CorelDRAW as an illustration program? Here's the difference:
- Image editors are intended for outputting bitmap-based graphics.
When working with vector objects in a bitmap editing program, they only preserve their vector-like qualities as you work in that particular software, saving your files in the program's native format. Once you want to output your documents from an image editor to use in other software, you are generally limited to bitmap-based formats.
- Illustration software is intended for outputting vector-based graphics.
When working with bitmap-based objects in a vector program, the bitmaps do not become vector objects. Although you can sometimes output bitmap elements as part of a vector-based file format, these hybrid graphics then become metafiles, containing both bitmap and vector elements. In a metafile, only the vector-based portions of the file are scalable and resolution independent. Unlike bitmaps and simple vector graphics, metafiles cannot easily be converted from one program's format to another.
Fundamentals: Vector and Bitmap Images
It's almost impossible to discuss graphics software without first establishing an understanding of the differences between the two major graphic types. Get the facts about bitmap and vector images here.
Integrated Graphics Suites
These packages have image editing and illustration components combined in a single program, or suite of integrated products.
Types of Programs
This article explains the two major types of graphics programs and the types of images they create: vectors and bitmaps.
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