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Graphic Design Software for Beginners

| On 02, Apr 2012

Buying Guide

Graphic design has come a long way from pencil and paper. With the help of a good computer and a nice graphic design program, artists of all skill levels are able to create high-quality projects. This graphic design software comparison guide for beginners showcases some of the best software available on the market with the hobbyist or amateur designer in mind. Compare graphic design software to find out which one suits you best.

Where Do I Begin?

Before jumping head-first into the ocean of graphic design, you’ll need to know a few things to make sure you can at least tread water. Do you know what a raster or vector graphic is? Do you know what tools you’ll use or need for your projects? Are you planning to work in animation, 3D modeling, or just want to manipulate photos? Before making a decision on what program you’ll need based on advertisements and flashy-looking boxes, knowing where you want to go in graphic design will make your choosing that much easier. Read on for some information our research team dug-up regarding basic graphic design principles and the types of software the pros use.

Specialized Graphic Design Software

Many graphic designers need specialized tools for their projects. Software manufacturers understand this need and have made programs catering to specific branches of graphic design: from 3D modeling, to cartoon animation, to big screen movie effects. These programs often times sacrifice broadly used tools in exchange for unique, in-depth ones created solely for said project. What’s also nice about these programs is since they don’t try to bombard you with a bunch of tools and features you won’t necessarily use, they are often more economical on your wallet.
Vector vs Raster

Many software titles throw around words like vector or raster. To a beginner, this is meaningless jargon. You may be asking, “What is a vector image or a raster image?” or “What is the difference between vector and raster?” Well, depending on what you plan to design graphically, choosing one over the other is a vital decision and knowing what each can or cannot do is a must. To help you make the correct choice for your graphic design needs, we thought we’d give you a quick synopsis on each.

Raster graphics, also known as bitmaps, use a grid of pixels to form the image. As such, these bitmaps are static, or resolution dependent. Here lies the main difference between raster and vector; raster images work great at their native resolution, but if you were to zoom in on a section of the image, you’ll begin to notice the pixelation or “boxiness” of the shapes. The image begins to look fuzzy since the individual pixels are now enlarged and cover multiple pixels. Due to this, the program must guess to fill in the required larger space. If you’ve ever enlarged a camera photo and the printout looks pixelated, this is why.

Vector graphics, on the other hand, do not rely on pixel grids but instead use geometrical primitives, such as points, lines and curves to create the image through the use of mathematical equations. So, instead of modifying the image’s pixels themselves when resizing, a vector simply modifies the formula used to calculate the location and size of the shapes in the image. This allows vector images to be resolution independent (see fig. 1). The image can be resized to fit any device’s specifications without a loss of quality.

Vector images aren’t without their limits, however. When dealing with complex or highly detailed images, such as a photo of a landscape or a person, you are dealing with specific pixels and as such would use a raster editor to manipulate the scene (see fig. 2). Air brushing is an example of using a raster tool, whereas creating a resolution independent font for a website would be better done with a vector tool.

(Raster vs. Vector Comparison)raster-vs-vector

(Vectors don’t perform well with real photographs)raster-vs-vector-ex-2

Charting Your Course of Action

We’ve compiled a graphic design software chart outlining the capabilities of some of the most common, entry-level programs. And if you don’t quite know the field you wish to pursue, we’ve included a few multi-function programs which will give you a taste in various specializations.

Graphic Design Software Comparison Chart

Adobe IIlustrator CS6>
CorelDraw X6
Corel Painter 12
Adobe Photoshop CS6
Sketchbook Pro 6
Photoshop Lightroom 4
Photo Effects
2D Editing
Vector Capable Software
Raster Capable Software
Specialized Programs
Web Effects
Audio Effects
Video Effects
3D Editing
Animations

Basic Standard Advanced

Ultimately, as we stated earlier, before choosing the software, you need to know the type of image editing/creating you plan to do: Raster for realistic images; vector for simpler, but resizable images. Or perhaps you plan to do 3D modeling or cartoon animation? Most of the entry-level programs focus on only one type of graphic editing or will provide a very basic set of broad tools for multi-tasking. If you want the ability to do various projects, then you’ll want to consider getting a graphic design suite to give you the most options. The bonus of the suites is by bundling several products, you’ll end up saving big.

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