Graphic image – a picture, drawing, graph, drawing, diagram, or diagram, created using points, lines, spots, and strokes. If earlier such things were created on paper with pencils and paints, today the main tool is a computer.
There are raster and vector graphics. They differ in the principles of imaging and serve different purposes. Read more about the different processing tools in our material.
What is graphics
Graphics in the visual arts is a style of creating drawings that use lines, hatching, and shadow spots of different tones. The use of color is also possible, but it appears here only as an auxiliary addition. While a painter always has a whole palette of colors at his disposal, a graphic artist can create both a flat and three-dimensional graphic image with just a pencil or ink of one color.
In ancient Greek, “grafo” means “to write, draw, scratch.” Hence the name “graphics.” However, this is still a broader concept than just calligraphy in its purest form.
The definition of graphics in comparison with painting is more conditional. Objects in picturesque paintings are concise and capacious. But in the schedule, masters can work in very different ways. Somewhere you can see the precision of the details, but somewhere the viewer sees only a hint instead of a clear idea and gets the opportunity to think out everything the author has left unsaid.
In general, in contemporary art, painting, and graphics are closely intertwined and sometimes inseparable. Pop art and op art are more graphic trends, and watercolor is average.
The graphic picture displays any data that has been numerically identified and processed. Here the task is to convey in an easy and understandable form the existing relationship of numbers to visual perception.
Types of graphic images are classified according to two main features: the method of creation and functional purpose.
In turn, according to the method of creating graphic images, there are drawing and printed ones. However, the modern division, formed under the influence of the rapid development (at the end of the 20th-beginning of the 21st century) of computer and information technologies, looks a little wider. Currently, the following types of graphic images are distinguished:
- Drawing graphics. That is, unique, implying the creation of a single copy of the image.
- Printed graphics. This is when an artist draws a sample and then they print as many copies as they like (as printing power allows) of it.
- Computer Graphics. There is no longer a need for printed media; no number can make copies, but only if this is not a violation of someone’s copyright protected by law.
Even at the end of the 19th century, drawing was considered only a preliminary sketch or sketch for creating a painting; it was not considered a subject of graphic art. And only in the XX century this term began to be called hand-drawn illustrations or caricatures. Later, computer graphics was also designated as a separate variety.
There are two options for pictures. The first is photorealistic, with millions of color shades. The latter tend to maintain their quality with multiple increases or decreases, furthermore about this.
Raster graphic image
A raster is a large number of small dots that act as elements of a graphic image. On a computer, rasters are pixels.
A photograph taken with a smartphone or digital camera comprises dots-pixels. It’s just that they are not noticeable on the screen, but with a strong increase, they become distinguishable.
Raster graphics can differ in two main ways, namely size and color depth of the picture.
- The dimensions of the bitmap graphic. The more pixels fit horizontally and vertically in an image, the better it retains its quality when enlarged, and the clearer fine details can be displayed on it. To do this, manufacturers of smartphones and cameras are striving to produce devices with more and more pixels.
- Color depth refers to the number of shades that a camera can distinguish. For example, if there are 16 of them, this is a 16-bit camera (2 to the 4th power is 16).
Where is raster graphics mostly used? Creating photos and images that are deep in color and contain many fine details. Photos are a raster, and hand-drawn drawings are too. In general, if you see nature, people, waterfalls, forests, and all that in the picture, these are raster images in the vast majority of cases.
The process of computer processing of a raster is quite simple: the program “hammers” the required number of pixels and then fills them with certain colors. Actions and calculations here are completely simple; they are only repeated many times, which is a familiar task for a computer.
- You can create a complex, color-rich image with many small elements.
- Today, a raster is the most common type of graphic image.
- Raster graphics use familiar and well-known mechanisms, so it is relatively easy to work with them.
- A bitmap graphic image is large and therefore takes up a lot of memory. To store or send it requires quite a lot of space.
- When scaling, there will always be losses. Converting the size of a raster graphic image will entail a deterioration in the quality of the picture (as a result of interpolation).
Vector graphic image
Pixels are not used in vector graphics; mathematical formulas are used here. The constituent elements of vector graphics are:
- Simple and complex curves.
To create each of the elements, its parameters are set:
- the size;
- the thickness of all lines;
- the thickness of contour lines;
- contour line color;
- degree of transparency;
- the radius of curvature, etc.
Let, for example, you want to make a picture of the starry sky. Then you need to give the computer a set of the following commands:
- Create an empty field.
- Make a dark blue gradient fill from top to bottom, from the darkest to the lightest shade.
- Set a white point with coordinates 10.8, size 0.5, and opacity 100%.
- Set a white point with coordinates 14.9, size 0.4, and opacity 100%.
- Set a white point with coordinates 19.31, size 1.1, and opacity 100%.
- By the same principle, add another 120 points-stars.
There is no binding to the size of the whole picture; these formulas are suitable for drawing a phone screensaver and a huge billboard 4×6 meters. What is characteristic, when you enlarge the image, the quality does not deteriorate. Just set the computer to the desired picture size, and the program, observing the necessary proportions, produces the result.
- Vector graphics do not contain much information, so they take up a small amount of memory.
- Any changes in the size of the picture do not affect its quality; that is, vector graphics scale well.
- To create a vector drawing, calculations are required, and the more complex the image, the more powerful computing power is required.
- It is only sometimes possible to display what was conceived with the help of vector graphics. It makes no sense to use this technology if the drawing needs to be made quite complex in composition and color shades (you will have to build too many points and curves, and the process will be unreasonably painstaking).
- You need additional knowledge to work with vector graphics because it uses a not-quite-familiar approach to creating images.
The most common areas of vector graphics applications are any materials for advertising, icons, and pictograms. The main value of such images is that they retain their quality when resized.
Five free graphic vector editors
With these programs, you can draw and edit various scalable graphics, such as logos, interfaces, and more.
Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux systems.
Gravit Designer (formerly called Gravit) is a full-featured editor for designing interfaces, icons, illustrated and animated presentations, and more.
The interface is manageable, intuitive, and supplemented with personal settings. The Gravit Designer toolkit allows you to create a wide variety of highly detailed vector images. For example, for Boolean operations, there are so-called non-destructive functions (with the ability to cancel the performed operations). Plus, there is a powerful engine for working with texts, filling, and blending options (with different modes). There are tools, “Knife,” “Graph of paths.”
And thanks to integration with the Gravit Cloud cloud service, you can open your working project from anywhere, at any time, and from any device.
Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux systems.
There is a wealth of functionality for creating vector graphics, plus a bunch of fonts, filters, and options for overlaying shadows. All this is quite enough for a designer in his daily work. There are valuable co-editing and synchronization options, which allow several specialists, even in different locations, to work on the same project simultaneously.
SVG-Edit is one of the best online editors for editing simple SVG files. In terms of its capabilities, it is not inferior to Adobe Illustrator.
All the basic tools for creating vector graphics are there, but SVG is the only supported format for this program.
Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux systems.
There is alpha blending, object cloning, markers, and other tools that other similar editors cannot offer.
The program is in demand both in printing and web design due to the ability to work with various color models. The interface is simple but, moreover, sufficient for the implementation of complex solutions.
A valuable feature of this editor is the availability of tools for converting raster graphic images into vector ones, creating an outline with variable width, and working with files like Illustrator.
Compatible with the web platform.
Useful for both professional developers and beginners. You can open BoxySVG directly through the browser; the program is not inferior in its capabilities to desktop editors and allows you to create high-quality, scalable vector images.
The interface is easy to use, and the speed is excellent. The functionality and breadth of settings could be better than those of professional editors. However, everything you need is there: pencils, text, fonts, forms, the clone option, and much more. As for exporting ready-made images, BoxySVG provides hotkeys and all the most popular file formats for this.
Four free raster graphics editors
With their help, you can create and modify non-scalable images and photos.
Compatible with platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux.
The program is free; the code is in the public domain, from the functionality – of drawing, selection, cloning, enhancement, working with color, and much more. The interface here is different from Photoshop, but there will be no problems finding tools.
GIMP is applicable to work with the most popular image formats. Plus, there is a built-in file manager (like Bridge from Adobe).
Photo Pos Pro
Designed for Windows.
The editor is perfect for those who use Windows and do not need a wide option (like in GIMP, for example). Photo Pos Pro is “sharpened” for working with pictures; it has tools for manipulating contrast, saturation, lighting, and other complex actions.
You can easily understand the interface, and for beginners, there is an excellent section with detailed help information. In addition, a bunch of plugins and extensions allow you to expand the editor’s functionality if necessary.
Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Krita was developed in 1999, and the requests of concept artists and illustrators are constantly supplementing it. Added tools for painting, working with textures, and visual effects. Access to the program code is open.
Among the functionality – are a bunch of brushes, plus a variety of plugins (there are heaped filters, opportunities for controlling perspective, and much more).
Of the interesting – are brush stabilizers (allowing you to make blurry lines), the looping option (it creates solid patterns and textures without seams), and a pop-up palette (appears when you need to select a color).
Designed for Windows.
All versions of Windows come with Paint natively. And Paint.NET is similar in name but already a more functional and modern program for working with bitmap graphics.
Using the software is quite simple, and to avoid complicating it, the developers improve the image editing capabilities but do not particularly “click” on the graphic design options. And yet, Paint.NET can work with perspective, with pixels, the option to copy the selected area, and much more useful.
Paint.NET may act as an alternative to Photoshop. Paint.NET supports layering, selection tools, and brightness, contrast, and curve settings.
In general, both raster and vector graphics have both pros and cons. Which formats to choose – decide in each case, considering which idea you have to implement.