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I want to learn a graphics tool, and I am a bit confused as to which app to learn from.
PhotoShop? Illustrator? Fireworks?
I am going to be doing web graphics like logos, image slices, maybe some banner design etc.
Any suggestions? What are the pros/cons of each app?
One elaboration here:
PhotoShop? Illustrator? Fireworks?
Photoshop, PaintShopPro, Gimp, and Fireworks are all bitmap graphics programs. This means their output is images mapped out in a pixel-by pixel grid, which is directly relevant to images used on the web. Although some of them have vectoring abilities, when rendered as an image the vectors are drawn into a bitmap layer.
Learning a vector program such as Illustrator or Freehand is an invaluable tool when designing graphics (Freehand is probably not supported any more, since it's been bought by Adobe.)
Since you said "logo," let's take a scenario: You design a logo for a customer and put it on their site. They love it so much they want to use it on their business cards, maybe even a full color brochure.
But the web resolution of 72 DPI is too low for any of these applications. Sizing it up will still look pixelated and poor. You basically have to recreate the logo at a higher resolution.
Inversely, thinking ahead, your original may already be in a higher resolution, but when reduced you lose a lot of detail in type and fine lines.
If the logo is designed in a vectored program, you just export it at the resolution you need. Vectored art is resolution independent and you just draw it on the device at the resolution you need (The "device" can be a file, as in, export as a 72 DPI jpg.) So instead of spending 3 hours on getting a quality billboard sign out of a web page logo, you spend five minutes tops.
I just had this last week with a client, she needed a version of the logo in CMYK for printing, spot colors for a 4' X 4' sign on her trailer, and another for 4" X 2" logos on caps - all from the same file without reworking any of them.
Vectored programs are invaluable if you work with Flash as well. So don't ignore these points, a little experience working with a vectored program is an invaluable resource in any designer's toolbox.
I just found out about inkscape, and I know its vector based.
Can't adobe tools do both?
Question about vector based graphics while we are on the topic, when converting the file to .gif or .jpg will the e.g. logo loose its crispness during the conversion of file formats?
You could even create entire web pages with it but I'd strongly suggest not doing that, what I do use these features for is creating sliced images and the code to go along with it, great time saver.
Downside is that if for example you wanted to send a vector image to someone else they need a Ulead program to open them. If everything stays in house you're all set. I use a lot of their video editing applications so this actually works as an advantage for me becuase they all accept this proprietary format.
when converting the file to .gif or .jpg will the e.g. logo loose its crispness during the conversion of file formats?
That really depends on the file format and the content of the images and the settings. Fro the web you really only have 3 choices, .jpg, .gif or .png.
Pro: Great compression which you can adjust. Very useful for photo type images that require a large color pallette. e.g. regular photos from a camera.
con: Produces artifacts around crisp edges and in solid blocks of color. This gets worse as the compression goes up.
Pro: Great for images with a lot of solid color or and/or text. It will preserve the edges of text perfectly such as if you took a screenshot of this page. Smaller file size that .jpg for such images too. Can also be animated and have transparent areas.
Con: Small color palette, won't reproduce photo type images as well as .jpg. In addition to the loss in quality it will also requires much larger file sizes for images with a lot of detail
Pro: .png pretty much has the best of both worlds.
Con: Poor browser support for some types of .png's, probably most notoriously ones using alpha channel for transparency as IE6 doesn't support it. This would probably be a pretty. Now that IE7 supports alpha transparency will probably see much more wide use of this format.
Overall I stick with .jpg and .gif, I use .gif wherever I can or where appropriate.
Adobe products aren't necessarily "The Best" but instead the "The Only" in the professional world. Not trying to start a comparison war here either, they may very well be the best too but you really have no choice if you want to work with graphics in a professional setting. You can't send a vector image created in Photoimpact to most people because they simply don't have the software to open it, on the other hand you can get just as good results for final formats like .jpg. Other benefits of Adobe is a vast array of plug-ins available. But you pay through the nose for all these benefits.
Having said that even the worst graphics program in the world in the hands of someone that is skilled is better tha the best in the hands of someone unskilled. You really need a array of programs, i use many things. Even some of my video applications if it fits the needs of what I'm trying to create.
But vector graphics are not easy things to control and the learning curve is steep even to do the most basic of tasks. Photoshop is not easy to master, but you can definitely get going with bitmap programs much quicker.
I've dabbled with most of the Photoshop competitors, but I don't think any of them can match Photoshop for features and the way it implements its features. But yes, you do pay a lot for it.
Photoshop and Illustrator are the best tools for designing especially for websites.
But, for web graphics it is always better to opt for CorelDraw as the logo's can be scaled to a bigger or smaller size without affecting the quality of the image. Hope you will choose the apt application !