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What Is The Best Graphic Art Software?

Graphic Art SoftwareWhen you set out to create your webpage, graphics will play a large part in the overall design. When we think of web graphics, we tend to imagine the larger pictures, like photos of people or illustrations. But, images are all over web pages. Primary examples include navigation bars, separator lines, logos, header graphics, eBook covers, guarantee seals, boxes, bullets, buttons, icons, backgrounds, advertisements, links and more. If you are designing a new web site, you will have image creation or editing jobs that require some variety of graphics software to accomplish.

Even if you are using web templates to build your site, you will still need to customize some of the graphics. The template logo will need to be changed to your logo, some of the images will need to be edited to remove that generic “canned” feel that many templates can have, and you will likely need to change some of the navigation images to match the actual navigation scheme of your web site. To get the job done, you will need graphics software.

When choosing graphic art software, you have to consider what you will be doing with it. Will it be for retouching photos, designing web 2.0 graphic boxes, drawing logos, general web design or something else? Most of the high quality graphics software available is capable of performing these tasks. What needs to be considered are cost and your primary image editing tasks. For example, while Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard graphics software, you may not need to shell out for it if you don’t need all of its vast capabilities.

There is a wide range of graphic art software available – some good, some not so good, some expensive and worth it, some inexpensive and a great value. We have reviewed many of the graphics programs out there and determined the best graphic art software for a series of common categories. We looked at feature set vs. price, learning curve and ease of use, support communities and available educational materials, and the availability of free plug-ins, scripts, templates, styles, macros and objects to make your user experience better and increase your efficiency.

The graphics software titles below represent what we believe to be the best image editor software available.

The Best Graphic Art Software For Professional Web Designers

Adobe Photoshop CS5
Adobe Photoshop CS5
Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard in photo editing and image editing software. Many templates and web graphics packages come with editable .psd files – these are Photoshop files. If you are a graphic designer, professional web designer, or often need to edit .psd files, Photoshop is the tool you need.

Pros: Photoshop allows you to retouch photos like a professional (including digital photos in RAW format), create stunning website graphics and download action scripts to automate common tasks (like creating reflections or eBook covers). There are numerous books on learning Photoshop along with a large, lively and helpful community, not to mention hundreds of free downloadable action scripts, textures, templates, etc. to make your work easier and faster.

Cons: Photoshop is the most expensive of the mainstream graphics software packages. However, if this is the tool you need, Photoshop is definitely worth every penny. The learning curve is somewhat steep – it is not a “sit down and go” program. Thankfully, there are some excellent free tutorials on the web that help you get up and running quickly for common tasks.

Bottom Line: Adobe Photoshop is powerful, versatile and widely supported. For those who are budget conscious, there are other less expensive tools you can use if you don’t need all of Photoshop’s Power. If this is the tool you need, you will be amazed at what it can do – it does not disappoint.

Click here to get your copy of Adobe Photoshop CS5

Adobe Photoshop CS5 In A Day
Want to learn Photoshop? Open Photoshop for the first time and it’s intimidating. Manuals can be confusing and full of messy instructions and jargon. Photoshop In A Day avoids all this and makes the learning of Photoshop a pleasure.

Start Immediately: Photoshop In A Day is a way to learn Photoshop fast. It has been specially designed to make the learning process as easy as possible. Complete beginners can start working on real tasks in Photoshop within minutes. The layout and style are simple and easy-to-follow. The numbered step-by-step instructions are clear and precise and make for easy progress.

Save Time: Descriptions are jargon-free and the clarity of the tutorials in this quick-learning system will save you time. After the basics, Photoshop In A Day moves on to an intermediate level then to an advanced level. Users can progress in the shortest possible time. Every user of Photoshop will find new knowledge, new information and new tips and tricks.

Avoid confusion: Learning is without all the effort and confusion of normal manuals. You won’t get bogged down in a mass of instructions all at once. One topic is focused on at a time and the tutorials are small and specific. Information is in small manageable sections and divided into individual practical subjects.

Improve creativity: Creativity will increase as you gain more command over new techniques. Create images you could never do before. Old photos can be re-used and rescued. Develop them for sale on the net to make extra money from newly created images. You will be able to learn every feature in Photoshop, even the little-used features which can be so useful. This way you can get the most out of this large program.

The Best Graphic Art Software For General Web Design & Internet Marketers

Adobe Fireworks CS5
Adobe Fireworks CS5
Adobe Fireworks has to be the most underrated graphics software on the market. It doesn’t get much publicity because it’s often overshadowed by its older brother, Photoshop. But don’t count Fireworks out yet. This is a powerhouse graphics editor with a myriad of features. But what pushes it to the top of the heap for general web design is its ease of use.

Pros: Adobe Fireworks is very easy to use. Every shape and image is its own object that can be edited independently. This makes designing graphics for the web easy enough for newbies and powerful enough for experienced designers. Add to that a huge selection of textures and predefined styles, a vibrant community, tons of downloadable action scripts (like reflections and 3D rotation) and tutorials, image effects (like shadow, glow, emboss and sharpen), text effects, the ability to export your design directly to CSS, and the ability to create dynamic web effects (like rollover image swaps) and you have a clear winner.

Cons: We wish there were more built-in artistic effects like its bigger brother Photoshop. But that’s not such a big deal because for web design, you probably won’t use half of them anyway and what you do want, you can download for free from the community. We also wish it was a little less expensive – then again, for all the great stuff it can do (and how easy it is to do it!) it’s a great deal at half the price of Photoshop.

Bottom Line: If you need graphics software that is easy to use and powerful enough to make professional looking web graphics, Adobe Fireworks is your graphics software. It’s great for the web designer that needs to produce professional web pages without getting bogged down by the artwork. Fireworks can handle the truly artistic with ease, but the real beauty is in the speed at which you can create really nice graphics – that’s why we use it and recommend it!

Click here to get your copy of Adobe Fireworks CS5

Adobe Fireworks CS5 Classroom in a Book
Want to learn Fireworks? The Adobe Fireworks CS5 Classroom in a Book is the best learn Fireworks book in print. It’s like having the Adobe Creative Team right there with you, guiding you through each lesson while you work at your own pace.

This self-paced guide to Adobe Fireworks CS5 is ideal for beginning users who want to learn key Fireworks concepts and techniques, while readers who already have some experience with Fireworks can use this book to learn Fireworks CS5’s more advanced features and newest tools.

Using step-by-step, project-based lessons, each chapter walks readers through the creation of a specific project, with successive chapters building on the reader’s growing knowledge of the program.

With Fireworks CS5, users can interface seamlessly with other Adobe Creative Suite applications to design and mockup basic Web pages or interfaces for rich Internet applications. Demo a design live for a client, or export the design as an interactive PDF and email it to them. Fireworks sports a new user interface, shared in common with other applications in Creative Suite 5. Export complete Web page designs as web standards-compliant CSS-based layouts, or as PDF files.

The Best Graphic Art Software For Designers on a Budget

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 6Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 6
Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 6 is excellent – and affordable – graphic art software. It allows you to design professional web graphics from smart buttons to eye catching Flash animations. If you’re looking for drawing software then Designer is a perfect solution for everything from simple logos to astonishingly detailed illustrations.

Pros: Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 6 has all of the creative tools you need to design awesome web graphics (transparency, live effects, drawing tools and photo editing – including Adobe Photoshop plug-in support). It easily handles Photoshop .psd files with layer support and provides a host of other graphics editing features. What’s even better is that you get all of this functionality in an easy to use and very inexpensive package. This is a really great value whether you are on a budget or not.

Cons: At this price point, we can’t think of many. This software can do much of what its two more expensive counterparts above can do. Granted, it doesn’t do as much as Photoshop or Fireworks, but for the price you would be hard pressed to find graphics software that’s a better value.

Bottom Line: With an average learning curve, a robust feature set and an astoundingly low price for its capabilities, this latest offering from Xara is impressive. If you are a web designer or Internet marketer that needs graphics editing software to get the job done professionally without breaking the bank, Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 6 is the graphic art software for you.

Click here to get your copy of Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 6

Xara Xtreme 5: The Official Guide

Want to learn Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 6? With Xara Xtreme 5: The Official Guide, (yes, it’s still a valuable resource to learn Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 6) you can learn the principles of vector drawing as you learn technique, composition, and other art essentials–then apply your skills to creating websites, animations, logos, photographic retouches, and more.

Xara Xtreme 5: The Official Guide shows you how to customize the software, use QuickShapes, draw vector paths, use fills for photorealistic effects, and compose professional desktop publishing documents.

This hands-on resource brings you from concept to completion with examples that span a range of art styles–using the vector drawing program that thinks it’s a bitmap editor. With these tutorials that apply to Xara Xtreme, Xtreme Pro, and Magix Xtreme Photo & Graphic Designer, you will learn how to:

  • Work with vector paths that look like paint strokes
  • Tag colors to dramatically change complex drawings in seconds
  • Build multi-page, graphically rich websites in a few hours
  • Convert bitmap web graphics to resizable vector shapes
  • Design artwork in minutes that looks like it took days
  • Create and export original Flash animations for the web in no time
  • Create 3D text and apply special effects to imported photos and vector shapes
  • Invisibly retouch photographs with feathering, fractal fills, multi-step gradients, and transparencies

But don’t just take our word for it… check out this video!

The Best Free Graphics Software

Open source software has come a long way from the days of junky shareware. The GIMP graphics software package is a perfect example. This image editing and creation program is plenty powerful. It has so many features that mirror those of Photoshop and other high-end graphics editing programs, you might just forget it’s free.

Pros: GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) provides a full suite of painting tools, very high quality gradient and anti-aliasing capabilities, layer and channel support, masking, numerous plug-ins freely available, transformation tools, image effects and filters, gif animation and Photoshop .psd file support.

Cons: While GIMP is stable and powerful, its development is still dependent on the community. While that community is dedicated and very user accessible, you just don’t get the extensive set of features that you do with the paid software. I’m sure in time this software will pose a real threat to the graphics software big boys, but it’s not there yet. Also, we wish it was a little easier to use.

Bottom Line: If you are a graphics editor with image editing software experience, GIMP is a fantastic tool. For those who are interested in web design graphics or are simply unable to purchase a graphics program, GIMP does give you the tools to create professional web graphics and retouch photos nicely. However, if you are able to purchase graphics software, we recommend one of the titles above.

Click here to get your free copy of Gimp

Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional, Second Edition

Want to learn GIMP 2.x? With Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional, you can learn GIMP with ease. From first installation to advanced image manipulation techniques, Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional, Second Edition explains how anyone can utilize GIMP: a free, open source image manipulation program. You will learn how to install GIMP on Windows, Linux, and MacOS X platforms. Once you’ve installed the application, you’ll learn about the interface and configuration options, and then jump into a quick and simple project to familiarize yourself.

With four–color graphics and screenshots throughout, you’ll learn how to prepare camera images for display on web pages—including processes like rescaling, cropping, and balancing color. Utilizing layers, paths, and masks are also covered in extensive detail. Of course, you will also learn how to draw lines and shapes; utilize patterns and gradients; and even create your own brushes, patterns, and gradients.

GIMP expert and author Akkana Peck teaches you how to touch up digital photographs, smudging away blemishes, fixing red–eye, and stitching panoramic images. You’ll learn how to tap into the powerful filters, effects, and plug–ins that are available for GIMP and automate tasks using scripts. The entire book is approached in a project–based manner, and as you progress, numerous projects will help strengthen your newly acquired abilities. This book will help you learn how to:

  • Install GIMP on Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX
  • Explore the interface and configuration options
  • Prepare your camera images for use on the Web, including rescaling, cropping, and balancing color
  • Learn basic techniques such as drawing lines and shapes, utilizing patterns, and making use of gradients
  • Master advanced techniques such as layers, paths, and masks
  • Create your own brushes, patterns, and gradients
  • Discover tricks for fixing blemishes, removing redeye, and stitching together panoramic images



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