What are the Different Types of Image Editing Software?

G. Wiesen

There are many different image editing software programs available for use by both professionals and home computer users. Of these different programs, there are two basic but fundamentally different types of programs: vector-based and raster-based programs. Vector software uses geometry to create mathematically generated images, using lines and shapes that create sharp images perfect for illustration purposes. Raster imaging software uses pixels to allow a user to work with images in a very basic way that works well for photographs but is less effective for use in illustration. Different image editing software can be fairly simple and intended for amateur users, or very complex, expensive, and primarily designed for professional use.

Some editing software can be complex and designed for professional users.
Some editing software can be complex and designed for professional users.

Image editing software is a computer program designed and intended for use in creating or editing graphical images. These programs can be used to create digital illustrations that can resemble a number of different styles, as well as for photographic touch-ups and editing. Depending on the intended use of the software, different types of programs can be utilized to create varying results.

Image editing software may be used to manipulate drawings that have been scanned and uploaded into a computer.
Image editing software may be used to manipulate drawings that have been scanned and uploaded into a computer.

One basic type of image editing software is vector-based software that is often used to create illustrations and images for commercial use. This is because vector-based programs allow a user to create images using lines and shapes that are geometric in nature and not pixel-based. These images are very sharp and clear, even when viewed very close up or “blown up” to very large sizes. This is important for an advertising image that is going to be used on a billboard or a large poster, as the image will remain sharp and precise.

The other common type of image editing software is raster-based software, which is typically used in editing photographs and similar purposes. This type of software uses pixels or “picture elements” to create complete images that are actually composed of many tiny dots, the pixels of the image. Raster images closely resemble paintings that use pointillism, or older newsprint and dot matrix images. Since these types of programs use small points of color or value to create images, the resulting images can become blurry and pixelated once increased in size.

Both of these types of image editing software are used professionally and by amateur artists and picture manipulators. Inexpensive and simple graphics software is likely to use raster images, and this type of software is often found installed onto a computer with the basic operating system (OS). Even professional photographic editing programs can use raster images, while professional illustration programs used by graphic artists and commercial illustrators are more likely to be vector-based. Sometimes two programs will also be used on a single project, to take advantage of the various strengths of each type of software.

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Discussion Comments


Good call on vector-based software. Ever seen a logo designed by an amateur who doesn't have a full grasp of what happens to images when they're blown up to a large sized or used in print? That's right -- they'll often produce images that are look great on a computer screen but pixelize like crazy in print or blown up for use on a poster or something where a large logo is necessary.

A similar problem exists with raster-based software even in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing. Perhaps a client has asks for a logo that is to be a certain size. It will look great at that size, but the resolution could suffer when a larger size is needed.

A raster-based logo avoids those problems. It scales very, very well and that is important.

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