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Graphics/Paint Software!
A good graphics package is essential if you're going to run a lot of custom images on your site. You'll frequently need to make use of their image filters or file conversion functions to manipulate or retouch your graphics, and very often you'll need to get right down to pixel level to carry out those fine touch-ups!

These days, it's possible to obtain a wide variety of graphics programs fairly easily - either over the Net or from CD ROMs (often found on the front cover of Internet and computer magazines). Even Adobe now often give away older versions of PhotoShop as add-on software with scanners.

The software we've listed here performs a variety of general graphics functions - but there's a lot more in our Resources directory, and you should shop around for something that really suits you and the way you work. Whatever you decide on, you'll need at least one all-round graphics/paint package in your toolkit if you're going to be doing a lot of web work.


Raster or Vector?

There are two principal types of graphics programs: raster (ie pixel- based) and vector (ie coordinate- based) editors.

Vector-based images are smaller and have smoother curves (which raster editors can only achieve by aliasing - that is, adding a range of shaded pixels and dithering effects to image edges to trick a viewer's eye into believing it sees smooth curves).

The main drawback to a vector-based editor, though, is that you really do need some degree of artistic talent to get the best results from them.

Raster editors, by contrast (because of their square pixel-by-pixel approach) are much kinder to those of us whose artistic talent is more limited.

All the programs listed on this page are raster editors.

Paint Shop Pro
Paint Shop Pro is widely regarded as the poor man's Adobe PhotoShop. And for our money (having used both of them), it's a much faster and more user-friendly product for non-professional users. This award-winning software will save files in nearly every major graphics format and perform a vast array of image manipulation effects out of the box. Paint Shop Pro also allows you to carry out easy file conversions from one file format to another and can make use of PhotoShop plug-ins. The older Windows 3.x shareware version of Paint Shop Pro (3.11 - still widely available) is probably the easiest program to learn web graphics on and still carries out all the fundamental tasks most webmaster need to do. From Version 4.x onwards, Jasc Software began to imitate PhotoShop's more obscure interface, and swapped over from shareware to trialware versions that lock up at the end of the evaluation period.

LView Pro
LView Pro, like Paint Shop (above) has been around for many years and has been continually enhanced since its debut. It is now a full-featured graphics package in its own right. The latest version offers an enormous range of features - and while we found LView a trifle more obscure than PSP in some areas, it also has strengths in several areas that PSP doesn't. LView integrates several specialized editors that rival or surpass the features found in other high-end products including an Image Editor, Image File Browser, Slide Show Viewer, Contact Sheet Builder, Web Gallery Builder and Image Catalog. The program runs on Windows 95/98/NT and is distributed as shareware (full registration is only $US50). Well worth your evaluation.

Impact Software
Impact Software have been distributing their products as shareware since 1988 and they have two superb 30-day programs you can download directly from their site: Microangelo98, a comprehensive Windows icon and cursor editor for Win95/98/NT 4.0 (which was nominated as the Best Shareware Utility for 1996 by Ziff-Davis and the Best Graphics application the same year at the Shareware Industry Awards); and Microangelo GIFted, a full-featured GIF animation program. Impact Software also make several very attractive windows theme and icon collections available for free download on their site, along with Almanac - the shareware time zone/calendaring program that was the firm's foundation product. If you need an icon/cursor editor that will allow you to customise your PC to the nth degree (or a fairly unique GIF animation program that takes a completely different approach to most GIF animators currently on the market), it's very hard to go past these.

Search for more graphics software in our Resources directory!

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