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Pixelmodo Review - Create stunning graphics (in under 120 secs)

Bitmaps / Vector Graphics

Image files can be either scalable vector graphics or bitmaps, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages.

Bitmap Images

A bitmap is an image which is made up of tiny squares of colour. The arrangement of these tiny coloured squares produce the effect of an image. This is a good method of reproducing 'continuous tone' images, such as photographs.

The amount of detail that can be seen in a picture depends on the resolution of the image; how many times per inch these squares or pixels occur. 300 times per inch is what is needed for good quality reproduction on a commercial printing press, and 72 pixels per inch for monitor display.

Bitmaps have two disadvantages. In terms of the amount of digital storage, bitmaps are memory intensive, and the higher the resolution, the larger the file size.

The other disadvantage with bitmaps is when an image is enlarged, the individual coloured squares become visible and the illusion of a smooth image is lost to the viewer. This 'pixelation' makes the image look coarse.

Vector Images

Scalable vector graphics are very different from bitmaps. Vectors describe the shape of an object as a series of points connected by curved or straight lines, represented as a mathematical formula. These lines may have a thickness or stroke assigned to them, and the object they create can be filled with colour.

The advantages of using vector graphics are; a small file size and the ability to scale the image to any size without loss of quality; see the image above. They are ideal for PixelModo Review, as they can be printed very small on business cards or printed large on a billboard poster.

Vector graphics, however, cannot reproduce 'continuous tone' photographic images like bitmaps.

Vector images are mathematically defined based on geometric characteristics. Basically, vector images are described by geometric primitives which describe lines, points, polygons, and curves which can be attributed with shades and colors. They are very different from raster images which are grids of pixels.

First, let’s look at the advantages:

o   Vector images usually require less disk space as compared to bitmap. They are formed mostly by simple gradients or flat colors since they don’t require too much disk space. Hence, they are preferred over other images.

o   They don’t lose quality when you scale them. They can be scaled indefinitely. When it comes to matrix images, after a point, the pixels are visible. The quality of vectors is much more.

o   They can be modified and saved easily. The process is quite simple. All changes can be managed without much difficulty. Even for modified files, the resultant files don’t occupy too much space.

o   The process for creating them is pretty simple too. They make use of simple drawings to get complex vectors too. User-friendly, simple programs like Macromedia Freehand, Adobe Illustrator, and Corel Draw can be used for this.

Now, the disadvantages:

o   They aren’t too suitable for encoding videos or pictures from the real world. They do support mixed compositions, though.

o   The data used for describing them needs to be processed by powerful machines. If the volume of data is high, it slows down image rendering even if the files are small in size.

o   One more disadvantage is that even the smallest of errors in the drawings are visible when you enlarge images to an extent. These incidents can affect image quality, especially when used in animation.

Despite these disadvantages, vectors have a number of applications and are implemented in architecture, computer graphics, engineering, and many other fields. This is why they are still so popular.

Yes it is perfectly acceptable. Make sure you follow the licensing agreement but otherwise have at it.

Think of it this way, Helvetica, one of the most used fonts in the world wasn't designed by any of the current designers that use it. Max Miedinger, the designer, passed away in 1980. Most fonts in fact are designed by someone else, but still we use them. Good designers will use them under their approved licensing agreements. Additional: Vector Graphics Monster Review. So why should you think any different about someone else's photography or illustration work? Does a producer of a film not hire actors, source soundtracks, and all sorts of other things?

Some specialize in one or even two things. Few in more then that. If anything I would say it is great that you acknowledge what your strength is (composition) and what your weakness is (illustration).

Now this gets a little tricky. I'm not sure if its word choice or what you're actually wanting to do. Selling a design is different from selling your design services. If someone hires you to design a wedding card, you use licensed content to complete it, then its much easier. If you're intention is designing say a calendar to sell at bulk on a website then thats a different type of license. Both are worth investigating just be aware of it. It usually comes down to use and quantity of run.

If this is your intent (selling the design) then:
Nobody can tell you if you should do this or not. In some ways its a business decision. Start with one or two SKUs (products), keep track of what the entire cost was when you factor in licensed goods, add on your hourly fee, your equipment costs, and some amount of profit. Then see if it sells. Adjust pricing and go from there.

In general the more you can do on your own the more profitable you can be. Just like an electrician. If you're a low level electrician that has to pay someone to do the AC (high voltage) stuff then you're going to lose out part of the profit. If you get certified to do the AC yourself then its one less subcontractor you need to hire. Design is no different. The more of the production line you can do the more cost control you have.

A couple of points that I would add to Ryan's excellent summary:

There's nothing to prevent you from designing and selling items that consist entirely of typography, layout and color in a kick-ass composition. Not only does this immediately play to your strengths, you'll find that this kind of self-imposed "limitation" can kick your creative juices to an entirely new level. We thrive, oddly, on restrictions. A blank canvas, blank check and "do anything you want" design brief is the stuff of nightmares. (Well, okay, not the blank check part.)

Embrace your limitations and use them as a springboard. One of the doyens of modern graphic design, Paula Scher, is famous for her imaginative use of typography-as-illustration, typography as art. She tells the story that she got started down that path because she was hopeless with Letraset rub-down letters. They kept breaking on her, and she'd get the spacing wrong or they would warp out of shape to her intense frustration. Her design teacher suggested she just draw letter shapes instead (she can draw!).

Given the licensing, there's also nothing to prevent you from using stock pieces in your designs. My recommendations would be:

·       Avoid obviously popular items, particularly photographs. You don't want to have the hero image on your card-for-sale also appear on 30-odd random websites for your potential customers to come upon by accident. That's way more likely to happen if you choose something marked "Smokin' Hot" on the stock website.

·       Use parts, not the whole, and/or manipulate the heck out of them. Make small things huge and huge things small. Crop violently -- rather than a whole elephant, use just one foot or an eye. By the time you've finished recoloring, cropping, resizing, distressing and otherwise massaging a stock item into your unique design, you've created something new and original that the casual buying public (and even other designers) won't recognize contains stock art. Sites like iStockPhoto have pages of examples of otherwise-ordinary stock photos being turned into high-impact design elements.

You're going to develop your own style as a matter of course. It's an inevitable consequence of doing what you love and doing it again and again and again. You might as well take off in a unique direction right from the start.

Come back and let us know where we can buy your stuff... :)

I realize this question was posted a while ago, but it resonated with me and I wanted to respond with some insight.

I am also a self-taught graphic designer, and I remember how confusing all of this was for me. It was difficult for me to decide which skills I should be honing, and which ones should fall to the wayside.

Several years of professional experience later, I will say it's always a bit of an open question. My short answer would be that you do not need illustration skills to be considered even one of the top graphic designers in the world.

Longer answer: It totally depends on where you want to work and what kind of designer you want to be. Think about the fact that you do not need to be a professional photographer to be a graphic designer, even though photography is often the most prominent part of a commercial design.

However, it is really good to know how to use Illustrator fairly intricately. It's good to know how to work with lines and vectors and curves and geometry. Likewise, it's good to know about photography and lighting. Both of these things will allow you to step it up, especially in smaller-budget companies who can appreciate you stepping in to do run and direct small photo shoots.

Most designers eventually want to become art directors, and art directors are good at sourcing talent. So, you should be able to understand the basics of what makes an illustrator right for a project, or what makes a photographer a good match. What kind of lighting and setting should the photos be captured in? What style illustrations would work well with the client's brand?

I know that in my current job, I am not expected to be able to create great illustrations, and I could probably convince my company to purchase icons as opposed to making them myself. But I like that I can make the icons myself. It saves my company time and it's a fun relief from designing grid layouts.

I would say to just keep working on your layout, color, and type skills. Those are the things that will ALWAYS be expected of a professional designer. And in your spare time (even while at work) you should work on illustrating and understanding photography. For your next endeavor, why not try finding a photograph of say, a typewriter or a flower on Google images, pasting it into illustrator, and then tracing it? Try out the pen tool, the pencil tool, the brush. Edit your lines to be what you want them to be. I am not a born illustrator, but I can trace photos and then play around enough for it to become my own professional work.

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