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Adobe Creative Suite or Inkscape or Gimp or...
There are so many photo-editing programs out there. Which one is the best, and which one should you choose?
The most known is the Adobe Creative Suite, which comes with Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, InDesign and so on. Should you not want or need everything the Creative Suite offers, you can also buy the programs individually. The Creative Suite lives up to its name, as it allows you to edit images (Photoshop), work in vectors (Illustrator), make animations (Flash), edit PDF files (Acrobat), make websites (Dreamweaver), make posters, brochures, and the like (InDesign), and so much more. Each program is versatile, so in just learning how to use one, you can already do many things. Adobe also offers great tutorials on how to use their products. With all the features Adobe provides, what you create is only limited by your creativity and skill level.
Learning how to use the software takes time and practice and is not for the faint of heart, especially if you are trying to learn how to use all of their programs. It is particularly hard to move between Photoshop and Illustrator because of the differences in layout and thought structure behind the programs.
The software is expensive (it can go to a couple hundred dollars for the latest suite), and even with a student discount, it will leave a dent in your savings (especially if you're a student without income).
Adobe thankfully offers trial versions of their products, so you can see if you really want to spend the money on it. And if you are a UC Berkeley student, you're in luck, as you can download the newest Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe CS6, and use it FREE during your education at Berkeley!
There are programs other than Adobe. I have never used them, but there are programs like Corel and SAI. My understanding is that they are more geared toward fine arts rather than web design.
Open Source Options
To be honest, I haven't used open source options because I have always used Adobe. However, if you don't feel like you need all the whistles and bells of the Adobe Creative Suite, then open source programs have the great pro of being FREE.
Gimp is the open source equivalent of Photoshop. It lets you edit photographs and other images.
Inkscape is like Illustrator: a vector editing program.
Just because they are open source does not mean that they are inferior. Just like being a true artist means that one can make something spectacular out of any material, so it is with all image-editing and creating programs. What counts is your creativity and willingness to learn how to use the software.
What's this about a graphic tablet?
The graphic tablet's goal is to allow you to draw on the computer as you would with traditional media. It achieves this through pressure sensitivity, which means that the brush/eraser/smudge/whatever tool responds to how hard you press the pen to the tablet, and angle sensitivity, where tools responding to the angle you hold your pen to the tablet. Graphic tablets, especially nice ones, are fairly expensive, and investing in a poor quality tablet can produce more grief than its worth. However, graphic tablets are useful for fine arts. While you can produce great art with a mouse or touchpad, a graphic tablet will save a lot of time and white hairs (though you might gain some as you are trying to get used to using a tablet).
A graphic tablet isn't necessary for things like web design. For tasks such as designing a webpage, all that is needed is a mouse, or even your touchpad, which may even be more efficient. Most web design has straight, exact lines, which is easier to achieve with shapes and line tools rather than by hand.
Posted by Lydia Chang