A graphic is an image created to illustrate or entertain. Graphics also combine words, illustration, photos and color. Examples can be a photo, logo, map, chart, symbol, and diagram.

Color Model

When creating images on the computer, you have to select a color range. A color range tells certain computers taking your image how to display the colors you choose in a design. The two mainstream color ranges is RGB and CMYK:

  • RGB, which stands for red, green, and blue, is used to display color on scanners, digital cameras, and computer monitors. In addition, desktop, digital, and other printers usually print RGB images without problem. In most day-to-day personal, academic, and business applications, RGB is typically used because it’s the most common color range in the digital space.
  • CMYK, which stands for cyan (blue-green), magenta, yellow, and black, is used in commercial offset, four-color printing. When your end product is going to be printed in this manner, graphics must be created as (or converted from RGB to) CMYK images.


Pixels per inch (ppi) refers to the number of pixels on a linear inch of an image when the image is viewed on a monitor. A pixel is the smallest piece of information in an image. The more pixels per inch, the higher the resolution. An image with a higher resolution will look sharper. Dots per inch (dpi) refers to the number of dots on a linear inch of a printed image. Dots are the smallest piece of information that printers use. The more dots per square inch, the higher the resolution and the sharper the image. A dpi measurement is used only for printed images.

Make Sure the Resolution Is Correct for Your Project

The higher the resolution, the sharper the graphic will be. The lower the resolution, the more likely your image will appear fuzzy, jagged, and blurry. Two identical graphics can be the same size but look different if they have different resolutions.

  • For web (on-screen) graphics, the standard is 72 ppi.
  • For print design, resolution needs to be 300 dpi when the image is the actual size of the print.

There are exceptions to these rules of thumb, but if you keep these basic rules in mind when you create graphics, you won’t be too far off.

File Size

File size is the amount of space your graphic takes up on your computer. Most graphics fall within the size range of kilobyte (also written KB or just K) and megabyte (MB or MEG or just M). The file size of a graphic depends on two elements:

  • Graphic dimension when viewed at 100% on the screen. Two examples:
    • A friend sends you a photo that is 4 inches wide by 6 inches tall.
    • The YouTube logo on the YouTube site is about 1 inch tall by 1.5 inches wide.
  • Graphic resolution: the number of dots/pixels per inch.

The larger the dimensions of the graphic and the higher the resolution, the bigger the file size will be. File size is important, especially since more and more graphics are being used on websites. Graphics with big file sizes take more space on your computer and take longer to load on your web page for visitors to view. However, reducing file size too much can affect the quality of a graphic. Balancing Quality and Transfer Speed As you create and prepare graphics to be used, it’s important that you balance quality (determined by resolution) and transfer speed (determined by file size). Much of this balance comes from understanding how the graphic will be used. Here are some general rules of thumb:

  • Graphics published on a website or sent via email typically have smaller dimensions and have a resolution of 72 dpi. This combination usually results in a file size that transfers quickly.
  • Graphics you intend to keep on your desktop, share with friends via a thumb drive or other media, and/or print on a desktop printer should be 150 dpi. Base the dimensions of the graphic on the size that suits your project best (for example, chart, report cover, and so on). In this case, quality is more important than transfer speed, since sharing is less widespread than on a web page.
  • Graphics you are having professionally produced by a commercial press or digital printing provider should be 300 dpi. Again, base dimensions of the graphic on the size that suits your project best (newsletter image, poster image, and so on). In this case, quality is most important because you’re investing money in a printing process, requiring graphics with very high resolutions for the best outcome. Additionally, transfer speed is less important because the files can be delivered on a flash drive or via FTP over the Internet.

The following are some examples of graphics that balance quality and speed based on how they are used.

Graphic File Formats

Once a graphic is created in a software application, you select a format to save it in. Most software applications will automatically save a graphic as an application file (for example, if you’re using Adobe Photoshop, it will save the graphic as “.psd”—a Photoshop file). This is fine if you’re not ready to use the file on the screen or print it out. However, when you’re ready to use the graphic, you’ll have to save the graphic in—that is, convert it into—a format that is supported by your end-use application. A file format is simply a way to compress and transport the data that makes up the graphic. There are more than 100 graphic file formats. They differ in two ways:

  • How they compress the data, which gets very technical very fast.
  • Which applications are able to “use” the format. For example, web browser graphics are mostly JPEG, PNG, and GIF. Browsers cannot read most other file formats unless you first install additional plug-ins:

Encapsulated PostScript (.eps)
Usually created using software specifically made for designing graphics, such as Adobe Illustrator. Allows for enlarging images without loss of clarity. Ideal for print publishing use; not used on websites.
Computer-generated graphics for print: Graphic designers output their design as an EPS file so that it can be printed clearly no matter what the size—from keychain to billboard.
Tagged Image File Format (.tiff, .tif)
Usually created from a digital scan using a flatbed scanner or some other digital scanning device. Ideal for print publishing use; not used on websites.
Scanned images/photos: Images and photos that exist only in hard copy are scanned into a digital format as a TIFF. The image can then be converted to another format.
Graphics Interchange Format (.gif, .gfa) Used for graphics, but not photos, on web pages. Best viewed on-screen; not meant for print publishing.
Graphics for the web: Web designers output, or convert, a graphic to GIF to use it on a website and display it on-screen.
Joint Photographic Experts Group (.jpg, .jpeg, .jpe)
Used for graphics, including photos, on web pages. A very common format for photos taken from a digital still camera.Best viewed on-screen; not meant for print publishing.
Photos for the web: Web designers output, or convert, a photograph to JPEG to use it on a website and display it on-screen.
Portable Network Graphics (.png)
Used for graphics, but not photos, on web pages. An alternative to GIF and TIFF that provides some technical compression advantages. Best viewed on-screen; not meant for print publishing.
Logos for the web: Web designers output, or convert, a logo to PNG to use it on a website and display it on-screen.

Freeware and Open Source Software

These applications are free and available on the web. Before downloading, be sure to read carefully the rights and responsibilities associated with each application. Here are a few of the more popular ones:

  • Paint.NET is an open source graphics program for Windows. Paint.NET has evolved from a replacement for the Microsoft Paint program (included with Windows) into a more powerful graphic tool, often used as an alternative to the costly Adobe Photoshop.
  • Adobe Photoshop Express is a free, web-based photo editor that allows you to crop, rotate, tweak, correct, and share photos on the following sites: Photoshop Express, Flickr, and Facebook.
  • (IrfanView is a free graphics editor for Windows workstations.

Getting Started

Smart designers do some planning before they begin creating a graphic. They consider the following:

  • How will the graphic be used? Will it be used beyond this one time? Graphics to be viewed on-screen via the Internet, printed in a Microsoft Word document, or printed in a high-end marketing brochure have different requirements (in terms of color, resolution, file size, and file format, as described earlier). In general, it is best to create a graphic in a large resolution and size. Then, when you’re ready to use it, you can downsize a copy of the graphic, matching resolution and dimensions to meet your specific need. If you take a small graphic and enlarge it, you’ll get a blurry result both on-screen and in print.
  • Which software application should I use? What tools do I have? Which would be the best to create the highest-quality graphic? While most operating systems include some basic tool to create or edit graphics, using a more robust, professional one will result in a better, clearer, cleaner image.
  • How will I distribute or transfer the graphic? Graphic files can very quickly eat up memory and disk space. Large graphic files are hard to share with others, can slow your computer processing speed, and eat up network bandwidth. It is important to balance the need to create a high-resolution, quality image with the amount of space such an image uses—especially if you plan to use the graphic anywhere else but the computer you create it on.

Reading: Desktop Publishing Basics

Desktop publishing (also known as DTP) combines inexpensive personal computer and page layout software to create a document. This document can then be sent to a commercial printer for millions of copies or to the office printer for 10. Additionally, you can save the document as a PDF file and electronically send it to others without ever touching a piece of paper.

Desktop Publishing Software

Let’s begin by understanding the difference between word processing tools and desktop publishing tools.
A word processor (WP), such as the popular Microsoft Word, is a computer software application used to compose, edit, format, and print (usually to a desktop printer) any kind of document. Examples include memos, letters, and school reports. Although they provide basic page formatting and allow some graphic creation and insertion, word processors focus on manipulation of text. Because WP tools are designed around a single element (text), trying to create a WP document with complicated graphics and formatting gets to be frustrating and rarely turns out looking professional. However, because WPs are used in a variety of fields, most people are familiar with how they work. A desktop publishing tool is a computer software application that focuses on layout—that is, how a number of elements, such as text, graphics, photos, and other visuals, are positioned on a page or in a given space. To enable us to manipulate a variety of assets (text, photos, graphics, and so on), DTP tools treat each asset as a “layer.” A designer moves layers around the page to position them and indicates which layer should appear “in front” of another.
DTP tools require a fair amount of training and practice. People who specialize in the areas of graphic and web design typically use these tools, such as QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher, and the free Scribus.
The term desktop publishing is commonly used to describe page layout skills. However, uses for DTP skills and software are not limited to books or even to paper. The same skills and software are used to create flyers, billboards, and T-shirts as well as online graphics used across the web.

Desktop Publishing Basics

1. Consider the final product first. In DTP, you must “start with the end in mind.” That is, you have to know exactly how your final file will be used so that you can set up the file appropriately before you begin laying out the document. Specifically, you need to know the following:

  • Size. Before you open your application, you need to know what the final size of your document should be. If it is going to be printed, are you creating a single letter-size document? Or a multipage newsletter? If your layout is for the web, you’ll need to know the exact pixel width and height.
  • Printer. If it will be printed, how will it be printed (large commercial printer or your desktop printer)? This is important to consider so that you don’t have to redesign your page later, which is time-consuming and frustrating. Knowing the printer, you’ll be able to determine the color model, image resolution, and other elements to ensure your design comes out the way you expect.

2. Set guidelines and styles. Professional desktop publishers define some general guidelines for their document, which include the following:

  • Margins. Well-designed documents don’t run images or text right up to the very edge. They leave an even space, or margin, around each edge. Margins vary depending on the size of the document but usually range from a quarter-inch to an inch. As a general rule, the larger the size of the layout, the larger the margin around its edges.
  • Columns. For some documents, you may also want to set up columns to guide your layout. For example, most newsletters have at least two columns, which make it easier on the reader to view large amounts of text.
  • Color palette. To create an attractive and well-organized visual document, designers usually limit the colors they use for text and graphics. Defining a specific palette of three to five colors before you begin speeds design as you lay out the document.
  • Text styles. To create a unified look, you’ll want to select one style (font, size, color, and so on) for headlines, another for body text, and so on. These visual cues help readers follow your document.

3. Collect your components. Next, you want to collect the components (also called assets) you’ll use in your layout. This includes images such as logos, photos, maps, and so on. It also includes the text you’ll use for headlines and body text. 4. Create the layout. Layout is the process of adding each component to the page in a precise and aesthetic way. Some DTP applications give you the option to use a template that has a professionally designed look and feel to it with places for you to “drop in” your image and text assets. These can be a quick and painless way to produce a newsletter or web page. A more customized approach is to place each item using your own sense of design. Many designers follow these conventional notions of layout, or composition:

  • Line: The visual path that enables the eye to move within the piece
  • Shape: Areas defined by edges within the piece, whether geometric or organic
  • Value: The lightness and darkness throughout the piece, characterized by tint, tone, and shade
  • Texture: Surface qualities, which translate into tactile illusions
  • Color: Hues with their various values and intensities
  • Direction: Visual routes, which take vertical, horizontal, or diagonal paths
  • Size: The relative dimensions and proportions of images or shapes to one another
  • Perspective: Expression of depth showing foreground, middle ground, and background

5. Prepare the final file. There can be a number of steps involved in preparing your final file. This step greatly depends on how your final layout will be used. Professional commercial printers will need other files in addition to your DTP file, such as fonts used and possibly original source photo images. Fortunately, most DTPs have a process to make prepping the file relatively easy.

Uses of Multimedia

Computers have given us many ways to share information and experiences. Unlike older styles of communication, which usually reach people through just one medium, multimedia is quickly becoming the standard. Multimedia means using different kinds of media, such as text, images, audio, and/or video, to communicate or express ideas.
Think about places where you may have seen multimedia in use. Many websites use audio, video, or animation to go along with text. The PowerPoint presentations you have seen in this course are also a kind of multimedia, using images and text together.
Interactive multimedia lets viewers or users input data. A virtual reality computer game is an example of interactive multimedia.

Uses of Multimedia

You’ve already thought about several places where multimedia is used, but there are more uses for it than you think. Almost all areas of communication now use some multimedia features.
Businesses use multimedia in lots of ways. Presentations, internal communications, and employee training are often delivered using multimedia these days. Businesses also like to use multimedia when communicating with the public, especially online. Websites and online ads often include audio or video.
There are also lots of educational uses for multimedia content. From encyclopedias to textbooks, many traditionally text-based educational tools have begun to use multimedia. Where a print edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica had entries that were only text and sometimes a picture, the online version often has video and audio to go along with the words and pictures. Multimedia also allows teaching tools to involve many of the senses at once—for example, a flight simulator can incorporate video and audio, and a computer-based language learning program can show images and play sound to teach vocabulary.
The entertainment industry has also benefited from the rise of multimedia. Multimedia is used in everything from special effects to video games. As technology continues to develop, interactive virtual reality games will become more common.

Creating and Viewing Multimedia

Multimedia presentations can be made on almost any computer; all you need is the right software. Serious multimedia work requires several software and hardware components. A sound card is needed to play high-quality audio, but computers can also take inputs from several external audio devices for high-quality recording and playback.
You can create video using a digital video camera and then upload the footage to your computer using its FireWire port. Other media can be created directly on a computer using tools such as Flash and HTML5, which you can use to create animation or games. Online ad creators often use Flash and HTML5 to liven up the feel of a dry ad or to make an ad somewhat interactive.
There are many different software programs designed to play back multimedia content. Chances are that any computer you’ve used has had some combination of Windows Media Player, QuickTime, or RealPlayer installed. Each player is capable of handling several different kinds of multimedia files, but each one also has a special file type associated with it. As you create multimedia files, think about what kind of audience you want to view them. It may be best to use a generic file type such as MPEG-4 or use more than one special file type, such as MOV for QuickTime or RAM for RealPlayer.

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