There are two types of tools for creating computer graphics: image editors and illustrators. For small businesses, image (photo) editors will suffice for many projects. In Part 1 in this continuing series on the best desktop publishing tools, we'll look at the top image editing programs.
Choosing the Best Graphic Design Software
In professional desktop publishing environments, an illustration program and an image editor are the primary tools of designers. However, if you're running a small business and your desktop publishing projects run the gamut from brochures and flyers to postcards and pamphlets, an illustration program is largely overkill. An image or photo editing program can handle any of the graphics you want to include in these types of projects.
In this article, we'll provide a brief look at the top two image editing programs: Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X3. There are many others photo editors on the market, of course, and it would be remiss not to give a big nod to the free GIMP image editor (read a GIMP review by Dan McGoldrick) and an honorable mention to Corel's Photo-Paint X4, though it is not available to purchase as a standalone product (it is part of the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite). But bottom line, Photoshop has always lead the way in this category, while Corel has continued to make improvements to Paint Shop that make it a worthy competitor (not to mention its significant price difference).
There is a second version of CS4, called the Extended version, but most small businesses won't need its additional capabilities. Photoshop CS4 definitely tips the budget scales at almost $700 for a brand-new box ($199 to upgrade), but let's face it - it is the premier photo editor, and the number one choice of graphic designers. If you have the money to spend, you won't be disappointed. CS4's unrivaled feature set is what draws in the pros, but all those features come at a cost (and we're not just talking the price tag). Learning and mastering Photoshop is time consuming. The good news here is that tutorials on using the software abound on the Web, including many posted on our Desktop Publishing channel (here's a sample about printing spot color separations in Photoshop).
Paint Shop Pro Photo X3
While Paint Shop can't match Photoshop in a feature to feature comparison, it wins points in user-friendliness. Paint Shop has always been an easy program to master. But ease of use aside, Paint Shop offers the features you'll most likely need to use in a small business environment: red-eye reduction, color correction, filters, special effects, and advanced editing tools, to name a few. Add Paint Shop Pro's low price tag (around $80) and you have an inexpensive program that rivals the program the pros use.
Get Photoshop if you have the money in your budget. You'll never lack for features to learn and play with. If budget issues are a concern, Paint Shop Pro is an easy, inexpensive alternative with the bells and whistles you will need.
Best Desktop Publishing Tools
The best desktop publishing programs are not always the right tools for particular tasks. So how do you get what you need? In this series, we'll take the best tools to task so you can choose programs that best fit your needs, broken down in categories such as page layout, graphics, and more.
- Top Page Layout Software for Small Businesses
- Top Page Layout Software for Professionals
- Top Page Layout Software for Home Publishers
- Top Graphics Software for Image Editing and Design
- Top Graphics Software for Page Layout