Web designers: what graphics software is essential?

I’m tasked with providing a front end to a Web-based software suite. It’ll be written in .NET.

They want it to look pretty, so I know I’ll need at least a basic graphics manipulation package. What I’m not sure of is what the best tools are out there - I know I need something more than MS Paint, but am not sure I need Photoshop. For what it’s worth, I know my way around Photoshop, as I use it at home to manipulate digital photos.

I know I’ll probably need to do things like create basic logos, maybe some backgrounds, probably resize graphics and/or move them around. I’m not sure if I’ll need to do photo manipulation or not.

I work for a professional software shop. We’re a start-up, which is why we don’t have any software to do this yet. Assume that getting the essential and correct tools is more important than saving a few bucks, although if there’s something that will do the job for cheap I want to hear about it.

So what do I need? Photoshop? Illustrator? Something else I’ve never heard of?

Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign (Adobe’s version of QuarkXpress), has become pretty standard in the graphic arts community. Illustrator is different enough from Photoshop that learning it can be tricky and frustrating at first, but it’s become my preferred design program. It’s especially good at smooth curves, clean lines, geometic shapes, and smooth color transitions.

I’m a web designer for an insurance company, and couldn’t do my job without Photoshop. Illustrator and Dreamweaver make my job about 100 times easier and more efficient, but they aren’t completely necessary if you’re trying to save a few bucks.

Like you, my current project is supplying a front end to a site written in .NET. Dreamweaver makes it a cinch, and I would certainly spend my money there than Illustrator if I had to choose just 1.

If money is no object, I’d go for Adobe Creative Suites and Dreamweaver.

I use Photoshop, CorelDraw and Dreamweaver. I also have Illustrator, but I don’t care much for it, so I rarely use it. If money is a factor and you don’t need to do anything ultra-fancy, you could probably get away with using Adobe Elements instead of Photoshop. It’s less costly and has the same basic features as Photoshop. I use it at home and I like it quite a bit.

So what I’m hearing is that Photoshop is pretty essential, and probably Illustrator (or CorelDraw) as well. True?

If you are looking for something that is free, you could download “Gimp”. It’s an opensource alternative to Photoshop and has everything you could need in a photo editing package.
For standard manipulation (resizing, rotating, renaming etc.) you can download Irfanview.

CorelDraw, is NOT good. Too much stuff for too little quality.

Adobes’ Suite will suit you fine.

Yes, Dreamweaver is great, but I would spend the money for Photoshop first and use FTP than spend the money on Macromedia if it’s completely necassary.

Illustrator is a vector graphic program, rarely used for web graphics. The .ai files would be converted to .gifs or .jpegs anyway so stick with Photoshop. It all depends on what kind of site your designing.

*Use Professional Photography- it’s a must.

Given the type of Web site we’re building, I doubt we’ll be using any photography. Does that change anyone’s recommendations?

FYI, this is a product designed for medium to large organizations, used for things like adminstration and viewing reports, that kind of stuff. It’s not selling anything.

However, I’m guessing we will want it to look professional, and we’ll have logos and graphics and fancy buttons and all that.

Oh, and one more thing. I have Dreamweaver, but don’t see why I’d ever use it when I’m doing ASP.NET. Is there an advantage to using it? Does it even “do” ASP controls?

Well, if you’re doing some, but not a lot, of graphic work, Photoshop may be overkill. I do some minor graphics work in relation to my company’s web site and use Paint Shop Pro. It has a lot of features, more than I use. Oddly enough, the company who made it for years, JASC, seems to have been bought out by Corel, the makers of the much-maligned Corel Draw.

I looked at Dreamweaver and it didn’t seem like it would play nice with my ASP.NET pages, so I ended up not using it. But I could be wrong. I ended up going with FrontPage and found out, rather surprisingly, that FrontPage and ASP.NET are not a good mix. At least on their own. I bought a 3rd party add on called PagePorter that helped out a great deal.

Well, for the front end, it helps me immeasurably. I don’t do the ASP controls or anything… just work in HTML and CSS and send that to the programmer. He tears it apart and inserts his controls. If you’re doing the whole she-bang, then it may not be necessary.

True, but its awesome for buttons or anything that requires long, swooping lines. I use it all the time for my web development. Photoshops vector tools are adequate at best, and usually curves/buttons look a ton better just copying and pasting from Illustrator to Photoshop than trying to make them from scratch in Photoshop. That may or may not matter in the long run, but Illustrator makes my life easier and my designs look better.

Ugh. I’ve used Paint Shop Pro before, and I hate the thing.

I used to use Corel Draw way back when… in the late 80s/early 90s. I’m guessing, though, that it hasn’t held up well.

I’m leaning towards PhotoShop.

I’m a web designer and I use photoshop. But my graphics don’t always look as pro as the ones my partner makes in Fireworks. I can never get good curves in Photoshop.

Then again I can’t seem to work Fireworks too well. Luckilly, I have my own graphic designer who does the “real” work for me.

I believe Illustrator is the same, functionality wise, as Fireworks.

Adobe graphics programs are overkill for web graphics.

Paint Shop Pro and Photo Impact will do quite nicely.

      • I just popped into this thread to point out that I could probably make due with GIMP and Skencil for web graphics–were it not for the problem of people I do work for sending me source files in Photoshop and Illustrator formats. …Also, Photoshop does do better dithering than Paint Shop Pro does. I particularly notice it when I do rasterized text at smaller sizes–the Photoshop 7 result always looks a bit better than PSP 7, even using the same fonts and image format and forcing to the same color palette. GIMP I have not used enough to comment on.
  • Also, FrontPage is to be avoided if possible; for a few reasons. First is that the pages it generates tend to have lots of orphaned tags. In particular, if you have a Word doc and import it as a FrontPage HTML page–and then perform a lot of editing on it in Frontpage. What FrontPage tends to do with heavy editing is leave single tags (of a pair) “stranded” in the code. It works in IE because IE has a lot of error-handling code for just this sort of thing–but alternate browsers don’t. My regular HTML editor is Adobe GoLive and it displays erroneous tags as visible rose text in the regular edit view; there are always a few in any big FrontPage HTML file. FrontPage 2002 doesn’t seem to have any mode that displays this but in the Adobe software it is easy and obvious. …There used to be a Win2K/Office plugin that would export a Word doc as “light HTML” that removed all the Word formatting automatically. This helped FP’s orphan-tag problem but did not totally prevent it.

  • I could also never figure out how to get FrontPage(2002) to delete unneeded files on the remote server. So I had to use FileZilla for that afterwards. Adobe GoLive uses a two-pane window that looks like a regular FTP client, and you can freely manipulate files either way, and SEE what files are really on the remote server, and delete or move them around manually on the server, or push new copies of existing files onto the server manually… I am still totally amazed that FrontPage’s creators did not see this as a necessary function… ???

  • Also, I never liked working with MS Word docs as web pages because any embedded images get renamed random strings of letters and numbers, and generally people never bothered to include the original images and I wouldn’t have access to them on the network. So if you have ten Word docs with a company logo in the letterhead, and (other people) have exported each of them as a web page, you end up with ten different logo images (of different names) on the server, but that are really the same image. But there’s no easy way to go and change them all, and FrontPage seems to always dump the files into the same directory as the HTML page–so if they had a lot of pages in one server directory, there were always lots of randomly-named image files, and there was no quick and easy way to tell which page was using which file. With a lot of content this gets to be a mess, it is nearly unmanageable. There is no good way to organize it at all. To fix this, Microsoft would have to change Word so that when you embed or export an image from a Word doc, it retains the original filename.

Paint Shop Pro is not Photoshop, but it’s adequate, and costs $100 as opposed to $600. Corel Draw has Photo Paint as part of its package, so you get both vector and raster/web capability, but again, it’s not Adobe.