What Is Graphics Software?

Make your images shine with the right graphics program

Man in light red shirt working on a desktop computer at a desk

 Nick David/Iconica/Getty Images

Graphics software creates, edits, and manages two-dimensional images. These computer graphics may be clip art, web graphics, logos, headings, backgrounds, digital photos, or other kinds of digital images.

Common Applications

A photo of a sunset being edited in the Windows 10 Paint 3D program

Common graphics editors include Photoshop, Illustrator, Paint Shop Pro, CorelDRAW, The Apple Photos plugins from Macphun, Adobe Lightroom, Digital Image Suite, Canva, and related programs.

In Windows 10, the Paint 3D program is core to the operating system.

Some graphics software offers some limited editing capability but is optimized for display. The Photos program in Windows 10 is a great example, as is the free IrfanView viewer.

What Isn't Graphics Software?

Software that people think of as graphics software, but isn't, include programs that don't directly manipulate individual images. Page layout software such as InDesign, QuarkXpress, and Publisher fall into that category. Likewise, presentation software such as PowerPoint or Apple Keynote aren't graphics programs. In general, home publishing or creative printing software doesn't rise to the occasion, either.

What Are the Types of Graphics Software?

vector vs bitmap
The Laser Co 

The two main categories of graphics programs are pixel-based image editors and path-based image editors. In a nutshell, an image is either comprised of a series of small dots (pixels) or a series of commands about how to draw an image. You'll know the difference between pixel- and path-based images by zooming on them. If they zoom very close without appearing fuzzy and blotchy, you're working with a path-based image.

Designers sometimes use the term raster graphics to reference pixel-based images and vector graphics to reference path-based images.

What Is Graphics Software Used For?

Some of the common things people use graphics software for include editing and sharing digital photos, creating logos, drawing and modifying clip art, creating digital fine art, creating web graphics, designing advertisements and product packaging, touching up scanned photos, and drawing maps or other diagrams.

There are the unconventional uses as well, such as editing video in Photoshop or 3D drawing in Illustrator.