Programming Tip: Learn a Graphics Editor

A basic understanding of image transparency/alpha channels/compositing is also a good thing to have - both from a programming perspective, and from the POV of using tools like Photoshop.

And, re. PNG vs. JPG - for me, it’s PNG’s transparency support that puts it head and shoulders above other formats. Please don’t even mention GIF transparency.

  • Roddy

Corel Photopaint :wink:
(just because I’m used to the Corel Suite since version 3 …)

I do all my own graphics by hand in The Gimp

The comment about the Gimp is just a plain Trolling Jeff :stuck_out_tongue:

The truth is that just like with programming, its not the Editor or IDE that makes product but the programmer.

Grab some books from the library on Art, google those tutorials, but above all spend hours learning.

Can I also recommend the excellent “Non-Designer’s Design Book” by Robin Williams?
It gives a great introduction into the basics of design and typography in a language that the less-artistically inclined of us can understand.

Ulead Photoimpact ! (version 8 for the matter)
I love it, it’s very easy and straight forward to learn. + excellent to use in webdesign

Unlike GIMP, as a programmer myself, I have no idea how the interface works or what they were thinking when making it?!

Paint Shop Pro 7.

I tried the trials of later versions and IMHO it got too big for it’s boots. PSP7 (possibly 8 was okay too, I skipped it) handles everything I’ve ever needed (occasionally borrowing Ulead Cool 3D, also a great program).

GIMP I can’t stand. I can’t pick anything specific but the interface just bugs me. Same with Photoshop and later versions of PSP.

And what about Microsoft Expression Suite? I think for a visual studio developer would be a much better option.


Thanks for the link. Maybe if I find some spare time in the near future I will see I can can write it into the code myself (probably just a pipe dream).

I totally agree with the post. Besides, thinking about layers and filters in a graphic object gives you a good method to organize your work (“think about what you will do, before starting your work” is mandatory when working on images).

I was lucky, because I started as a Graphic Designer, and then switched to Software Development… eventually becoming a bad Software Graphic Developer Designer Specialist :slight_smile:

@Chris Barts:

No thesis defense required. Being able to mock up an interface quickly by doing the original placeholder graphics is an indispensible tool for UI coders, and should be intuitively obvious. For example, I’m proposing a new way of managing some UI elements during a product overhaul, and the customer will want samples of the new graphics as a part of evaluating the proposal. Our Graphics Design department is constantly overloaded, and simply wouldn’t be able to supply the new sample content in a timely fashion–but I can do that work myself, thanks to 20 years experience with graphics editors. The customer will eventually do their own version of the bitmaps in questions, but providing working samples to their design group increases the chance that the images will be done correctly the first time.

The voice of experience: if you don’t provide samples to an off-site shop, you won’t get back what you need. Too much is lost in translation if all you do is talk or write about it.

I totally agree. Developers are not designers, except for a handful of truly rare individuals (the inverse is also true). I’d say don’t try and learn how to build beautiful websites if you’re a developer - either, you’re gifted and you already can, or there is simply too much learning involved. Instead, just try to build websites that don’t suck.

Not every site has to be a work of art, just as every ceiling doesn’t have to be the Sistine chapel’s. If you need to build the Sistine chapel, remember it’s a team effort. You can build the structure - and get a specialist to make the ceiling pretty.

I think that what Jeff has described is a good first step - know your tools. Then the really interesting stuff - typography, and graphic design. FWIW, I’m fascinated by it - just a bit ropey about it’s execution. Still, I usually mean my objective - don’t let it suck.

Not really a general purpose graphics editor as it it specifically for photographs, but Nikon Capture NX is a dream to use. OK, so it’s a memory hog and a bit slow, but the ease of editing a picture, adjusting levels, contrast etc is worth it. No more creating layers in PS and then spending time masking them off where you dont want them. Simply add a colour control point, adjust it’s size and then adjust what you want with the simple sliders. The only things I think it lacks are a clone brush and better integrated workflow, both of which I can live without for the most part.

The GIMP / PhotoShop debate is one of those things that comes down to which you used first. Personally, I find PS confusion personified… but I used GIMP first!

Peter Hosey: Instead of those Paint applications, why not use a 3D modeling tool instead?

Like Jeff said, got learn to crawl first. These tools also require a spacial understanding. That is sometimes hard to comprehend especially for those who don’t quite understand the Bayes Theorum.

Start small then work your way up within your comfort level and needs. But yes, learn a graphics tool then learn composition as you are learning more deeper aspects of the tool. Both are equally important, but one does come before another.

One place to challenge yourself is in the Photoshop contest. Some people CAN do amazing things in Paint, but most turn out even greater things in Gimp, PS, PaintShop, etc.

So consider using a little more horsepower with a little more practice. It WILL pay off in the long run.

By the way, if anyone wonders, or cares, I prefer Gimp and Photoshop both, but I am WAAAAAY out of practice and have a friend of mine do some of the work for me now… :wink:

I have a mastery of Photoshop because I’ve been using it since version 4 for creative type junk.

But my day job is a programmer so do yourselves a favor and learn photoshop since it’s industry standard.

Forget about trying to open a .psd document in all the other editors out there…I know some have support for them but many fall short in understanding the .psd file format.

Also, I’m not saying you need to receive assets in .psd format…you can just as easily receive them in .jpg or whatever but getting them in .psd format will allow you to toggle on and off all the layers and states to see how the GUI is supposed to respond. Try doing that with a bunch of .jpgs to see all the states of an application…

Just my 00000010 cents.


I’m also a Paint Shop Pro fan, but since it got bought by scum the latest version that I upgraded to is spyware with their option to upgrade it to adware, so I got a refund. But PSP9 works for most of what I want to do, so that’s fine.

It used to confuse and annoy me that Photoshop didn’t have vector graphics (or maybe I’m just unable to find them… did we mention confusing interfaces yet?) but PSP has had vector layers since forever? I assume that’s been fixed recently? Likewise the nonsensical 4GB file limits and other “we’re 32 bit like it or not” stuff?

Given the choice between two really crap interfaces, one of which costs $500 or more, I chose to spend my time learning how to use GIMP, because that way I’m only spending my time on the problem.

Jeff, Image work can actually be a very technical skill perfect for the technically minded developer. I use Apple Aperture and Adobe Photoshop to process digital photos and between the camera, the software and the printer I’ve had to pick up a lot of technical knowledge and skill just to get a good print of a photograph.

What is harder to teach is the aesthetic perception of what makes good design. What looks right, if you will. Some believe you either have this or don’t.

When you get down to designing, one of the difficult tasks is creating a good looking color scheme. To help with that task there are some excellent websites. is what I use most often.

The big advantage I’ve found from spending heaps of time in Photoshop is that I understand compositing graphics better. This means that the combination of visual effects that can be done in things like XAML and Core Graphics make sense to me now.

It gets back to the thought where the best way to improve your development skills it to learn other things for inspiration.