When running a brand on social media, one of the best ways to get the most traction possible is to include a well-designed graphic with your social media post. If you are still new to this area, it is best to start by using free software so that you understand the basics of graphic design.
Additionally, when choosing graphic design software, you have the choice of using either a raster graphics editor or a vector graphics editor. But what are the differences between the two aforementioned graphics editors and which ones should you use?
In this article, we’ll talk about the difference between a raster and vector graphics editor, and list a bunch of free software you should consider having in your graphic design toolbox. Let’s take a closer look at the list, okay?
Should I use raster or vector graphics editing software?
Vector vs raster image. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
First off, what are raster and vector graphics? A raster graphic (also known as a bitmap graphic) is basically an image made up of a group of pixels. With this in mind, the sharpness of the image decreases dramatically if you magnify the image too much.
On the other hand, a vector graphic uses points and paths (like on a graphic) to form shapes. For this reason, a vector graphic remains sharp, regardless of the size of the image. However, the main disadvantage of vectors is that shading is not as easy to do, while raster images can achieve complex shading and painting-like image quality.
Left: raster graphic. Right: vector graphic
The type of graphics editor you should use mainly depends on what you are going to do. For example, if you are creating a logo with simple colors, using a vector image is crucial because it allows you to enlarge or reduce it without any loss of sharpness. However, if you plan to create art with complex shading for social media, a raster graphics editor may be more suitable instead.
To create collages or “photobashes” for social media, both types of graphic editors can do it without any problem. That said, there is nothing wrong with having both types of graphics editors installed, as you can easily switch between them depending on the project.
To begin with, we have Inkscape, which is free and open source vector graphics editing software that is about as powerful as Adobe Illustrator. Inkscape is not only free, but it is also available on multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac, and Linux.
It comes with various features ranging from creating and manipulating objects, filling and outline, path editing, and text support. Besides that, it comes with some extra features like anti-aliasing display, transparency, and it is able to import and export various file formats including SVG, PNG, DXF and many more. .
Inkscape has a fairly large community, with developers constantly creating plugins to extend the functionality of the software. Besides that, there are many tutorials on YouTube where you can learn lots of tips and tricks to help you improve yourself.
That being said, you can use Inkscape to create logos, artwork, and graphics for social media. It is also possible to convert a raster image into a vector image using the Trace Bitmap tool present in the software.
Since you are managing multiple graphics resources with different formats like .svg, .png, .jpg, etc., you need a reliable, fast graphics viewer that supports multiple formats. The software that meets these criteria would be IrfanView, which is free and extremely lightweight with a size of only 5MB.
On top of that, IrfanView can open over 150 different file formats (using plugins) which is important because the assets you are working with may have been obtained from different sources such as a camera. digital or asset libraries. Unfortunately, IrfanView is only available on the Windows operating system, which is a bummer for those using a Mac or Linux machine.
Canva is a popular graphic design tool because it offers many free templates to download and import into your favorite graphic editing software. On top of that, Canva also offers plenty of templates designed for a specific social media platform like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, etc.
Alternatively, Canva also comes with a fairly straightforward and easy to use graphics editor. Not only that, but it also comes with a bunch of animated templates which you can also use to create short videos for your social media.
Finally, we have GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), a free raster image editor as powerful as Adobe Photoshop. It allows you to edit using layers which allow you to stack different elements on top of each other to create a specific look.
It allows you to import and export over 13 different file formats. Moreover, just like Inkscape, GIMP has a relatively large community that has developed over 100 plugins to add additional functionality to the program.
While GIMP is primarily a raster graphics program which makes it ideal for creating images with complex shading such as art posters, it is also capable of creating and manipulating vector images. However, its vector manipulation features are not as robust as a dedicated vector graphics editor such as Inkscape.
When working with a client or other graphic designer, you may need to send the finished graphic and elements over the internet. With that in mind, you can use WeTransfer, a cloud-based file sharing website that lets you send files up to 2GB to another person for free.
Once uploaded to the WeTransfer website, files will remain in the cloud for up to 7 days before being deleted to make room for other file transfers. If you subscribe to WeTransfer Pro for around RM50 per month, you will be able to transfer files up to 200GB and you will be able to determine how long before your files are deleted.
Have software on hand for any situation
With all of the free software mentioned above, you should ideally have vector and raster graphics editing software for your graphic design toolkit like Inkscape and GIMP. Other than that, don’t be afraid to experiment with any software you come across as it could be useful in future projects.
Once you’ve gotten to grips with graphic design, you may want to consider investing in more expensive software like Adobe Creative Cloud. Also, consider backing up any inventory assets you downloaded from websites like Canva, as you may use them in the future.
Having said that, what do you think of all of the programs listed above? Let us know on our Facebook page and for more updates like this stay tuned to TechNave.com.