There are many different tools for generating and manipulating computer graphics. Generally, they fall into one of the following categories: raster graphics editors, vector graphics editors, 3D graphics editors, fractal generators or some combination of these. Using these different types of software, you can create all kinds of computer art.
Raster Graphics Editors
When you zoom into a raster image, you can see the individual pixels that make up the image.
Raster graphics editors allow you to manipulate raster images, which represent graphics as a grid of pixels, in a variety of ways. You can use a raster graphics editor to create images from scratch, or you can use it in conjunction with photographs, hand drawn or painted images, and images created with other types of computer art programs. Adobe Photoshop is the most popular commercial raster graphics editor, but there are alternatives to Photoshop that are free and comprehensive, such as GIMP and Paint.NET.
Vector Graphics Editors
Vector graphics can be used for basic shapes as well as more complex designs.
Vector graphics editors are used to produce vector images, which represent shapes with mathematical formulas that enable them to be enlarged and distorted without loss of quality. For example, most fonts are composed of vector images, which is why they look clear at both small and large sizes. Adobe Illustrator is one of the most popular vector graphics editors, but Photoshop also includes support for vector graphics. Inkscape is a free, fully featured alternative.
3D Graphics Editors
You can create 3D landscapes with 3D graphics editors.
3D graphics software is used to create 3D environments. They typically allow you to model objects, landscapes and light sources in 3D, then automatically generate textures, scenery, reflections and shadows. Popular 3D graphics editors include E-on Vue, PlanetSide Terragen and Blender.
Fractal images are generated with algorithms based on patterns and stochastic processes.
Fractal generators allow you to create fractal images, which are images generated with algorithms based on patterns and stochastic processes. Although fractal images tend to lack a sense of realism, they are appreciated for their abstract nature, and are often used either alone as works of art, or combined with other images using a graphics editor. Popular fractal generators include Ultra Fractal and Apophysis.