Glossary of Image Editing Terms

Assistant (Mac) or Wizard (Windows) - A dialog box that is available in different places in different programs, but offers you a step-by-step basic setup on complex documents. Usually the results are hideous, but easy to change! Internet Setup Wizard, and other internet specific Wizards may be helpful.

Bit Depth - How many colors your monitor will show at one time, or how many different colors you can set an image to use. Common Bit Depths are as follows:

  • 1 bit - Black and white
  • 4 bit - 16 colors
  • 8 bit - 256 colors
  • 16 bit - Thousands of colors
  • 24 bit - Millions of colors
  • 36 bit - Billions of Colors

Compressed Files - Files that have been written in a format that takes up less space. Like stuffing a big, poofy quilt into a Space Bag and sucking the air out. Standard format on a PC is Zip, standard on a Mac is Stuffit. Gif and JPG are compressed graphics file formats.

Compatibility - Big word for cooperation. This refers to how well programs work with other programs, how hardware works with software, and how two computers share information. Internet formats follow specific guidelines to ensure cross platform compatibility.

Directory - A folder where you store files. This can be on your computer, or on a remote server.

Dithering - If you have a picture that is created in millions of colors (see bit depth), with smooth gradients and blends that look like a photo on screen, but you are looking at it on a monitor that only shows 256 colors, the computer will often Dither the image...that means taking the available colors and mixing them to approximate the colors needed - like taking light brown and pale yellow and pale pink dots and scattering them to make a flesh tone...from a distance it looks like it, but up close you can see the different colored dots. This makes your photo or image look grainy, dotty, or pixelated. On screen dithering is different than changing the actual image. When you reduce an image from millions of colors to 256 colors for example, and save it, the image is changed. When your image is still millions of colors, but your monitor just cannot show them all, this does not change the picture, only what you see. The picture still has all its glorious colors and blends, and will print out showing them.

DPI - Dots per inch, often called Resolution. Usually refers to the number of dots both ways. Monitors usually show 72 or 75 DPI. Printers usually use 300 or 360 for standard printing. Some scanners use uneven numbers, like 300X600 DPI, and some printers also have a maximum DPI that is uneven, but you can still only set an even DPI. Everything that uses dots has a resolution - your printer, your monitor, and your picture on the screen. They can all be different, but still have to work together!

File Extensions for Graphics - Common ones are .gif, .jpg for compressed internet graphics files, .pcx, .bmp, .pct, .tif, and .rif are all graphics formats. Many more too. PCs use them all the time (though you may not be able to see them) Macs only use them for certain types of files, mostly PC imports.

File Types - Programs each label files with a code to identify which program created them. That is how they attach the right program to a file when you open it. Some files can be opened by programs other than their creators, but that ability has to be built into the program. Graphics get complex in this category. PCs do this by attaching a File Extension to the end of the name - .exe, .txt, and so forth. Macs do this by invisibly coding it with a 4 letter code.

Format - In graphics refers to both Text and layout styles, as well as they way in which a file is saved. Different kinds of graphics files are referred to as different file formats.

Graphics, Images, Scans, Clipart - Graphic means visual - a Picture. Image means the same thing. Scans are pictures that have been converted to a digital format so you can store them on computers and play with them in your programs. Clipart is a collection of images that you buy, or get for free, that you can use in your own documents without paying each time you use them. Check copyright notices carefully on clipart, because restrictions vary.

Graphics Program - Where you put hair back on bald men, take a few pounds off of women, and turn babies into Klingons. Really just any program that lets you open up a picture, change it's looks or format, or that you can make a picture in. Variety of functions is different from program to program, but tools are similar. Web Graphics programs may not have Print features, and may not let you use high resolutions (since all web pages use whatever resolution the monitor displays).

Icons - Little pictures that represent programs and files. You find them almost everywhere that you can access files or programs. Also used on Websites to simplify navigation.

Pixel - The individual dots on the screen. Stands for Picture Element. Pixelated means that you can see these individual color blocks, maybe enlarged.

Pixelated - A grainy or chunky look that pictures on screen or printed get when you can actually see the unevenness of the individual pixels.

Platform - The operating system you use - Windows, Mac, Unix, OS2, Apple II, DOS are all different platforms. Some are more compatible than others with each other. Unix, Windows, and Mac are the three primary web platforms.

Plug-Ins - Special mini-programs that are stored in a specific folder for the program that uses them. Plug-ins extend the functions of the program that they are added to. Internet and Graphics programs often use them to add features.

Properties, Options, Preferences - Settings that you can use to customize your programs or operating system to work like you want it to.

Scanner - Converts photos and drawings into a digital map of the picture. Read up on them before you buy. Almost necessary for website design.

Resolution - Generally refers to the Pixels per inch of the screen. Also refers to DPI of a printout.

Version number - How you tell if you have the latest and greatest. A number on software or system software that tells how up to date it is. Updates are available on the net for many software titles, but knowing your version number is crucial to ensure that you don't downgrade by mistake!

VRAM - Video Ram, also referred to by other names. This is the amount of dedicated memory your computer can use to display more colors on the screen. More VRAM means more colors can be displayed at one time.

Web, net, internet, online - Using a modem to hook up, with an internet service, to communicate with special computers around the world. Can only communicate with a Server (computer set up with a special address), without special software and setup. Different than a network. Different security issues. Requires cooperation between many pieces of software, hardware, and many different computers other than your own to work properly.

Zip Drive - Like a floppy on steroids. Holds 100 MB or more, slightly more reliable. Great for large graphics files.

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