Marketing for Libraries Logo

Graphic Applications

Learning Objectives
• Define graphic representation and provide examples.
• Define graphic and image editing applications and provide examples.
• Identify the best graphic editor for a particular job.
• Describe best practices in image-editing.
• Identify features of graphics software.
• Define digital photography and provide examples.
• Describe how built-in screen capture tools are used to take individual screen shots.
• Define screen capture and identify uses for screen capture graphics.
• Discuss the pros and cons of web-based graphic tools.
• Identify and provide examples of web-based graphic tools.
• Use web-based augmented reality tools to create augmented reality experiences.
• Define file sharing sites for image sharing to reach library goals.

Although you may think of illustrations, artwork, pictures, diagrams or other visual representations, graphic representation is simply a way to visualize information.

Concept maps, timelines, mind maps, and diagrams are all ways to visually organize and present information.

Technology tools are particularly good for these applications because they allow users to easily expand, edit, and reorganize their work.

Information Visualization and Infographics

weatherInformation visualizations use computer-based tools to create a graphic representations of large volumes of data. These visualizations are able to represent abstract data in a form understandable by people.

Try It!
Go to Visual Complexity to explore examples.
Think about the types of data that would benefit from visualization.

Infographics are an effective way to convey complex ideas in a highly visual way. By using visuals to quickly express key ideas, these graphic representations provide the “big picture” that might otherwise be difficult to understand.

Try It!
Go to Weather the Storm for an example of a library infographic.
Do a Google Images Search for infographics related to your favorite library type such as public library infographics.

Built-in Graphic Tools

Many graphic tools are built into other applications.

Microsoft Office’s SmartArt and Charts features allow users to visualize concepts through diagrams, concept maps, flowcharts and other illustrations. These tools are available across applications such as Word and PowerPoint.



Graphic and Image Editing Applications

Graphic application software is used for graphic design, technical illustration, and image editing (below left).

Image editing application software is specifically designed for modifying existing visuals such as altering digital photographs (below right).


Vector, Raster Graphics, and 3D editors

frogsGraphic software is divided into vector graphics editors, raster graphics editors, and 3D editors.

Raster graphics editors, also known as bitmap editors, are stored as groups of pixels and are effective for projects that involve photo retouching, collages, and photorealistic images. Adobe Photoshop is a well-known example.

Vector graphics editors allow users to edit visuals using geometric points, lines, curves, and polygons to represent images. The images are created mathematically. These tools work particularly well for projects that involve technical illustrations, diagrams, and flowcharts. They work better than raster graphics for projects that involve page layout and typography that require crisp, smooth edges. Adobe Illustrator is a well-known example.

3D editors allow users to create three-dimensional representations of geometric data. These models use mathematical representations to create a 3D effect. Alice and Blender are free, easy-to-use tools, while Adobe After Effects is a professional tool.

Selecting a Graphics Editor

When creating visual representations, it’s important to select the correct graphic editor for the job.

Let’s say you’re working on an annual report for your library.

The raster editor Adobe Photoshop would be effective for editing photographs for use in the report.

However, Adobe Illustrator would be more effective for creating an organization chart, library logo, or a technical illustration of a proposed renovation project.

graphic types

Visual Representations

Visual representations are important in conveying information.

For instance, a tutorial teaching library users how to access an electronic database will be much more effective if screen captures are used to show the procedure step-by-step.


Transforming Data into Visuals

The key to using graphic software is imagining ways to transform data, information, and ideas into a usable form. In other words, can we take pages of articles, notes, and ideas. Then, organize this pile of resources in a meaningful way that conveys the larger picture or shares an understanding of the people and their experiences?

When studying the American Civil War, it makes sense to create a database of key battles, a spreadsheet demonstrating casualty rates, a timeline of key events, a cause and effect concept map, and a collage showing the experiences of one person.

Civil War

Graphic Software Features

layersMany of the same features available in writing tools such as editing and exporting can also be found in illustration.

Layers. Most graphic software allow users to work in layers. The advantage of this approach is the ability to manipulate different elements of an image separately. These layers can be thought of as a transparency where multiple images can be placed one on top or below another (see image on left).

Hyperlinks and Hotspots. The use of hyperlinks and hotspots allows links to be placed on different parts of a map or photograph. Hyperlinks can also be used in concepts maps. For example, youth can use a Kidspiration concept map as a portal to websites.

Collaborative Tools. Many of the tools contain collaboration elements allowing people to share information over space or time. For example, cooking club members could share recipe photos.

tuxpaintData Presentation and Organization. Many of the illustration packages have interchangeable components or options for exporting. For example, graphics created in one package such as Fireworks can be inserted into a database or spreadsheet. Many programs also have multiple ways of viewing their data. For example, Inspiration can be viewed as an outline or a concept map. Databases have single record as well as report views.

Expandability. Many of the tools provide an option to add new features. For example, TuxPaint is open source allowing users to change to sounds in the software, add their own stamps, and even modify the program itself.

Multimedia. Want to play a movie on a map or insert a graphic into a timeline? No problem. Look for ways that multimedia features can be incorporated into illustration software.

Digital Photography

Interest in photography has skyrocketed since the introduction of low-cost digital cameras and inexpensive storage devices. After investing a few hundred dollars in hardware, it's possible to shoot, download, and store thousands of photographs at no cost.

Digital photography uses an electronic device to record images and store them on storage cards. These images can then be transferred to a computer and edited, downloaded to a CD or DVD, or uploaded directly to the Web.

Digital photography requires both hardware and software. You'll need a digital camera as well as editing software. Many companies produce digital cameras, but like many products it's a good idea to stick with the well-known manufacturers such as Sony, Canon, and Nikon.

Many librarian use different cameras for different purposes. A tiny Sony camera or smartphone might be used for snapshots, a Canon camera for photographing library programs, and a Nikon SLR for professional work digitizing artifacts.

Digital Camera Basics

photosAlthough there are many features to consider, there are a few basic considerations when choosing a cameras:

Compact vs SLR. Do you need interchangeable lens? Are you interested in professional photography? If so, you want a Single Lens Reflex camera. However if you're not as concerned about quality, a small camera is easier to carry.

Image Stabilization. If you're working with children or senior citizens, consider a camera with image stabilization.

Quality. Although today's cameras have an option for super high quality pictures, do you really need to make poster size prints? You may not need to high end camera if quality isn't an issue.

Movie. Many cameras have a movie option. This is a great feature. The quality of the movie vary, but as long as you have a large storage card, it's easy to make 5-10 minute movies or even longer.

Storage Cards. Photographs are saved on small storage cards. If you have a variety of small personal devices, it's convenient to have compatible cards. Also, some printers and laptops have slots of cards. Before you buy, check the type of storage card, they aren’t all the same. Also, rather than buying small cards, consider one large card (64GB) so you don't have to carry around backup cards.

Viewfinder. Although it's cool to have a big LCD monitor for your viewfinder, it takes up lots of weight and battery power. Consider whether a smaller LCD monitor and traditional viewfinder is more effective for your work.

Zoom. Consider whether you need a wide angle, telephoto, or digital zoom. Do you want a camera that has interchangeable lens? If so, be sure that the camera is compatible with the lens. Also check the zoom lens that comes with your compact camera. They vary tremendously.

Digital Peripherals

Besides cameras, there are other peripherals that can be used for producing images. For example, it's possible to snap still shots from web cameras and videos.


Also remember that the image scanner is a great tool for creating images from historical documents, photographs, or artifacts. Both desktop scanners and hand-held scanners can be portable. It's possible to buy a flat bed scanner that's thin enough to carry along with your laptop for genealogy projects or other library work. These portable scanners run off the battery in the laptop so they require no additional energy.


In addition to your camera, you may want a computer printer for publishing your photos.

There are basically two choices: inkjet or laser printer.

The inkjet printer uses cartridges of liquid ink to create high quality photographs. It's a good idea to purchase photo paper for professional quality images.

A laser printer uses toner cartridges containing carbon. A color laser printer is designed to print high quality text and graphics. It generally prints much faster than an inkjet printer and is less expensive to operate.

An increasing number of people are skipping the printer and using digital photo frames for displaying photos. These frames store images so they can show still images, slide shows, or randomly displayed photos. These are increasingly common in libraries.

Photo Editing Software

Although some digital cameras come with software, you may wish to use additional software to get the visual effect you seek. Image manipulation software is used to enhance existing images. Most packages provide tools for adjusting brightness, contrast, and color. You can also crop and resize your photos. However higher end software is needed to create visual effects and filter images.

readImage manipulation software is design for manipulating photos including both high and low end editing. Software includes Adobe Photoshop, the open source software GIMP and Before investing in costly software, try one of the free, open source image manipulation programs.

Photo editing and slide show creators are designed for simple photo editing such as cropping. It's also great for making photo albums of simple stories. Software such as Apple Photo Elements and iPhoto may already be on your computer. For Microsoft Windows, look for PhotoStory.

Tools like the ALA Read Poster page help you create your own posters. It uses the BigHugeLabs tools (shown above left).

Try It
Go to BigHugeLabs and play with some of their poster generators.
Think about how these could be applied to a library setting.

trainFeatures of Digital Photography

As you explore the potential of digital photography, consider the opportunities that cutting-edge tools provide today's learners.

Expandability. Most photo-editing software allow additional filters to be added. For example, you can search the web for filters that can be added to Adobe Photoshop that will make your photo look like crumpled paper, a quilt pattern, or a watercolor painting. The example on the right shows a photo with the “oil painting” filter applied.

Extreme Distances. Stopping the action of a hummingbird, focusing on microscopic images of bacteria, and manipulating satellite photos are all options with digital photography.

Whether taking photos yourself with a macro zoom or using online sources for aerial photos like Google Earth, it’s possible to provide unique views of the world. It's even possible to participate in global events were people shoot and share photographs at the same instance around the world.

Modifying Images

Today's tools allow designers to overlap before and after hurricane photos, predict the shorelines resulting from global warming, and create exciting panoramic views.

When modifying photos keep the following tips in mind:

heart2Adjust the resolution to fit the end product. If you're going to post on the web, reduce the size to 72dpi. If you're planning to print, check the printer resolutions generally 300 to 2400 dpi. Adjust the resolution BEFORE resizing.

Resize the photos to fit your needs. If you're posting on the web, you may want thumbnails around 75-100 pixels, then photos between 200-300 pixels. If you want to create a line of photos be sure the heights are the same. Don't squish photos, be sure to use proportional resizing. Don’t try to enlarge images or they’ll pixelate like the image on the left. Notice the large pixels. To easily resize a photo, try resizr.

Always keep a copy of your original high-resolution image in case you need it later.

Try It!
Go to resizr and try resizing an image using their tool.
Think about times when it's necessary to resize an image.

Screen Captures and Screen Shots

There are many times that it's useful to have a still shot of the computer screen. Although both Mac and Windows operating systems have built-in these tools that use key commands for grabbing the image of a screen. There are also software packages that provide additional options.

A screen capture is also known as a screenshot, screen dump, screen grab, or print screen. A screen capture is a digital image taken of the visible items on a computer monitor. These screenshots sometimes include open menus.

Some examples of screenshot use include:

Notice in the example below that just part of the screen has been captured. This image could be placed in a paint or draw program. Arrows or boxes could be added to direct attention.


Web-based Graphic Tools

There are pros and cons of web-based graphic tools.

The advantage of web-based graphic tools is that they are generally free and easy-to-use. They can also be used regardless of computer platform (i.e., Mac OS or Windows). In some cases, the documents can be collaboratively edited and the results can be stored and shared online.

The disadvantage of web-based graphic tools is that the free tools may disappear or become subscription-based. In some cases, the program may be great such as Sumopaint, but the site contains advertising (see image below).


Try It!
Try Sumopaint and compare it to traditional graphics tools you've used.
What do you see as the pros and cons of using web-based tools for graphics?


Web-based Comic Makers

Web-based comic makers like Pixton allow users to easily create comic strips for use on library bulletin boards, newsletters, and other communications. These visual communications are a great way to draw attention and convey important information in an interesting way. Check out a library example below.


Try It!
Try Pixton and MakeBeliefComix.
Compare these online tools.

Web-based Cloud Makers

Web-based word cloud makers like Wordle and Tagxedo can be used to create word cloud images that illustrate the frequently used words in books, identify key words in strategic plans, or highlight the main idea of library programs for promotions.

An easy approach is to copy and paste the text from a poem or classic book found online into the cloud maker. Explore lots of examples in the Tagxedo Gallery (see the examples below).


Try It!
Try Wordle and Tagxedo. Compare these two tools.
Think about ways you could use these in a library setting.

Web-based Poster Makers

Web-based poster makers like Glogster can be used to create online posters. It’s possible to embed text, images, audio, and video into the posters.

These are useful library marketing activities such as publicizing new library materials. Explore the Glogster Gallery for lots of ideas.


Try It!
Try Glogster. Think about different types of interactive posters you could create.

iphoneWeb-based Generators

Web-based generators can be used to create a wide assortment of interesting, professional-looking images and signs.

RedKid is a sign generator.

The example on the right shows an iPhone message created using RedKid.

BigHugeLabs has lots of options for enhancing photos.

Build Your Wild Self and Lego Min-Mizer are examples of avatar generators.

Try It!
Try a couple generators including the RedKid generator.

Web-based Timeline Makers

Web-based timeline makers like Dipity and TimeGlider can be used to create online timelines.

These are useful for library history projects and project planning. Some of these tools allow text along with images, audio, video, and web links.

Try It!
Try Dipity or TimeGlider.

Web-based Maps

Web-based map makers like Google Maps can be used to create customized maps. These are useful in library handouts and on library websites. They can also be used to connect literature and geography.

Novelsonlocation and Google LitTrips are two examples of projects that connect literature with maps.

Watch the How To Create a My Map in Google Maps on YouTube.

wpaWeb-based Infographics

An infographic is a graphic representation of information.

It provides the "big picture" that might otherwise be difficult to understand by using visuals to quickly convey the key ideas.

Web-based infographics makers like can be used to create infographics.


Try It!
Try,, piktochart, or

Augmented Reality

arAugmented reality (AR) involves adding a layer to your everyday experience. Your experience is enhanced with the addition of elements such as headsets that provide detailed information about your surroundings or smartphones that provide virtual tours or opportunities for gaming.

Many AR applications go beyond virtual worlds and gaming. Augmented reality is being used to create virtual objects in museums and historical sites. Some cities are designing city tours. Headsets can be checked out to visitors as they explore the city. As the technology is enhanced, it may be used to create more collaborative experiences that combine elements of multi-user virtual environments and physical interaction with environments similar to the Holodeck on Star Trek.

Libraries may soon use AR glasses for building orientations or to help patrons locate materials in the library. Augmented Reality tools are just starting to impact libraries.

File Sharing

commonsCloud-based image storage such as Flickr is an easy way for staff and users to share images related to library programming.

Many websites cater specifically to those interested in sharing photos.

The ability to post photos directly to email, websites, and remote storage has changed the way people share photos.

For example, we rarely print photographs, however we regularly email photos and post them on our website or to a social network.

In addition to sharing your own photos, it’s also possible to use these sites to access public domain images for use in your library.

Try It!
Go to Flickr Commons. This is the world’s public photo archives.
Go to Wikimedia Commons. It contains freely usable images. Explore their featured images.


Graphic representations include a wide range of visuals including photographs, drawings, diagrams, flowcharts, concept maps, timelines, and other images.

Graphic and image editing applications assist users in creating and modifying images. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are two proprietary examples and GIMP is an open source example. From smartphones to high-end digital cameras, there are many options for producing digital photographs.

Augmented Reality lays text and visuals over the “real world” to expand an experience.

File sharing sites can be used for image sharing as well as locating public domain images to meet library goals.

| eduscapes | IUPUI Online Courses | Contact Us | 2014 Annette Lamb (Adapted from earlier s401 materials)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.