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Learn computer graphics with online courses and programs

Today’s realistic video games are accomplished by design teams trained in computer graphics. But creating any images generated using a computer requires specialized skills. Learn about computer graphics with online courses delivered through edX.

What are computer graphics?

Whether you’re watching an animated movie, browsing a website, or playing a video game, you’re interacting with computer graphics. 

There are a variety of methods and techniques used in computer-aided design. Raster files and vector files are two popular types of computer graphics. When working with raster files, computers build the graphics with individual pixels. More pixels result in higher quality images.  Alternatively, vector files are more complex and rely on mathematical formulas and functions to produce an image.Footnote 1 Vectoring may be used to generate three-dimensional renderings and interactive maps.

Outside of digital realms, live-action films and shows rely on graphic effects to enhance production. Depending on the medium and the specific graphic, designers may work with code, tools like Adobe Illustrator, or 3D mapping software to achieve different results. 

Computer Graphics | Introduction Image Description

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Computer graphics course curriculum

Computer graphics requires a combination of mathematics, computer science, and creativity. Learners who want to excel in this field can benefit from gaining a solid foundation in topics such as linear algebra and statistics, front-end programming, and algorithms. Introductory courses may cover 3D image creation, ray tracing, open-source tools, and basic data structures. Mastering the basics of Java, HTML, or C++ can also be beneficial when getting started.

You can then move on to computer graphics classes specific to your goals. Learn how to create lifelike animations with technical expertise as you explore the basics of physical simulation, such as continuum mechanics, finite elements, rigid body simulation, and Lagrangian mechanics. If you’re interested in virtual reality (VR) development, you may choose to learn more about how VR technology works, how to write software, and effective 3D interaction techniques to use VR applications.

While the requirements for computer graphics careers will vary, enrolling in a bachelor’s degree or, for more experienced individuals, a master’s degree program in graphic design or a related topic can help you prepare you for a rewarding career. Depending on your education and professional experience, you may find it more helpful to build specialized skills in a boot camp.

Explore computer graphics jobs

Computer and 3D graphics have the power to advance how professionals visualize data, understand science, and create value within different fields. From entertainment to architecture, computer graphics serve countless purposes. Some of the industries and roles you can explore include:

  • Video game development: Through the use of various creative and technical skills, video game developers create the algorithms and visual effects that players see on screen. You may apply your skills as a character animator, compositing artist, 3D modeler, or effects animator.Footnote 2

  • Film and television production: The entertainment industry relies on computer graphics professionals to help build the characters and worlds we experience as viewers. In this field, you may be able to qualify for roles in stop motion animation, storyboard artistry, or concept artistry.Footnote 3

  • Web development: The elements that make up a website can be created with a variety of tools, technologies, and programming languages. That includes graphics and other design components. You might become a web designer, digital interface designer, UX developer, or graphic designer.Footnote 4

By adding skills like animation, illustration, or web development to your toolkit, you can embark on a creative career in many different industries. In addition to these technical abilities, a successful career in computer graphics requires a variety of soft skills: communication, creativity, attention to detail, and a problem-solving mindset can be especially helpful.Footnote 5

How to become a computer graphic designer

If you are interested in becoming a computer graphic designer, you can focus your learning on topics such as the principles of design, computerized design, and commercial graphics production. Professionals in this field may be asked to design by hand and with computer software. A degree in graphic design or a related arts field can help you build the skills necessary to succeed in this field. Many employers may also ask for a portfolio of work to demonstrate your skill level.Footnote 6

If you are interested in building new professional skills, explore the suite of educational opportunities that edX has to offer. From specialized coding boot camps to full degree programs that allow you to earn a bachelor’s in computer science, there are many different learning pathways on many different topics. Find the coursework and learning format that aligns with your professional aspirations. 

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