Visual presentation on any surface – not necessarily a computer screen – is called as graphics. It can be anything from drawings to photographs to 3D graphics. Even maps and such illustrative images are graphics. Graphics that are created and manipulated by computer techniques are computer graphics. It makes out and out use of spatial information. It is not an art purely based on performance. The lines, charts and other such elements are product of programming. Computer graphics is a mix of performed and programmed art. Graphics are made up of pixels, the smallest unit to be represented on a computer screen. Hence, computer graphics are displayed as images on screens. You can print them out to generate hard copies too.
Interactive vs. Non interactive computer Graphics
Interactive computer graphics provide complete control over images. A classic example would be flight simulator system. The entire graphical structure allows for interaction and manipulation. It offers a two way communication connecting user and system. Non interactive computer graphics offers zero control over the graphical image. An old school example will be screensavers. User can only watch them without any control over it. The images work linearly to the instructions given by static tool program.
Applications of computer graphics
Computer Aided Design (CAD): CAD is used in designing buildings, automobiles, textiles, aircrafts and what not in the industrial world. The advanced packages of today enable multi-window environment.
Computer Art: It encompasses programs such as paintbrush programs, CAD, animation packages and MS Paint. It creates paintings, cartoons, logos and adverts.
Education and Training: Computer generated models serves as educational aids in the field of physics, finance and economics. Flight simulators belong in this category.
Entertainment: Applications of computer graphics is common in movies, music videos and TV shows. It is extensively used in cartoon and anime films.
Image Processing: It is mostly about cleaning up noisy or blurred images. It helps a great deal in post-production process of photographs.
Presentation Graphics: Graphics is used to produce illustration for reports. It is used to generate slides for projectors. Examples include bar charts, pie charts, etc…
Visualization: It involves producing graphical representation of processes in engineering and medical fields. Color coding, graphs and charts are some of the techniques used.
3D graphics is an advanced development of computer graphics. Though projected through a 2D screen, it packs 3D effects. The modern VR and AR technologies improve depth of 3D graphics. The buzzwords surround 3D these days are 3D gaming, VR, animations, 3D printing, VFX and visual effects. Architectural visualizations are 3D graphics too. A character you made in 3D can be animated for the movie, imported to game engines to become a playable character, injected into VR world, printed via 3D printers or be just branded as still image.
The building blocks of 3D are modeling, texturing and lighting. Anything made in 3D use these three fundamentals. There is a range of 3D software – Maya, Houdini, Blender, Lightwave, Zbrush, Cinema 4D and 3ds Max – to set you up.