Raster editor MK2

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Raster editor MK2

Published by on April 1st 2008.

Possibly the biggest change in RealWorld Icon Editor 2008.1 will be a redesigned raster editor and scripting subsystem. This change is a major one and it is responsible for the long period between the upcoming and the previous versions. Some aspects of the new raster editor were already discussed in previous posts (here, here, here, and here) and an incomplete version can be seen in RW Cursor Editor or in the beta of RW Photos.

Reasons for having a raster editor

Before describing the actual changes made to the raster editor, lets look at the reasons why icon editors usually provide some kind of a raster editor and in which situations plays the raster editor an important role.

  1. Creating icons in raster editor from scratch. This is an obvious reason, but only very few people are able to actually create good enough icons with the limited tools provided by the icon editors. Still, people, who are new to creating icons, usually choose this method. After a while, many switch to a vector or to a 3D editor and this method becomes irrelevant.
  2. Retouching raw icons created by other means. Icons are usually small and this fact requires special care. An image created in a vector or 3D editor often needs to be adjusted. Changing individual pixels, adjusting brightness, contrast or color saturation, sharpening, softening, or adding a shadow are typical tasks.
  3. Preparing source images before conversion to icons. This task involves erasing background, removing empty borders or adjusting color balance. In more complicated cases people may want to remove perspective, adjust transparency or add a special effect like a picture frame, etc.

Change overview

The new raster editor contains improvements for each mentioned scenario. Let’s review the most notable changes.

Modern look and feel

The raster editor can display the image at arbitrary zoom and saves screen real estate that would be wasted if only integral zoom factors were possible, which is the case with every other icon editor. Image can always by zoomed in or out using mouse wheel and panned by dragging by the mouse wheel (or middle button).

Raster editor in RWIE 2008.1

Selections in raster images (masks)

Selections can be used to specify which portions of an image should be affected by a filter or a tool. This helps a lot when retouching icons or preparing images for conversion.

Selections are defined by a 8-bit number per pixel. If a pixel is 50% selected the applied filter will affect it only from 50%.

Selections can be defined in various ways: by a rectangle selection tool, by a magic wand or by a selection “meta-tool”. The meta-tool uses one of the other drawing tools (ellipse, polygon, brush, …) to define the region to select. Modifier keys (SHIFT, CTRL) allow you to add, remove, or negate selection. Selections can also be affected by filters - they can be for example blurred.

Photoshop-compatible filters can access the selection as well.

Sub-pixel precision

One of the biggest problem when creating small pictures from scratch is the alignment of coordinates. On a 16×16 pixels image, half a pixel matters. Vector image editors do not suffer from this problem, because the images are scalable and as a consequence, they use floating point coordinates. The raster editor in RWIE comes as close as possible a raster editor can. Coordinates of drawn shapes are using floating point values and they can be adjusted after the initial definition using control handles.

Sub-pixel precision mode can be turned off and on by a mouse click.

New and improved tools

Many of the old tools have new options. Rectangles and ellipses can be rotated. New points can be easily added to polylines and curves (by dragging a middle-point).

There are also many new tools. A brush with configurable shape and size (with tablet pressure support), a crop and transformation tools (with perspective adding/removing), retouching (brighten, darken, soften, …), and cloning.

Shapes can be filled by solid color, color gradients, or patterns.

The interface to drawing tools and fill styles is open and software developers can add their own tools or fill styles as plug-ins.

Filter scripting

The scripting subsystem based on JavaScript has undergone a major change. Scripted operations can use the native filters and also some of the tools from the raster editor.

Mouse gestures

The editor can recognize a predefined number of gestures and users can assign actions to each gesture. The action can be for example a execution of image filter, a change of an active drawing tool or a very handy Undo or Redo commands.


The changes are numerous and the new raster editor can do many things never seen before in any icon editor or even in a general purpose image editor. Nevertheless, this is just the beginning. A first step on a road to offer a real alternative to Adobe or Corel products in the area of small 2D web graphics.

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I wish there were...
What about ICL files?
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