What you’ll learn.
What is a PCX file?
PCX, an acronym for Picture Exchange, is a raster image file type, which means that it uses color pixels to display images. The other main type of image format is vector, which creates visuals using a complex structure of points, lines, graphs, and formulas.
PCX supports 24-bit color images, 8-bit grayscale, and 1-bit black and white, as well as indexed color images. PCX files use the .PCX extension. Multi-page PCXs often save as .DCX.
The PCX format uses RLE (run-length encoding) lossless compression — meaning it doesn’t lose any quality or data when compressed.
History of the PCX file.
ZSoft published the PCX file in 1985 as the native file format for their PC Paintbrush program. The PCX file became a widely accepted standard format for the MS-DOS operating system. It was also one of the first Bitmap image formats used on Windows, but fell out of favor after the release of more advanced image file formats like JPEG, GIF, and PNG.
Initially, PCXs only supported up to 256 palette-based colors. This later extended to incorporate 24-bit color, too. Currently, PCX can support up to 16 million colors.
Today, Windows operating systems still support PCX files. They’re also compatible with Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and several other applications.
How to use a PCX file.
Though they are no longer commonplace, PCX files have several uses:
The PCX format has the capacity for multi-page files, making it a useful file type for fax applications. These file types have the .DCX extension, but incorporate a set of connected PCXs.
The lossless compression and 24-bit color of PCX mean they can also be a useful file type for scanning. Plus, a number of scanning applications support them.
Discover more raster file types
Pros and cons of PCX files.
There are many PCX advantages and disadvantages to consider before using this file format.
Advantages of PCX files.
- By handling millions of color options, PCXs remain a solid choice for editing images.
- PCX files have lossless compression, so they won’t lose quality when saved, transferred, or shared.
- PCXs are compatible with several Adobe products, including Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop — as well as a range of scanning and faxing applications.
Disadvantages of PCX files.
- By retaining their data in a lossless format, PCX files can be large.
- PCX files are not usually suitable for web use.
- Many Windows, Adobe, and faxing or scanning apps don’t support PCX. You might find it challenging to transfer, store, open, or save your files with other programs.
How to open a PCX file.
Follow these simple steps to open a PCX file with Adobe Photoshop.
- Open Adobe Photoshop.
- Select File > Open.
- Select your PCX image from your computer.
- Click Open.
How to create and edit a PCX file.
Follow these easy steps to create a PCX using Adobe Illustrator:
- Open an Illustrator file and click Save As.
- Select PCX from the Format dropdown menu.
- Save your new PCX file to a location of your choice.
PCX files: frequently asked questions.