One of the most frequent questions we get at Logo Depot, is with understanding the difference between Vector and Raster file formats. This is because there are multiple file formats and image options which makes it almost impossible to determine compatibility.
With that said, there are two dominant image types in the graphics world: Vector and Raster.
Quite often, people grapple with the challenge of differentiating between the two image types and even in deciding the most appropriate one for their projects.
In this article, we are going to throw some light on this subject and try to explain the basic differences between Vector and Raster. We will also help you pinpoint the factors to consider before choosing the file format of your choice.
But it wouldn’t make sense if we didn’t start by defining them…
Raster images are pixel-based graphics that are commonly deployed for non-line art images like detailed graphics, digitized photographs, and scanned artwork. The reason why non-linear arts are commonly represented using raster is because they feature undefined lines, subtle chromatic gradations, and complex compositions.
Unlike Raster graphics, Vector images are anchored on mathematical formulas to define their geometric attributes such as polygons, curves, lines, circles, and even rectangles. The presence of true geometric primitives means they are best suited for more structured images like art graphics that have flat and uniform colors. Generally speaking, they are made up of infinitely-scalable and algorithms-based line arts or paths rather than pixels
Differences Between Raster and Vector and What They Mean
The first, easiest, and most apparent way of determining whether you are working with a raster or a vector image format is their scalability. A simple zoom on vector image format will not change the sharpness and clarity of the image. This is because they are resolution-independent and have nothing like a fixed intrinsic resolution. Instead, they gel in with the resolution capability of the rendering device. Additionally, vector graphics don’t need to memorize the value of individual pixels and they tend to be small compared to their raster counterparts. Common examples of vector image formats include PDF, AI, EPS, and SVG.
On the other hand, raster images suffer from image degradation when enlarged. If you take a close up look at these types of images, you are able to see individual pixels that ultimately make the image. Although you can easily scale them down, a smaller version of a raster image appears less crispy than the original.
If you have already been working with digital images, you already know that vector and raster images have different creation methods. Right off the bat, you can only create vector images using specialized software like Adobe Illustrator. As a result, it’s impossible to take photos in vector format.
Another thing to note about vector image formats is the fact that they can be easily modified compared to their raster image peers.
Raster images, on the other hand, are created by arranging a collection of tiny and uniform pixels in a two-dimensional grid. These individual pixels store one or multiple bits of information that make up the final image and eventually affect the image’s degree of detail.
Size of the File
In terms of file size, Vector images are relatively lighter in comparison with the raster counterparts considering their dimensions aren’t defined by pixels but by mathematical connotations. This means they are highly efficient and convenient when it comes to transferring them across multiple devices. As an added bonus, their compresses nature allows them to carry loads of information in a reasonably small file size format.
Crossing over to the raster file sizes, the story is a little bit different. These image formats are defined by their Pixels Per Inch or Dots Per Inch, constrained widths and heights, making them bulkier with less information.
Simplicity of Color Editing
The simplicity of color editing is another parameter that you can use to differentiate between a vector and raster image. You can easily manipulate a multi-colored vector image by limiting the color graphic which is not the case with raster images. Limited colors are most often used in processes such as embroidery printing or creating vinyl signs.
It’s different with raster images as it’s difficult to determine the most appropriate color for a given output device. As such, the printed output may exhibit greater detail levels than what a viewer can spot on a monitor.
When you take a closer look at vector images, the display is as real as it can get with the vector outlines of each object clearly visible. This is particularly important for companies using laser-guided printing equipment such as cut signs and engravings.
Because of the varying pixel sizes on the raster images, the outline features are significantly distorted which is clearly reflected in the pixelated graphics quality.
As indicated at the beginning of this article, compatibility is an issue that many computer graphic designers struggle with. When it comes to vector graphics, compatibility issues could hinder the opening or editing of your image unless you have a specialized software like Adobe Illustrator.
In the world of raster file formats, you will be happy to know that they are widely popular and compatible with many if not all popular image programs. Moreover, most active digital images on the internet are actually bitmaps even though they were probably once vectors. This makes raster images super-convenient for mass use.
Most web publications use raster images which work just fine. However, in order to print the same version of images, you are required to either use high-resolution raster files or work with vector source. The former option is often the best because it can be difficult to accurately print vector images. For better clarity, you can use the 300 dpi resolution as it helps augment the crispness of the pictures.
When it comes to vector images, the print is crisp and clear no matter how you manipulate the size. This is usually the case due to the infinite mathematical algorithm which makes it the ideal format to print billboard size images.
So, when do you use a vector or a raster?
Any experienced computer graphics designer may find this section a bit boring as this is something they have probably mastered over the time. However, for the purposes of those starting out, we are going to include it anyway.
So, what makes raster or vector click for a particular project? Well, the raster image format is your perfect partner when dealing with Photoshop. Using a software like Adobe Illustrator, you can automatically draw vector formulas for your project which is something any inexperienced designer would love. However, you will need to vector to design the fonts, logos and the letterhead.
If you aren’t sure what to use for your project, consider the following:
- Raster graphics are ideal for projects that incorporate multiple colors.
- If you want to draw a minimalistic image with minimal colors from scratch, you are better of using vector graphics.
- For brochures and logos, you can use a combo of vector images and drawings.
- For screen printed items or embroidery, vector is the way to go.
Are There Any Similarities Between Raster and Vector Formats?
Since this article is mainly focused on the differences of these two formats, why not stretch imaginations to try and see the similarities. To avoid going overboard, let’s try to strictly limit the answer to cover design and imaging.
The biggest similarity between raster and vector is the fact that they help present your designs and ideas in a graphical format. It’s more or less like comparing mammals—the manner of conceiving their offsprings is different, although the end purpose is to ensure continuity of the species.
Obviously, there are striking differences between bitmap and vector, but at the end of the day, they help you create graphics and imagery that communicate an emotion or idea to the viewers.
As you can see, there are a number of differences between vector and raster images and an equal number of advantages respectively. In a practical setting, this means that you can use either depending on the demands of your project. If you are looking to create a website logo or illustration, you need to stay away from using raster image format although it can work if your logo is image oriented rather than a text-based one.
Additionally, you also need to know the image format also affect the load times. Most vector related graphics are heavy which introduces an aspect of inefficiency. However, you can reduce the redundancies and improve their versatility by converting them into raster images. The bottom line is to consult your computer graphics designer to help you map out your projects’ requirement, and propose the best solution that matches your needs. After all, vectors and rasters are two different roads that will eventually take you to the same destination.
Still need help sorting through which artwork files you need for a project, or need help producing stunning artwork files? Give us a call, we’d be happy to help!