Vector Graphics vs. Raster Images

Check out the Qualities, Pros and Cons

There are two different types of images we can use: raster images and vector graphics. We prefer vector images, and in some cases, require it. Here are some of the qualities and pros and cons of each type of image:

Raster vs vector

A raster image is made up of thousands or millions of tiny squares called pixels.  Because of all the tiny pieces of color information, raster images offer rich detail and color; however, each pixel carries information which results in large file sizes.

Pixels refer to color blocks viewed on an electronic monitor whereas dots refer to the ink dots on a printed piece, thus the term “dots per inch.”  But even professional designers, myself included, use these two terms interchangeably.  Whatever you call them, the thing that makes pixels impossible for some projects is that they do not resize well. These two logos and the image of the bottle may look the same on a computer screen or as a small size, but when you try to make the image larger, you’ll see the grains, or pixels.  Making a small image larger results in the individual pixels just getting larger, which makes the image appear grainy.

Pros of Raster images:

+ Rich Detail and Color

+ Precise Editing.

Cons of Raster images:

– Blurry when Enlarged

– Large File Sizes, which may be very slow to open

Vector graphics

are made up of a few points rather than pixels. For example, a raster image of a square would have thousands of pixels, but a vector image of a square has just four points – one on each corner. The computer will use math to “connect the dots” and fill in all of the missing information. Each vector point has information telling the computer how to connect each point using straight or curved lines, and what color to fill in the closed shape. Vector images are much easier to edit, and when expanded, lines are simply redrawn. No matter how big we make it, the image never becomes grainy or distorted. Images that work well as vector images have solid colors or even gradients with straight lines or sweeping curves.

Pros of Vector images:

+ Infinitely Scalable

+ Smaller File Size

+ Editable

Cons of Vector images:

– Limited Details and Limited Effects because of the simplicity; vector images cannot handle certain styling effects like blurring or drop shadows that raster images are wonderful for.

To Summarize:
Raster = photographs = great color detail, but can’t enlarge without becoming blurry
Vector = fonts/logos = ability to enlarge without losing quality, but limited color detail

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