Vector Images vs Raster Images

Written by Tony Richardson on . Posted in Design, Articles, Software

You may have heard the term Vector Art or Vector Graphic because its a term that is used significantly more than Raster. Photoshop is primarily a raster image editor, and Illustrator is a Vector editor. Now, with that said, what are the main differences? Actually, there is really only one difference between the two… I’ll explain as follows:

Vector Images are made from basic geometric shapes such as points, lines and curves.
The relationship of the shapes is expressed as a mathematical expression which allows the image to scale up or down in size without losing quality. So no matter how small or how big you make the Vector image, you will have the same clarity. That sounds great right? Well, it’s a challenge to get some of the amazing effects you can get with Raster images. O.K., now onto what is a raster image? …

Raster images use a set of dots, which are called pixels, to create the image. Each pixel is a specific color, and when combined together resembles a photo. Raster images need a high resolution or a high dpi (dots per inch) in order to have a good quality image. When you change the size of a raster image, you distort or stretch the pixels themselves which will result in a loss of quality and clarity and causes the image to get blurry.

Here is a raster image that is scaled up… You can see the image problems right away. Now keep in mind, that if you don’t need to scale up the image you can achieve some amazing results that are impossible with a vector art program. The image on the left is also a raster image and it’s fine because it’s resolution is appropriate for its size.

Raster Example

Now here is a vector image and actually, both are vector images. As you can see, it doesn’t matter how large I scale up the image, the quality stays the same. This is great for logo’s or other related work like brochures or product images. Vector art can be seen everyday in the supermarket on a can of beans or soup, and definitely on cereal boxes and all sorts of products.

Vector Example

Now, even though the image is a vector image, it usually is saved as a .jpg or .gif which turns it into a raster image which is fine if you know the size you need. If you size changes, you go into your vector art program and scale up the image with no distortion…that can NOT happen in image editors list Photoshop. If you need to save the format in a vector format, EPS is a good one to choose.

This by no means is all there is to say about the subject, but its a great starting point. So the next time, you have a logo to create, give your vector art editor a try instead of Photoshop. And when you need to edit an image or create a banner that has real-world art in it, Photoshop is certainly the right product for the job! O.K….get out there and start creating some content!

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