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What are the differences between vector and raster graphics?

Posted August 2, 2010

Vector Graphics are typically generated using drawing or illustration programs (e.g., Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw) and are composed of mathematically-defined geometric shapes, such as lines, objects, and fills. Raster Images are produced by digital image capture devices, such as digital scanners or cameras, or by pixel editing programs (e.g., Adobe Photoshop).

Most of our products require vector artwork to ensure a satisfactory imprint. Although word processors, spreadsheet programs and presentation applications (such as the Microsoft Office suite) may be suitable for creating files for office or Internet use, they are not recommended for creating digital art for print. In some cases, however, such files may be converted so as to enable use.

Here are two examples of an image when magnified or scaled up. You will notice the difference in clarity between the vector graphic and raster graphic.

Vector images can be enlarged without "staggering."

Raster images often "stagger" when enlarged past a certain point.

More about Vector Graphics

  • Vector graphics are typically generated using drawing or illustration programs (e.g., Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw) and are composed of mathematically-defined geometric shapes, such as lines, objects, and fills.
  • Since vectors entail both magnitude and direction, vector elements are thus comprised of line segments whose length represents magnitude and whose orientation in space represents direction.
  • Vector graphics are easily modified within the creating application and are usually not affected detrimentally by scaling (enlarging or reducing their size).
  • Because vector elements are mathematically-defined, scaling vector images simply requires modification of their mathematical locations.
  • Unfortunately, vector files do not support photographic imagery well and can often be problematic for cross-platform exchange.
  • Typical vector image formats include AI, CDR, and EPS.

More about Raster Graphics

  • Raster images are produced by digital image capture devices (such as image scanners or digital cameras) or by pixel-editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop.
  • Raster images are composed of a matrix, or bitmap, of digital picture elements known as pixels.¬†Pixels are squares or rectangles described as black, white, gray, or color.
  • While conversion from vector images to raster images is easily accomplished, converting raster images to a vectorized is much more difficult (and often impossible, especially when converting fonts).
  • Raster images are easily shared across various platforms, but can be more difficult than vector graphics to modify.
  • Raster graphics are also impacted by scaling.
  • Typical raster image formats include JPG, GIF, TIFF, PNG, BMP, among others.
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