What is the difference between vector and raster?
Novice designers, webmasters, marketers, businesses, and others who develop and publish artwork frequently ask this question.
While these may be technical terms, it’s both essential and empowering to have relevant info that will help you make the best decisions on your own.
In this post, we will show you how raster and vector graphics are different and how these differences will affect your design and print job.
Terms to Know
Before we go into the differences between raster and vector graphics, you must understand the meaning of these terms below.
A pixel is also known as a dot. Pixels are picture elements in graphic design.
The smallest visible piece of an image shown on a screen is called a pixel. One pixel is a physical point in an image and is a building block in an art element.
Raster images make up the majority of the visuals we view on our computer screens. A good example of a raster is a picture, for example, the selfie you take using your smartphone.
Digital software uses a collection of pixels, or a”bitmap,” to create an image. In digital graphics, a bitmap is a translation from a domain, for instance, a range of numbers to “bits” or variables that are zero or one, in computer graphics.
This “bit” “map” tells you one or more bits of information. Specifically, bitmaps show information that tells you what you should see on a digital screen.
Bitmaps are also known as a bitmap index or a bit array.
In addition, there is also called a “pixmap,” which is a pixel map with more than two colors per pixel or more than one bit per pixel.
In some cases, the word bitmap refers to pictures with one bit per pixel, whereas pixmap refers to images with several bits per pixel.
What is Raster?
Raster graphics, also known as bitmap graphics, are digital files made up of individual squares of color called “pixels.” We use raster format for non-line art images or artwork elements in your design file.
Every pixel helps to create the overall image. These colored square pixels combine similar to a mosaic. You shouldn’t be able to see individual pixels unless you zoom in, or unless your raster image is in low resolution.
Raster is excellent for showing continuous-tone graphics such as photographs or shaded drawings with undefined shapes and blended lines.
This kind of image works well for complex visual content because it can handle a broad range of colors and portray delicate graduated tones.
Raster File Size and File Information
Rasters are resolution-specific and are displayed at one specific resolution. To find out what the resolution is for your file, look at the “dpi” or “ppi” value. Dpi means dots per inch. Ppi means pixels per inch. The higher the value, the greater the resolution.
Raster graphics store information using bitmaps. As a result, a large file requires a large bitmap. Hence, the larger the image, the more disk space it occupies.
For example, if you have a 500 × 500 image, you need storage space for information for 250,000 pixels. Moreover, you will need data storage for a staggering 9,980,928 pixels for one 3648 x 2736 image.
Raster Compression and Issues
To help minimize file sizes, we can use picture compression techniques. Jpeg and .gif are examples of compressed picture formats you might be familiar with.
Scaling these pictures down is simple enough. However, since raster images are pixel-based (resolution-based), they are prone to image degradation. Try opening a photo file and making it bigger. You will surely get a blurry copy.
What exactly happens when you scale a raster image?
Interpolation happens. When you increase the size of a raster image, your software program produces new pixels by predicting the color values of new pixels based on the color values of adjacent pixels. This helps your file keep the same resolution, however you will get less crisp results.
Do raster images get blurry when they are made bigger?
Yes. Since raster images are set to just one resolution, if you try blowing it up, you will get pixelation. Look at the samples below”
As you zoom in, you can see the individual pixels that “build” the image. That’s because rasters become “bitmapped” as you blow it up.
Do raster images get blurry when they are made smaller?
While raster images are okay to scale down compared to blown up, we can still run into issues. Try looking at the quality of the smaller version.
Due to a raster’s composition, scaled-down images are also prone to image degradation. As you can see in the example above, rasters made smaller frequently appear softer or less crisp than the original.
Raster Graphics Examples
Raster graphics are a collection of samples of a particular region that are produced or recorded digitally. Take, for example, a scanned photograph.
File extensions for raster graphics are, .GIF, .TIF, .JPG, and .BMP.
Raster Pros and Cons
Almost everything has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Here we discuss the pros and cons of raster graphics.
- Raster data structures are simple.
- You can merge and combine raster images and other graphics easily.
- Raster uses pixels to build images. This allows for complex image production, smooth gradients
- Since cells are the same shape and size, replication is easy.
- Unless you employ advanced tools or technology, projection transformations take a long time.
- Linkages between networks are difficult to build.
- The usage of large cells to minimize data sizes can result in the loss of functionally identifiable structures and a significant loss of data.
- Coarse raster maps are far less appealing than line maps.
What is Vector?
Vector graphics are made up of curves, points, shapes, and lines based on mathematical formulae. When you try making a vector graphic file bigger or smaller, it doesn’t lose quality because it keeps its shape.
Software uses “vector statements” in vector graphics to create and store vector files. These vector statements include sequential commands or algorithms. Since vector graphics rely on a sequence of mathematical curves, they are ideal for printing.
When you make vector images bigger or smaller, do they get blurry?
When comparing rasters and vectors, the latter don’t lose any quality because they aren’t resolution-based. Because of this, it’s perfectly fine to scale them to any size you want without image degradation issues.
Is a logo a vector graphic?
Vector is the preferred format for your main branding elements, such as logos and patterns. As vectors don’t lose resolution when they are scaled, you want all of these to always print sharp so they always look professional.
The algorithms that build vectors arrange lines or objects in a 2-D or 3-D domain. Commands specify how these points connect to each other, rather than having a bit in the file for each part of the image. Because of this, you can rely on vectors as great tools to reproduce structured images.
Choose the vector format when you need to create flat, line art graphics. If you are making images from scratch, including brand fonts and emblems, use vector.
Can you use vectors to recreate photographic images?
Vectors’ mathematical formulae hinge on simple shapes like circles, lines, curves, polygons, and rectangles.
Because of this, you can’t recreate photographs and other natural images in vector. Here’s an example to show you why:
Vector Graphics Examples
Looking at it geometrically, you can see vectors as a directed line segment with an arrow denoting the direction and a length equal to the magnitude of the vector. The vector’s direction is from the tail to the head.
File extensions for vector graphics are, .PDF, .DXF, .AI, .EPS, and .SVG.
Vector Pros and Cons
- Consists of light data that is easy to manage.
- Fast and easy to process.
- Data is easy to retrieve and update.
- Vector graphics are always accurate.
- Accurate depiction of aesthetics.
- You can clearly define the structure of a vector.
- The technology is costly, especially when it comes to more advanced hardware or software.
- Plotting and display can be costly especially when trying to achieve high-quality color
- Vectors are difficult to replicate since each unit has a varying geometrical shape.
- Vectors have complex data structures.
Differences and Similarities between Raster and Vector Graphics
Now that we’ve discussed both file formats individually, let’s put all our new learnings together. Have a look at some of the main distinctions between raster and vector:
- Raster graphics combine as pixels arranged in a grid to produce a complex image on the display screen. Vector graphics have intrinsic mathematical formulae to output scalable objects like lines and simple shapes.
- You can convert raster images to other raster file types but you can’t converted rasters to vectors. On the other hand, you can certainly “rasterize” vectors or can convert vectors to raster images. When this happens, your software keeps a copy of that vector picture when you successfully convert a vector image to a raster bitmap image. Otherwise, the image loses its vector attributes following conversion to a raster.
- Both raster and vector have distinct features that make them suitable for different jobs.
- Vector graphics are device-independent. Therefore, vectors are high quality and will adjust to the resolution capability of any device they are on. Raster images are resolution-dependent. Therefore, if we try to alter a raster picture using the resizing option, we will lose pixels (and, therefore, resolution).
- Unquestionably, vectors are more flexible than rasters. Inherent to their composition, vectors are more malleable and easy to use; there is no upper or lower limit for sizing vector images. Rasters only have one resolution and limits are tight for resizing.
- You can have just one vector file applicable to varied print projects and specifications related to the above. Raster images are difficult to apply to different print projects and sizes. You may need separate files for different print sizes based on your raster image’s native (original) resolution.
- Vector graphics don’t need to save tons of information for them to render correctly. For the screen to appropriately display raster graphics, they need to memorize millions of tiny pixels. Therefore, vector files are usually markedly smaller than their raster counterparts.
Should I Use Raster or Vector?
Now that you understand raster and vector graphics, you may be wondering which is better, raster or vector? In the end, it all comes down to what you’re making and how you intend to apply it.
In the design and print industries, we combine raster and vector graphics in many instances. For instance, a brochure may feature a business logo (in vector) and a photo of satisfied customers (in raster), frequently combined in layout tools like InDesign or QuarkXpress.
Photoshop and Illustrator are great to pair vector and raster graphics to create one master print artwork file.
If you require a brand logo for a variety of media that you want to print many times over, you should design a vector that can be resized as needed, then output in whichever format you need at the moment.
On the other hand, choose rasters capable of displaying intricate color mixes and imitating the natural characteristics of light if you intend to edit a photo or build a beautiful digital painting.
-Difference Between Vector and Raster: FAQs-
What are vector graphics and raster graphics?
Computer formulae render vector graphics or digital visual art that follows a mathematical formula. On the other hand, thousands of tiny pixels aggregate to form raster graphics, making rasters resolution-dependent and best employed for generating photographs.
What are vector graphics used for?
Businesses often use vector graphics for marketing and advertising. Vector graphics routinely improve and enhance the substance of digital presentations, infographics, websites, and mobile applications.
Is Photoshop raster or vector?
Is Photoshop a vector-based program? No, Adobe Photoshop is a raster-based tool, which means it creates detailed images using pixels. Artists commonly use Photoshop to edit digital images, which are typically raster files.
What are raster graphics used for?
Designers use raster graphics for non-line art images, such as digitized pictures, scanned artwork, or intricate graphics. For non-line art images, designers best portrayed these in raster form since they generally incorporate delicate chromatic gradations, undefined shapes and lines, and complicated arrangement.