Raster Images vs. Vector Art—What’s the difference?

Computer graphics can be created as either raster or vector images.  Choosing the right format can make (or break) your design.

Raster Images

Raster Images are bitmaps (a grid of individual pixels that together compose an image). A raster image is a collection of countless tiny squares (aka pixels) that are coded in a specific hue or shade. Together these hues and shades create the most beautiful images. The most common type of raster images are photographs, scanned artwork and detailed artwork.

Shaded Pixel Squares

Shaded Pixel Squares

With raster images you have a set number of pixels in the image. Due to this there’s a limit to how much an image can be enlarged and still look good.  When enlarging a raster image, the number of pixels doesn’t increase, just the space between them. This is why images get blurry.

Raster images are measured in dots-per-inch (dpi). Let’s take an image with a dpi of 600 x 900. Most printers prefer images to print at 300 dpi, thus this particular image would best print at 2” x 3”.  If you enlarged this image to become a poster and printed it at 10” x 15”, it would become blurry and lose its detail since there are now only 60 dots per inch (instead of the 300).

Common raster formats include TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PCX and BMP files.

Vector Art

Vector art is a computer-generated image created with lines, curves, circles, rectangles, etc. Vector art is solely based off mathematical formulas. It’s best used to create line art graphics, logos and fonts.  Vector art is also created with uniform color (no color gradations).

The benefit of vector art is that is can be used at any size. It will look the same if it is printed 1” tall or 400’ tall.  Since it’s based off mathematical formulas it will not loose any of its design detail.

Vector artwork

Vector artwork

Vector art files are very small in size no matter how large the image is printed. Raster images on the other hand vary in size depending on the amount of pixels. The more pixels, the larger the file.

Common vector formats include AI, EPS, CGM, WMF and PICT (Mac).

If you have questions about your artwork please reach out to us. We can tell you what images are best to use, what size you can use them at, help you create (or re-create) artwork, etc.

We’re located in Chatsworth, and serve the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles County and parts of Ventura County as well. Feel free to call or email: 818-709-1220 or info@clearprint.com.

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