What are vector and raster images?
Vector and raster images differ in resolution, detail, and application. Whether you’re a new designer, a seasoned pro, or a marketer looking to hire a designer, you need to know the subtle differences between them. Depending on the project, both raster and vector images have benefits and drawbacks.
The answer is in your work. We’ll compare raster and vector images and help you decide which is best for your project.
What is a raster image?
A raster image is a digital graphic made up of pixels on a grid. Pixels are squares of solid color made of red, green, and blue light (also known as subpixels).
Consider a raster as a mosaic: up close, it appears as a grid of squares, but from afar, an image emerges. The pixel grid is invisible, but designers add to it when using raster programs like Photoshop. Each brush stroke adds pixels along the brush path, depending on the size of the Photoshop document and the brush’s radius. The lens converts reflected light into tiny colored pixels that combine to form a realistic digital image.
Raster images are resolution dependent because each pixel occupies a grid space. Raster images cannot be resized without distortion because the pixel count is fixed. The more pixels, the better the image quality (or resolution), as color blending occurs more easily when viewed from a distance. Because there aren’t enough pixels to provide seamless shading, images will appear tiny or “pixelate” when resized.
Due to the amount of color information they can hold, raster images are ideal for showing subtle color gradients and shading in photo editing or photorealistic illustrations.
You can zoom in and edit each pixel individually.
Many advanced texture effects require raster images.
When to use raster
Photography, video, and web media all use raster. Raster is ideal for photorealism and large-scale images in illustration due to the amount of detail possible. Raster, on the other hand, cannot be used for logos and requires a high resolution for printing.
Here is a list of projects that would benefit from raster images:
- Illustration/painting digital
- Photographic or collaged imagery
- Web design Apps
- Icons in photos
- Instagram photos
- Any other electronic design
- Image software and file formats
- raster files
GIF PNG TIFF RAW PSD Raster software
Corel Paint-Photo GIMP
A vector image is a
A vector image is a mathematically calculated path that can be scaled indefinitely. Geometric shapes that can be stretched or curved as needed, vectors.
Vectors consist of points, polylines, and polygons. However, designers can edit points within the software to change the artwork’s shape. Designers can color, stroke weight, and profile polylines or paths that connect the points. Path closure creates polygons (i.e., all points are connected by a path). They can have a fill color. To create a convincing graphic, a vector image usually contains all of these elements.
While vectors use math, you can leave your advanced calculus degree at the door. Designers can create vector graphics quickly and easily in programs like Adobe Illustrator. Backend calculations are done by a computer.
Because vector images lack pixels, they can be scaled up or down without compromising image quality. This is done automatically by the computer whenever a variable is changed.
When to use vectors
Because vector graphics are resolution independent, they are ideal for print design. With their infinite scalability and simplified shapes, they’re ideal for designs like logos that need to be flexible and editable.
As a result of their simplicity, vectors can be used in (even though the final animation might end up raster). Vectors can be used for illustration and have high geometric precision despite their stylistic limitations. Vectors can be easily converted to raster, so if the situation (and client) allows it, use vector graphics.