What’s the difference between vector, raster and bitmap images?

Here we tell you what’s the difference between vector, raster and bitmap images and what they are used for?

Raster Graphics (commonly called bitmap images) are made of pixels. Each pixel is actually a very small square that is assigned a colour when photographed or scanned. Each pixel makes up the image as a series of share dots. When you zoom in on a bitmap image you can see the individual pixels that make up that image. They have a fixed resolution and cannot be resized larger without losing quality.

  • Common bitmap file formats are .jpg .gif .png .tiff .psd and .bmp

Often bitmap images have much larger file sizes than a vector graphic. They are often compressed to reduce their size and therefore loose further clarity. Bitmap images can be converted from one format to another with programs such as Photoshop. A .jpeg can be save to a .tiff or  .jpeg to a .psd or .png (see link below).

Vector graphics or vector images are images that have been created in a vector drawing programs such as Corel or Illustrator. The paths and shapes created are processed mathematically. Vector art is resolution independent whatever size you enlarge the image, the output quality is never compromised. This is why logos and line illustrations should always be created in vector art format.

  • Common vector art file formats for include: .ai .eps and .pdf

Understanding raster images and vector graphics is important. Choosing which style to use could end costs far more than expected along with the printed result not being as expected. Without exception logos should always be created in vector art format because as we have said it is scalable — able to be enlarged without any loss of quality.

Can I make my jpeg into vector art?

Simply answer is No If your logo never was vector, or if the original art file has been lost. The only real alternative is to have a professional graphic artist create the logo from scratch in a vector drawing program. It is possible to convert raster art into vector with methods such as “live trace” in Adobe Illustrator, the results are usually less than satisfactory but occasionally it still surprises us.

Saving your logo to a different file format

It is a common misconception that saving a raster art file (such as a logo) to a vector art file format will somehow fix the problem. Pixel-based raster art will always be made out of pixels, regardless of what file format one saves the image as. If you have poor quality images changing them to a different format will not help. Save a jpeg as a larger file is pointless and will make the image worse.

Is vector art always better?

Most marketing materials actually contain a combination of both raster and vector art formats. An understanding of the advantages & limitations of each format and the relationship between them is most likely to result in efficient and effective use of tools.

Vector art is complementary, and not necessarily always “better” than raster art. A real photograph can’t be vector art, that would be an illustration. Bitmap formats are best for images that need to have a wide range of color gradations, such as most photographs. Vector formats, on the other hand, are better for images that consist of a few areas of solid color. Examples of images that are well suited for the vector format include logos and type.

With Adobes Creative Cloud you can now happy produce artwork in Photoshop knowing that type and images will maintain their quality. This of course has not always been the case. Only a few years ago you would have never create a business card in Photoshop the quality would have been quite poor. Technology moves forward and today you can produce print ready artwork in Photoshop, edit images in Illustrator and produce websites in InDesign. Even Acrobat gets in the act. We would recommend that you use the correct application specifically designed for the job:-

For images

  • Photoshop, Pixir Editor or perhaps GIMP

For vector

  • Illustrator, Corel or SVG Edit

Page Make up

  • InDesign, Quark or Affinity Publisher

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