Raster and Vector Graphics – What’s the Difference?

In the graphic design world there are two main types of graphics. Vector graphics and raster (or Bitmap) graphics. There are some major differences between the two graphic formats, and you need to understand these differences to know when you should be using each format. This article will look at the two different formats and when you should use each.

Vector Graphics

Vector graphics are a graphic image format that are created by applications such as Adobe Illustrator, Coral draw, or free open-source application inkscape. They are sometimes referred to as drawing applications. A vector graphic stores information differently to raster graphics in that it doesn’t use pixels. A vector graphic records specific coordinates within your file as reference points, then records other information such as line gradients, and thickness as a formula. So when you are editing the file you are not editing pixels on a screen, you are adding to and altering the formula’s information. Because of this, vector graphics are completely scalable. It doesn’t matter how small or how large your image is on the screen, it is not size that determines how large the file size of your image is. Vector graphic images come in a range of different file types depending on the application that created them. Typical formats include EPS, AI, CDR, and SVG.

Raster Graphics

Raster graphics are a graphic image format that are created by applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Paint, Corel Paint and free open-source application Gimp. They are sometimes referred to as painting applications. Raster graphic image formats store information about the file as pixels. Pixel are small dots that are used to make up your image. The larger the resolution, the more pixels there are, the larger the file size the image will be. There are different types of raster graphics used to compress file size using a range of different techniques. For example Gif file format compresses file size of an image by simplifying colour information of an image. It only uses 256 colours. Jpeg is another raster image format, that saves file size by using an algorithm that simplifies detail by analysis of pixel information. The higher the compression of the file, the more detail is discarded.

Which Application should I use?

Both applications have their strengths and weaknesses. Raster graphic applications typically have a range of photo effects, and photo editing functions. This makes raster graphic application ideal for editing photos. Also any image where you require a full colour range, raster graphics are more appropriate. Vector graphics are more appropriate for drawing images from scratch. For example, if you were designing a logo from scratch or drawing a cartoon character. Both of these projects would benefit from the scalability of vector graphic applications, and the other tools within the vector applications designed specifically to help with drawing projects.