Raster vs Vector: Pixel-Perfect vs Infinite Scalability

Raster vs Vector

When it comes to digital imagery, there are two main categories to consider: raster and vector images. It is essential to understand the differences between the two and their respective advantages and disadvantages.
Since it is possible to convert images from one format to another and to use both raster and vector images within the same file – this may sometimes lead to confusion. Therefore, knowing when to use each format can make a significant difference in the final outcome of a project. Let’s go ahead and compare raster vs vector!

Raster images

Raster images, or bitmap images, are digital graphics composed of pixels arranged in a grid-like pattern. Each pixel contains color information, which determines the overall appearance of the image. They can be created using digital cameras, scanners, or graphics software, and are commonly used for photographs and complex graphics. Examples of raster image formats include JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF, PSD, TIF or TIFF.

One of the defining characteristics of raster images is their resolution, which is measured in pixels per inch (ppi) or dots per inch (dpi). A higher resolution image contains more pixels per inch, resulting in a sharper and more detailed image.

Types of Raster Images

Raster images can contain any number of colors, but they are most commonly divided into four basic categories:

  1. One-bit (Line-art): These images consist of only two colors. Typically, black and white are used, but any combination of two colors is possible.
  2. Grayscale images: Images contain various shades of gray, as well as pure black and white.
  3. Multicolored: These images contain shades of two or more colors. Duotones, which usually consist of black and one other color (usually Pantone), are most commonly used.
  4. Color images: Information about colors can be described using various systems such as RGB, CMYK, or Lab.

Vector images

Vector images are computer graphics created using mathematical formulas to represent shapes and lines. Unlike raster images, which are composed of pixels, vector images are made up of paths, points, and curves that can be infinitely scaled without losing resolution. This makes them ideal for use in design and illustration, where precision and scalability are important.

Raster vs Vector: Characteristics

Raster and vector images have distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different types of projects.

Characteristics of Raster Images

  • Raster images are made up of pixels, which can become blurry or pixelated when scaled up or down.
  • Raster data takes up a lot of space. As an example, a CMYK image in A4 format, optimized for medium-quality printing (150 lpi), is 40 MB in size. This size can be significantly reduced with various types of compression.
  • Raster images are often preferred for their ability to capture realistic detail and texture.
  • Raster images are resolution-dependent. They must be created at a specific size and resolution for optimal quality.
  • Many programs can be used to create or edit raster images. Adobe Photoshop is the most well-known one, while alternative programs, include Corel Photo-Paint, Affinity Photo, GIMP, etc.

Characteristics of Vector Images

  • Vector images are made up of mathematical equations and geometric shapes, which can be scaled up or down without losing quality or becoming pixelated.
  • It is simple to modify and adjust vector images. This flexibility makes them ideal for designers and illustrators who frequently need to make changes to their artwork.
  • These images are resolution-independent, meaning they can be created at any size or resolution.
  • Vector images have smaller file sizes compared to raster images.
  • Vector files are always reproducible with sharp edges and universally usable.
  • Vector images can be created and edited using vector editing software, including Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, Inkscape, Affinity Designer, Sketch, etc.
  • Vector files can be saved in AI, EPS, PDF, or SVG format, among others.
Raster vs Vector comparison. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Raster vs Vector: Uses

The choice between raster and vector images depends on the specific project requirements and intended use. Here are some common uses for raster and vector images:

Uses of Raster Images

  • Photographs and digital artwork
  • Web graphics, such as banners and buttons
  • Video game graphics and animations
  • Printed materials, such as magazines and brochures

Uses of Vector Images

  • Logos and branding materials
  • Illustrations and graphic design projects
  • Web design, such as icons and buttons
  • Large-format printing, such as billboards and posters

Raster or Vector: Which One Should You Use

Choosing between raster and vector images depends on the intended use of the image.

Here are some tips to help you decide:

First, consider the type of image: Raster images are best for photographs, complex graphics, and images with many colors or shading. Vector images, as mentioned, are ideal for logos, lettering, icons, and illustrations that require precise lines and shapes.

Think about scalability: If you need an image that can be resized without losing quality, vector graphics are the way to go.

Consider the output: When making designs for print, vector graphics are preferred since they can be scaled to any size and always remains sharp, even when greatly magnified. For web design, raster images are more common because they are smaller in file size and load faster. If you need to use a raster image for print – make sure it is created at a high enough resolution for the intended print size.

Editing: If you need to make a lot of changes to an image, vector graphics are easier to edit. Since raster images are made up of pixels, they can be more challenging when it comes to editing.

Convert image files with Online Convert

Online Convert provides a quick and easy solution for converting both raster and vector images. It supports various file formats and offers intuitive conversion tools that enable users to quickly modify images to match their project needs.

Whether you need to convert a raster image to a vector format like SVG, AI, or EPS, or a vector image to a raster format like JPEG, PNG, or BMP – Online Convert is at your service.