Raster vs. Vector: A Simple Guide
By: Naomi J. Golbeck, Decals.com Staff Writer
The print and graphic design industries each work with both vector and raster file types. So, what’s the difference?
I’ve created this easy-to-follow guide to teach you the basic differences between the two types of graphics.
Keep reading to find out more!
Chapter One: Vector Graphics
Vector graphics are built from mathematical formulas or paths with anchor points in order to create the image.
Creating vector graphics is basically just illustrating an image using lines and curves. Because of this, they can be resized to humungous sizes without losing any image quality. Imagine a logo on a billboard and it is most likely vector art
Chapter Two: Raster Graphics
Raster graphics are like LEGO creations; they consist of tiny colored blocks that work together to make a comprehensive image. Therefore, think of raster graphic creation as the process of making images out of many little digitally colored pixels, just on a grid.
Due to how the image is constructed, if the file size is too small and they are resized to a very large size, then the raster image may become pixelated or blurry. Imagine what would happen if you could stretch out a lego block, it just wouldn’t look right.
A real-world raster image example would be a high-resolution, framed wedding photo set on a wall.
Chapter Three: Common File Types for Print
These are the most common file types for print. Let’s define which ones are vector files and which ones are raster.
.JPEG (or .JPG)
- Vector (unless created in Photoshop)
Chapter Four: Photoshop and Illustrator
Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator are perhaps the most common (or at least well known) image editing and creation computer programs around. But did you know that one works with rasterized files while the other uses vectorized files? Yep.
Simply put, this is raster-based software. You wouldn’t usually use photoshop to design a logo (but you could). However, you would definitely use this program to color correct an image going into your logo.
This is vector-based software. You wouldn’t use Illustrator to add freckles to a digital photo or to lighten up a person's hair. But you may use it to illustrate a blue-eyed blonde cartoon face, with adorable freckles.
Chapter Five: File Conversions
Converting a rasterized image into a vector image is a technique known as vectorization. This is pretty common and many printing services (like us) charge a fee to do it.
Rasterization, or converting vector images into raster images can also be done via Photoshop or other raster-based programs. Converting vector files into raster allows these programs to edit the previously vectored artwork.
Each conversion technique may present some visual issues. This is because the files were created using different methods; vector stores a formula, while raster consists of a detailed pixel mosaic.
For sticker and decal printing, we recommend using vector files. If you require vectorization or recreation services, please reach out to us!