Raster vs. Vector Images – What’s the difference and why is it important?

For those of us that aren’t graphic designers, the terminology regarding art files can be confusing. For example, understanding the difference between a vector and raster image. One is always crisp and sharp, and the other can be barely legible if not used correctly.

To understand the difference, you should first know how each is created. A vector image is a series of curves, lines and shapes all based on mathematical equations like that algebra class you never thought you would use to create an image in the computer. A raster image, on the other hand, is a representation of an image using a variety of pixels.

Vector Art:

A VECTOR image or graphic is a type of image defined on a plane, connected by lines and curves. They form shapes based on precise mathematical equations. Because of this if you zoom in or out the lines, curves or points always remain smooth.

Vector art is ideal for all forms of printing. Since the art is based on an equation, the image can be printed in any size and the quality will remain the same. You can use a vector image for a business card and then use the same image for a billboard sized project and the art will still be crisp and clear.

Raster Art:

Raster images are the image type most people are familiar with. A RASTER image, also called a bitmap image is an image comprised of a rectangular grid of pixels. The smaller the pixel size, the higher the resolution. An image with a resolution of 300ppi has 300 pixels per square inch.

When creating or sending images, keep in mind the final product. Getting the correct version of your artwork for a project can be tricky and with so many design terms and jargon, it’s very easy to get lost in translation! If your artwork is for a computer, cell phone or tablet screen, you’re probably going to want to use a RASTER image, but if your art is for printing on letterhead, apparel, banners or signs, drinkware or other promotional products, you’re going to need a VECTOR file.

Remember, Island Media will ALWAYS provide you with several different versions of your artwork, both vector and raster, so you have the right file for the right job!

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