Vector vs Raster Graphics

The terms Vector and Raster are used a lot, but what do they mean?  Continue below and find out.

The Difference

Below you will see a screenshot of our logo.  On the left is a vector version, and on the right a raster version.

Each type of graphics have their time and place.


Vector graphics are comprised of lines and curves called as paths.  Each path is formed by connecting a specific point or node location on x and y axes of a vector graph. All vector graphics are created using a special computer software which represents the graphics as an intricate wireframe, in which each path/line consists of a well defined node location, node position, length and curves. Vector logos use very formulaic, systematic approach to the drawing and can be sized and resized repeatedly without losing their resolution or looking pixilated (as with raster images, which we will get into later).
Now that i have bored you, heres what you REALLY need to know. Vector graphics will look as crisp and as sharp covering the side of a building, as they will on a busines card.

Vector Pros:
-Infinitely scalable
-Easily edited
-Small file size
-Most modern equipment runs on vectors for cutting and computer aided fabrication like lasers, CNC, waterjet and plotters

Vector Cons:
-More complex Software
-Lack of special effects


Sometimes these are refered to as Bitmap. When it comes to pictures, raster is the only option, so there will always be a place for these files in the design world.

With raster images your file is built from individual blocks (pixels), each one with a specified color. So if your file is at 150dpi (more accurately ppi) then one inch of your file has 150*150 or 15750 pixels. This is why raster files get so big, you have to put a color code for each and every pixel. 

Imagine your image is 1" x 1" and 150dpi (most web images are 72dpi) and you blow that image up to 10" x 10".  You still only have those 150*150 pixels, so they get blown up 10x bigger and are now a bit over 1/16" big, blow it up again to 10' and each pixel is about a 3/4" block of color.  

You can never add more data to a raster image (no matter what the crime tv shows tell you) all you have are those little blocks. 

So am i saying Raster images are bad? No.  I am saying, always build your file for its intended purpose. (please see the tutorial on Resolution to see how big you should build it)

-Photos are all raster graphics
-Lots of easy software to manipulate (photoshop and its like)
-Many effects and filters available

-Grainy Scaling
-Larger File Sizes
-Lack of Sharp Text
-Fabrication equipment cannot read raster files, and will require additional vector paths for them to read