Vector Graphics and Raster Graphics Difference

Word processors and spreadsheet or presentation applications, although suitable for creating files for office or Internet use, are not recommended for creating digital art for print. Microsoft Office applications are included in this group. In some cases, however, such files may be converted so as to enable use.

Here are 2 examples of an image when magnified or scaled up. You will notice the difference in clarity. The mascot design below was designed by SpellBrand for a client.

Vector Graphics typically are generated using drawing or illustration programs (e.g., Adobe Illustrator) and are composed of mathematically-defined geometric shapes—lines, objects and fills. Since vectors entail both magnitude and direction, vector elements thus are comprised of line segments whose length represents magnitude and whose orientation in space represents direction.

Vector graphics usually are easily modified within the creating application and generally are not affected detrimentally by scaling (enlarging or reducing their size). Because vector elements are mathematically-defined, scaling simply requires modification of their mathematical locations. However, vector files do not support photographic imagery well and often can be problematic for cross-platform exchange. Vector graphics typically are saved as EPS format.

This makes vector graphics ideal for logo design. Creating a vector logo is more difficult but the effort pays for itself when the vector logo file is sent to printers or sign makers etc. The vector logo can be scaled up or down with out losing quality and would enable smooth transition between various media.

Raster Graphic Images are produced by digital image capture devices: digital scanners or digital cameras, or by pixel editing programs (e.g., Adobe Photoshop). Raster images are composed of a matrix (grid) or bitmap of digital picture elements (pixels). Pixels are squares or rectangles described as black, white, gray or color. Raster images typically are saved as TIFF format, but can be saved as EPS as well.

Whereas conversion from vector to raster is easily accomplished, raster conversion to vector is much more difficult (and often is not possible). Raster images typically are easily shared across various platforms, but can be more difficult than vector graphics to modify. As well, raster graphics are impacted by scaling.

Creating a raster logo design using Adobe Photoshop might be ideal for web only usage but if you are serious about branding, then the resulting raster PSD logo file will be of limited use. When sent to a printer or sign maker and when they try to scale the raster logo, the quality deteriorates and pixellation occurs. Yes, agreed, creating the raster logo design in Photoshop would enable a designer to pile on stunning effects (such as drop shadows, beveling, blurring etc). But the final deliverable will have limited uses.

Read more about different image file formats. Here is an indepth explanation of vector graphics.

Vector and Raster File Extensions

ExtensionFile ApplicationVectorRaster
.86vTI-86 vector file
.aiAdobe Illustrator graphics
.aitAdobe Illustrator template
.artAdobe Illustrator graphics
.cdlSignLab vector graphic file
.cdrCorelDRAW vector image
.cdrwCorel Draw file
.cdtCorelDRAW Template
.cgmComputer graphics metafile
.chtHarvard Graphics vector file
.citSeeYou vector maps
.cshAdobe Photoshop shape
.cslCorel symbol library
.ctnCadterns Sloper File
.ddocApple MacDraw vector graphic file
.dlgDigital Line Graph vector image
.doDigital Line Graph optional vector data
.drwVector file
.dvgGraphicsWorks vector drawing
.dxbAutoCAD drawing exchange format
.embOrchida Embroidery System embroidery pattern
.fhimage file
.fh10Adobe FreeHand 10 drawing file
.gcdGeneric CADD Drawing format (vector)
.gemVentura Publisher GEM vector picture
.gl2HP Graphics Language plotter file
.hpgVector image (HP Graphics Language plotter file)
.hpglHewlett Packard Graphics Language plot file
.imaEGO – Chart – Autumn Mirage vector graphics
.mdMayura Draw vector drawing file
.mvgImageMagick proprietary vector graphics format
.odgOpenOffice Draw graphic file
.patCorel vector pattern
.patPattern Maker Cross-Stitch Pattern File
.patPolygon Attribute Table File
.patCorel Paint Shop Pro Pattern Image File
.patPCStitch Pattern File
.patSmash Simulator Test Pattern File
.patCadterns Sloper File
.patOrchida Embroidery System File
.pctApple Macintosh QuickDraw/PICT bitmap graphics format
.pifVector image GDF format
.pixImage Systems vector
.pixInset Systems raster & vector format
.ploHP Graphics Language plotter file
.plotVector graphics
.pltAutodesk AutoCAD HPGL vector graphic plotter file
.psAdobe PostScript file
.sdwAmidraw vector image
.sdwWordPro drawing
.slddwgSolidWorks drawing 2D vector graphics file
.spSignPlot output format
.spaFutureSplash Movie (Adobe Flash)
.svfSimple Vector Format
.svgXML based vector graphics format
.sxdStarOffice draw file
.tdrTop Draw vector graphic file
.vecDaylon Vectre vector graphic
.wmfWindows metafile
.xarCorel Xara drawing
.xarXara X vector drawing
.psdAdobe Photoshop
.jpgJPEG Raster File Format
.gifGIF Transparent File
.PNGPortable Network Graphic Transparent File Format

Mash Bonigala
Mash is the Founder & CEO of SpellBrand. Since 1998, Mash has helped 100s of companies differentiate themselves from the competition through Brand Strategy and Brand Identity design. Schedule a call with Mash to discuss how to clearly communicate your brand story. (Follow him on Google+ and Twitter)
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