GRAPHICS FORMATS – RASTER vs. VECTOR

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RASTERS

Raster is the word to describe any common image. It is the world of 2D vision that we have. It is a 2D grid of pixels. Every pixel has a certain color. That’s it. Our computer screens work this way, our cameras work this way, and our eyes work this way, so it makes sense that our graphics formats work this way too. By having high-resolution images with millions of pixels, one can stuff remarkable detail into their pictures. The higher the resolution the more detail. Rasters are saved as .raw, .jpg, .tiff, and other popular image encoding formats. Your camera takes rasters- always.

VECTORS

Vectors are different. Technically, vectors aren’t even images. You can think of the relationship between vectors and images as that between our DNA and our bodies. Vectors, in other words, are simply the set of instructions for how to create an image. These instructions are fairly simple. “Make a circle over here. Draw a line along this path. Add a gradient between these two colors”, etc. With enough of these instructions, highly detailed images can be generated, but not as detailed as rasters. Vector graphics are never as detailed as raster photographs.

Raster-Vs-Vector-overlay

How is this relevant ? It all boils down to one distinct issue: scalability.

With rasters, one may get plenty of fine, granular detail. Once one scales that image up to a substantial size, though, the pixels start to reveal themselves, and it’s ugly.

This is not a problem with vectors. A mathematically defined line or a circle has no fixed pixel resolution, so the computer knows how to redraw the shape no matter how big it is. Unlimited scalability. No pixelation. Only smooth curves and polished gradients.

So if your aim is to fill a large space, such as an entire wall at your retail store, or to give your office some panache, consider the option of vectorized graphics to give an exceptionally clean picture. Keep in mind that photographs cannot be converted to vector without significant loss in detail. Thus, logos and other graphics are ideally designed and printed as vectors.