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Difference Between Vector and Raster Graphics

Vector VS Raster

With the number of file formats and image options out there today, it can be quite challenging (especially for a designer) to figure out the exact file format to work with or send to clients as finished projects. Compatibility is a big concern when you are dealing with different file types. The graphic format is as well important when it comes to images or graphics as it determines how it renders.

We have two kinds of digital graphic files – raster and vector. While Raster images are a combination of tiny squares (pixels) that make up regular images, the functionality of vectors is based on mathematical principles, made up of lots of thin lines and curves that afford the images enough flexibility to be sized and scaled over and over without necessarily losing form or quality. Knowledge about the ins and outs of these formats and how they translate when you export them is a must-have. So here we go:

Vector Graphics

Vector graphics are made up of thin lines and curves produced through special design software like Adobe Sketch or Illustrator. Because of their algorithm makeup, vector images remain slick and smooth regardless of how many times they are zoomed, resized, or rescaled. Design elements like fonts render similarly. They retain their quality when they are sized up or down.

Compared to its raster counterparts, vector images are file efficient. They are made up of mathematical paths, curves, and lines and as such much lighter than raster images that are filled with pixels. This is particularly handy when you have image storage or file size restrictions.

Vectors are not without their cons, of course. The most common issue you will face with using vector images is compatibility. When vector images are saved, the files are usually native to the program used; this can become a bit of a problem when you’re working with someone that doesn’t use the same program you used.

When to use vector graphics

You’d be pleased to know that because of the high scalability of vector images, they are perfect for design projects that involve icons and logos. Logo and icon projects usually require lots of detailing and varying size options, mostly depending on what it is intended for. A good instance of the function of vector images would be making a logo big enough for a billboard and scaling it down to fit in a business card without losing quality as opposed to rasterized images that lose form when resized.

Imagine having to make a new design every time you want to move your company logo on T-shirts, mugs, or other merchandise. Using vector images ensures you don’t have to go through this. Creation and manipulation of vector images are best done on programs such as Sketch and Adobe Illustrator.

Raster Graphics

If you’ve ever been on the web, you have most likely seen a raster image. Raster, otherwise known as bitmap images, are composed of squares called pixels. These tiny squares are colored and combine to form images. The more pixels contained in an image, the higher the quality, and vice versa. When an image is zoomed in on, you get to see the pixel more clearly, while the quality of the image suffers for it. Raster graphics also typically have larger file sizes due to lots of pixels in them. An illustration that has high Dots per Inch (DPI) or Pixels per Inch (PPI) will be considerably larger in size and data. This can be troublesome if storage is limited or files have to be electronically transmitted.  As a rule of thumb, it is best only to downsize a raster image to avoid heavy pixelation.

When to Use Raster Graphics

When you take pictures with your phone or digital camera, you get raster images. They are used in digital applications and photography. To edit raster images, you need access to a program like Adobe Photoshop, which is raster-based. Although some logo designs can be managed using raster images, for design work, it’s advisable to reserve them for photography and imagery only.


Starting out with the right image type can save you time and the stress of reworking a project. First evaluate how your design project will be used, then choose the right image. You need to remember always that for logos, icons, and illustrations, vector image is king. Raster images are standard for photography and digitally published graphics.