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Graphic Design Raster Art Vector Art

Vector Art vs Raster Art

It is very often that you come across an image or a graphic on your computer either online or offline and never know the technology that was used to achieve the image.

You are not meant to either because the creators of the image have created it in a way that you can have a seamless experience when you look at it on your device or in your favorite magazine.

However this is not the case for those who are interested in graphic design since any work done in graphics requires an in-depth understanding of how images are rendered so as to deliver what the client wants.

An example to this is the fact that images printed in billboards require different setting to images displayed in online media.

The main types of images you will deal with in graphics are vector and raster art. When an image is captured using a camera or a scanner it is in the form of a raster image. Pixel based programs are also used to create raster images by graphic designers.

All images that end with file extension .jpg, .gif or .png are all raster images.

photography of a magazine

To achieve vectors, you will have to use the services of vector software. Images that are in vector form can be enlarged to large sizes without losing quality and are ideal for printed images.

The practical implications of all this in the appearance of the image is that for raster art the image will appear seamless in that transition from one color or shape is gradual.

This is almost similar to painted art where the painter has dipped a brush into a bucket of paint and painted onto a canvas.

For the vector art, the lines are clear and colors are static. This image is highly clear and whatever level of magnification does not affect the quality of the image.

The experience of using vector software is that you will get the experience of using different objects to achieve your image with each object displaying its own distinct color.

How Raster and Vector Art Differ

To begin with raster art is built from pixels. This means that the image will be composed of many small pixels each with a color distribution that works to achieve the complete image.

The consequence of this is that you end up with an image with a lot of details. Sometimes images created this way have the potential for detail similar to paintings done by professional painters on a canvas.

Now you can easily understand the use of raster art, which will ensure that the end user gets the images in the best quality and with the high level of details.

The backdrop of raster art is the fact that the image begins to lose quality as you try to enlarge it.

man comparing a photo in front of the computer screen

If you enlarging the image, you will begin to see a pixelated image that does not have the same quality to its former size.

To solve this problem you may try to add more pixels to the image but the random nature of how the pixels are added cannot assure you of any improvement to quality.

This is where vector imaging comes in.

Instead of using pixels as the building blocks for imaging, vector images uses a mathematical model, which calculates the distance between points and uses this rule to create lines and shapes.

Since the mathematical formula remains the same, you can enlarge the image to whatever size you need and the quality of the image will still be the same.

image of a caveman on a scooter

Large printed images, such as those found in advertisement billboards require vector imaging and where the image is enlarged and its quality is not lost.

The main setback of a vector image is that you cannot create an image that has the same kind of detail as raster images and the same color quality.

Qualities That Vector Art Brings to Imaging

1. Simplicity of Color Editing

You can simply limit the amount of color that will be required to create an image. This is often very beneficial to processes that require limited colors such as screen printing. Other processes that benefit from limited color are stencil cuts and vinyl signs.

2. Scalability

We have already determined that the resolution of vector images does not deteriorate with magnification. This means that any image that will be printed from the vector image can be of the highest resolution the only limit being the printer that is used.

3. Ease of Creating Wireframes

When you use vector imaging software, it will present the image as you would see it in full color but it also has the option of allowing you to simply view the outline of the image that you are creating.

These outlines which are known as wireframes are very critical for some organizations. For example in design conceptualization of web designs, a wireframe may be required before a proposed design is accepted.

Advantages That Raster Art Offers In Graphics


Gradation is an aspect of art which employs a technique of gradual changes that allow transitioning between color hues and this allows for differentiation of shades and textures.

This aspect attempts to create an impression in digital art that is close to reality as much as possible but it is also used in abstract ideas as well.


The use of different color pixels in raster art allows the artist to create a detailed and rich image by having the pixels arranged in a manner similar to how a jigsaw puzzle fits all the individual pieces to bring the bigger image to life.

Detailed Printed Images

We have already seen why raster images are not ideal for printing but in some cases raster images are still used for printing purposes.

When printed images use raster images, they are usually of the highest quality. An example is the printing of an image onto a t-shirt.

For the printing to be a success, you must provide printing company the correct size of the image.

The main details to this is the pixel dimension of your image as well as the image resolution (pixels per inch that the printer can print without losing the quality of the image).

How to Choose Between Vector Art and Raster Art in Your Design

The design that you are working on will determine the art you choose. For example, if you are editing a photo or creating an image with the same level of detail compared to the photo, you are best served by using raster art.

vector icons on a computer screen

On the other hand, if you are designing an image that requires clear contrast between objects then the way to go is vector art. These are images that resemble drawings and illustrations.

Ideally, for companies that have their logo in rich colors and details, the logo is a raster image but due to some printing requirements the company usually has a secondary logo that is simplified and is in the form of a vector image.

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