The Difference Between a Raster and a Vector

Photo by Mikaela Shannon on Unsplash

When using Photoshop, there will eventually be an instance where you are going to need to know the difference between a raster and a vector. Say it’s for needing to convert a file into a jpeg or needing a solid image of a graphic you created, in order to know what file format to use, you will need to know the distinction between the two.

A raster graphic is an image that is composed of pixels. You can tell an image is a raster graphic by zooming in really close on the image and seeing the tiny little square outlines of the pixels. This allows you to work as precisely as possible in Photoshop. They are often saved as gifs, jpegs, or pngs. Most images on the internet are raster graphics. They are mostly used when it comes to digital publication and are not considered suitable for printing due to their large file size. Raster graphics have a higher DPI and PPI, causing it to have a larger file size than vector graphics. They have a higher DPI and PPI because each pixel is rendered. This allows the quality of a photo to stay the same if printed, which is why it is used in digital photography.

Vector graphics are made of thin lines and curves, otherwise known as paths. Their mathematical formula is rooted in a vector, controlling its shape and color. Because of this, they can be sized and scaled to whatever size and the quality of the vector will stay the same. Raster images, however, become blurry and pixellated, losing it’s quality. Vectors will always appear smooth and crisp. This is why logos are created using vectors. No matter how many times you resize it, it will always look the same. Vector images are created in specific softwares like Adobe Illustrator, using a file type of .ai or .esp. The files are defined by mathematical calculations instead of pixels and are much smaller in size than raster images. They can be easily transferred from one device to another. Type and fonts can also be created using vector images. Whenever you see a business card, brochure, or any other project that includes a logo, design, symbol, or text, know that it was created using vector images.


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