Vector vs. Raster

Vector vs. Raster Drawing

Computer graphics can usually be divided into two distinct categories: vector graphics and raster (or bitmap) images. Artboard is vector-based illustration software for Mac OSX. Find out what the differences are between vector graphics and raster images.

There are instances when working with vector tools and formats is the best practice, and instances when working with raster tools and formats is the best practice. There are times when both formats come together. Understanding the advantages and limitations of each technology and the relationship between them will help you choose the appropriate tools and plan your drawing strategies.

Understanding Vector Art and Raster Graphics

Example showing effect of vector graphics versus raster graphics. The original vector-based illustration is at the left. The upper-right image illustrates magnification of 7x as a vector image. The lower-right image illustrates the same magnification as a bitmap image. (source Wikipedia)

Raster images are based on pixels and thus lose clarity when scaled, while vector-based images can be scaled indefinitely without degrading quality.

Raster images are made up of a grid of dots, or pixels, with each pixel containing color information. Computer displays are made up from grids of small rectangular cells called pixels. The picture is built up from these cells. The smaller and closer the cells are together, the better the quality of the image. When magnified, the pixels are magnified and the image can become grainy, or pixelated.

Vector graphics use points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygon(s) that are mathematically defined to represent images in computer graphics. A vector graphics program uses these mathematical formulae to build the best quality image possible given the screen resolution. Vector graphics are scalable to any size and detail, and the file size of vector data generating the image stays the same. The quality of a vector graphic is limited only by the resolution of the output or display. Read more