Vector Graphics VS Raster Graphics: Which Should You Use?

Unless you’ve done something related to graphic design, chances are you don’t know much in terms of the different types of graphic files. It’s okay, don’t worry – to be honest, the majority of people don’t even know what vector- and raster graphics are, and will probably never need to know.

For those of you that do want to know more, this post is for you – let’s get a bit of an insight into the design world.

Raster Graphics (RG)

Simply put, a raster graphic is a group of pixels that form an image.

A pixel, or picture element, is the smallest control element of a digital image. Each pixel has an assigned colour which, when arranged together, form a picture or artwork. Typically, pixels are not visible unless the user zooms in on the graphic.

The size of a raster image depends on the dimension and resolution of each pixel. Once you create an image with raster graphics, you cannot increase the size without losing quality. The image will become “pixelated”, which is where the image appears blurred and boxy, if stretched beyond its original dimensions.

pixelated image showing rater graphics

Some common file extensions for these graphics are:

  • .BMP
  • .GIF
  • .JPEG
  • .PNG
  • .TIF. 

RGs are commonly used when dealing with catalogues, flyers, posters & photo manipulation.

Vector Graphics (VG)

VGs are not actually made from pixels, as you might think, but are created using multiple paths.

A vector path is a digitally drawn outline that represents a series of smooth straight lines. VBGs have various control points which help the user to change the shape of the vector. This means that the quality of the image is independent of resolution. You can scale vectors to any proportions without compromising their integrity or reducing its appearance.

screenshot of adobe illustrator with LeKAC logo opened, with ruler lines and logo entered on dartboard to show graphics usage
The LeKAC logo being edited through Adobe Illustrator (.AI file) – the logo will not be skewed no matter what size is selected.

You can export vector graphics with the following extensions:

  • .AI
  • .CDR
  • .EPS

They are most commonly used to create business cards, packaging, logos and symbols, as they produce the clearest design at any scale.

When to Use Which? 

Both types of graphics have multiple uses with regards to graphic design, although there are specific strengths of each type. Raster graphics are great for manipulation of images, whereas vector graphics are better for the design work you associate with logos and packaging.

If you are editing photos or fonts, raster graphics are the way to go. Raster graphics can edit multiple colours at a time, whereas the vector graphic uses a limited set of colours.

Vector graphics would be used for the majority of brand imaging as it should be used for logos, packaging, and designs. It is also best for creating simple graphic elements such as symbols and shapes.

We would suggest sticking to raster graphics to show off product images on your website or other decoration, and using vector graphics for any elements that need a size change (e.g. logo may be different sizes depending on the product you’re placing it on).

image showing combination of types of graphics - vector and raster

You can always convert a vector graphic into a raster graphic, so if all else fails – go vector!

It’s very likely that we will ask you for a vector file of your logo to start the packaging sample process, but we can always make it work if you don’t have it available.

Call us to set up a meeting today and go over your design work!

Abhiroop Singh
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