In the world of digital design the words “vector” and “raster” are not uncommon. But how many of us know what they really mean? Using one or the other could make all the difference with file compatibility, clarity and accessibility.

To state it simply, a vector image is based on points and is scalable to any size. A raster image is based on pixels, and has limitations as far as how large it can be sized.

Typically only raster based files (.jpg, .gif .png ) are eligible for upload onto web-based sites. So if you are working in a vector format, your file will need to be converted prior to uploading.

A vector image is usually the format of choice for logo creation, brand identity, or other various design jobs. The program most used to make vector imagery is Adobe illustrator, or .ai files.  The file size could also be .svg  (scalable vector graphic file) or sometimes also available in .pdf form. Core assets for websites or animations are often made using vector graphics, as they can support the flexibility required for various sizes and platforms. A vector image can quickly and easily be resized and made to fit into various platforms or onto different items, such as letterheads, business cards, t-shirts, etc.

A raster image has a unique behavior in the scaling process. The pixels become broken down and degraded as the image is sized beyond its limits.  Raster imagery is ideal for photographs or similar high detail already pixel based items.

Vector and Raster images are best when used in combination with each other.  There is no need to use just one or the other.   Use them together for amazing graphic design work.

written by Ai Mitton

(Ai is the Head of Graphic Design for SquareHook)