Graphic Design Terms: What’s the Difference Between Raster and Vector?

Have you seen Despicable Me? On the yellow-minion-filled movie, Gru’s rival is named Vector because he has “both direction and magnitude.” (Here’s the clip if you need a reminder.)

But what does that mean, and what does it have to do with design?

Raster vs. Vector

raster example

An example of a “pixelated” raster image.

There are two kinds of images on a computer: raster and vector. Raster images are made up of a grid of little dots (called pixels). If you blow up such images too far, they tend to look blurry or jagged because there’s not enough information (pixels) to fill in the details. Any photograph falls into this category.

vector example

An example of a vector image. (The lines and dots around the “o” indicate it is being edited.)

Vector graphics, on the other hand, are made out of lines and curves. Thus, they can be blown up as big as you need without any loss of quality. They keep their sharp edges because new pixels can be drawn in based on where the lines in the image are. That’s where “direction and magnitude” come in. The lines and curves in a vector graphic are based on mathematically determined positions, directions and lengths. Most logos (at least in their original versions) fall into this category.

The Bottom Line

There are two types of images. Raster images are made up of a bunch of tiny dots and work great for photographs. Vector graphics are made from mathematically positioned lines and curves and work great for logos and images that need to work at a variety of sizes.

What Does This Mean for Me?

Common vector formats include .ai (Adobe Illustrator), .svg (Scalable Vector Graphic), and .eps (Encapsulated PostScript).

Make sure that whoever designs your logo—whether it’s DRM Productions or not— creates it as a vector graphic and supplies it to you in both raster and vector formats. This will give you the most flexibility when sizing your logo for different media.

Also, when supplying your logo to someone who is designing a brochure or website for you, provide it as a vector if at all possible. It will make the designer happy, and your brochure or website will be better for it.

 

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