What Is Vector Artwork & What Format Is Best For Printing

What is vector format & what format is best for your printing

If you’re anything like us, it’s more than likely you’ve had to explain to numerous clients why they can’t use the stamp sized logo from their website on their trade show banners and t-shirts. Not to worry, we’ve put together a simple guide explaining the difference between raster and vector graphics, and when each is most appropriate (feel free to just copy, paste and send to your clients too).

 

The 10 second run down

Raster = Great for photographs or images with complex colour details, but can’t enlarge without becoming blurry. Needs creating to the size it will be printed at.
Vector = Ideal for fonts and logos due to it’s ability to be scaled without loosing colour.

In Detail

Raster Graphics

Overview

A raster graphic is an image made up of many small blocks of colour information, usually referred to as pixels or dots. A common raster graphic is a Photograph, and the best tool for creating or editing these types of graphics is Adobe Photoshop.

Pros +

These are great when you need rich detail or need precise colour editing abilities.

Cons -

When scaled larger or smaller, the image is likely to blur. This blurring is a result of the finite number of pixels - when you enlarge the image, the computer has to guess what colours should be filling the gaps, so it guesses, and this causes the pixelation.

When they’re suitable

Raster graphics are great when digital printing rich images such as photographs. However the artwork needs to be created at the size you wish to print it, to avoid any pixelation. So enlarging a small image from the internet in most cases will just mean a blurry print (not so professional).
If it looks blurry on your screen it will print blurry.

Image File Types Include: psd, .jpeg, .tiff, .png, .gif, .bmp.
Note: Saving a raster graphic from the internet or another program in Adobe Illustrator, will not make the file a vector graphic. If an image pixelates when zoomed in it is a raster graphic.


Vector Graphics

Overview

Vector graphics are created using maths rather than pixels, so where a  raster image of a 1” x  1” square (at 300 dpi) will have 300 individuals pieces of information, a vector image will only contain four points, one for each corner. The computer then can use maths to connect these dots. So, when an object is scaled in size, the computer doesn’t have to guess values, but instead can calculate exact values; which in short means perfect blur free images every time.

Pros +

Vector files can be scaled up or down without losing any image quality and are also far easier to modify. Additionally file sizes are far smaller than of raster graphics.

Cons -

These files are limited when it comes to detail, so are not practical for images that require complex colouring like a photograph.

When they’re suitable

Vector graphics are great when printing logo’s, text and simple graphics as you can ensure no quality is lost regardless to how the image is scaled. When printing we always suggest using vector graphics where possible.
Vector File Types Include: Adobe Illustrator (.ai) or vector-based .pdf/.eps.
Note: Saving a raster graphic from the internet or another program in Adobe Illustrator, will not make the file a vector graphic. If an image pixelates when zoomed in it is a raster graphic.