People who are new to graphic design often find it hard to decide which file formats they should use for their projects. Most professional editing software allows editors to use different types of file formats with ease. Raster files and vector files are the two most common choices. But, knowing when to use raster or vector is very important.
Why should graphic designers take these decisions seriously? In 2019, graphic designers across the world generated $4.82 billion in just online art sales. By 2024, that amount is expected to reach $9.32 billion. So, there are clear benefits of being a top-quality graphic designer. Hence, being particular about using raster or vector images for specific functions is equally important.
Raster and Vector Files
Raster files (also known as bitmap) consist of small square-shaped pixels. More pixels on a raster file translates to better image quality. That’s why high-quality raster files are also large-sized. On the other hand, vector files are graphics made with mathematical equations. These images consist of pre-programmed curves, paths, lines, etc., instead of pixels. Vector files are most commonly used to create logos, artificial artwork, statistical graphs.
Vector files are darlings of the graphic design industry because, unlike bitmap files, their resolutions are scalable. Editors can zoom in on vector graphics as much as they want without disturbing its image quality.
When graphic designers have to alter their images’ sizes while editing, using bitmap images often disrupts the quality of their work.
They can’t increase the size of a bitmap image without disrupting the image quality. That’s why these editors get vectorized image by using PNG to SVG or JPEG to SVG files.
Understanding Vector Files
At the point of creation, all vector images are mere points or dots. Two dots/points are linked to create paths. These paths (both straight and curved) can then be connected to other paths to create shapes and designs. Each of these shapes/designs has unique mathematical equations or formulas. No matter what device a vector file is opened in, these formulas are constant. They maintain image quality and sharpness. That’s why vector graphics are used when graphics need to be displayed either at a large scale (e.g. a billboard) or a very small scale (company logos on websites).
Vector files can be saved and shared in four formats:
- AI Files – Version-dependent AI vector files are used when graphic designers are working with Adobe Illustrator.
- Encapsulated PostScript Files -.ESP files are used mainly for exportation purposes. These files can contain two-dimensional vector graphics, bitmap images, and text. They can be easily transferred without losing any data.
- SVG Files – Scalable Vector Graphics are text-based portrayals of pictures containing vectors, bitmap files, and text. These files are also resolution-independent and widely used by web designers.
- Portable Document Format Files – This universal file format is used to display both bitmap and vector graphics.
Why Use Vector Files?
Graphic illustrators and web designers use vector files because they’re
- Scalable – Vector graphics always look as high-quality as ever, no matter how much the editor increases or decreases their sizes. For instance, vector logos are perfectly scalable. No matter how much they’re compressed, reshaped, or rotated, they maintain their display qualities.
- Smaller Files – Websites need to be fast-loading. Web designers cannot afford to add bitmap images containing thousands of pixels on their websites as these heavy files make the sites slow-loading. Vector files consist of pathways that have limited sizes.
- Easier to Edit – With vector files, editors can manipulate colors, create new shapes, alter image sizes, add them to existing layouts, and do much more. Modern-day graphic editors are proficient at merging text with graphic elements. Such edits are extremely important while designing printed materials. Hence, vector graphics are preferred by most graphic editors working in newspaper companies or ad agencies.
When to Use Vector?
Vector images should be used when –
- The Images Need to Be Printed – Printing scalable raster images is extremely complicated. The original files need to be high-res, or the size of the prints will suffer.
- Editing Existing Images – Without the original file in hand, graphic editors find it impossible to edit raster files. On the other hand, with vector files, it’s much easier to add taglines, manipulate colors, and add other design elements.
- Creating Company Logos – Company logos appear on ads, brochures, business cards, billboards, etc. Using scalable vector graphics that can be blown up or shrunk to any size without sacrificing image quality is a much better option.
- Digital Marketing – Since target audience members all use different browsers and devices, marketers need to offer flexible images, i.e., vector graphics!
- Social Media – Images shared on social media platforms need to offer the highest resolution possible. High-quality vector graphics immediately capture social media users’ attention as they scroll through their feeds.
- Blogging – The use of vector graphics is so common in blogs and editorial posts, and graphic editors have attributed a name to these types of images used in blogs – ‘Corporate Memphis.’ They’re also known as flat vector images. These images are used in every other editorial post these days.
Aspiring graphic editors should master the art of editing vector files to further their career ambitions!