The difference of vector and raster images

To use a vector or raster image? That is the question… and the answer really depends on what you are using the design for.

Vector images are made up of basic geometric shapes such as points, lines and curves. The relationship of the shapes is expressed as a mathematical equation which allows the image to scale up or down in size without losing quality. Logo designs and print work such as brochures and posters should be designed as vector images using vector drawing software like Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw or Inkscape.

Vector File

 

Raster images are made up of a set grid of dots called pixels where each pixel is assigned a color value. Unlike a vector image, raster images are resolution dependent. When you change the size of a raster image, you shrink or stretch the pixels themselves which can result in a significant loss of clarity and very blurry image. Raster editors such as Photoshop or GIMP are great for photographs as well as for adding effects, shadows and textures to designs.

Raster File

What does this mean for you as a designer on 99designs… use the right software to create the right image for the the job!

Use Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Inkscape or an equivalent to create Vector Images for:

  • Logo Designs
  • Illustrations
  • Brochures
  • Posters
  • T-shirts
  • or anything to be printed

Use Adobe Photoshop, GIMP or an equivalent to create Raster Images for:

  • Web Design
  • Editing Photographs
Based in San Francisco, Allison (Alli) Stuart works as Community Manager at 99designs. When she's not writing blogs and communicating with designers, she is working on her Children's Book. She also enjoys extreme sports, like sky diving and traveling to new places. Alli has a Fine Arts Degree with a concentration in Graphic Design from Louisiana State University, her home. Geaux Tigers!
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18 Comments

  1. A1

    You missed Corel Draw…it is even better than AI…

    Reply May 5, 2011 at 11:14 am
    • Jason Aiken

      I have added it in for you :)

      Reply May 5, 2011 at 11:21 am
      • Alex (“babakonda”)

        Corel Draw, does anyone still use that? :) I believe that novadays because of cross-platform recognizability everyone uses Illustrator. I have worked in Freehand long time ago and then switched to Illustrator later.

        Great and brief article which clearly explains the basics. I’ll definitely share a link to this for my clients when they start asking “why did you send me the logo in .AI, what is that format and why can’t I open it…? “.

        Reply May 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm
        • Jason Aiken

          Thanks Alex.

          I think Jurgen or Shewa use Corel Draw… some designers swear they like it better.

          A good point to bring up is that when you do use Corel Draw – make sure you save the file as an Illustrator compatible file because if you don’t for some reason all the colors end up being raster… :(

          Cheers,
          Jason

          Reply May 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm
  2. ZV

    AI RULES!! :)

    Reply May 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm
  3. Edgar Monetathchi

    While I have not won a contest with this, I feel that it needs to be mentioned. I use Pageplus X5. It is on par with most graphic design software for PC. And I dare say Mac. I used Mac in my early years and found it very easy to do. Having to switch to PC was hard but I feel that I am getting the hang of it and should be winning some contests soon. But I think that for the money and for what it does Pageplus (by Serif.com) cannot be beat.

    Reply May 11, 2011 at 1:56 pm
  4. Bob Taylor

    CorelDRAW used to be my weapon of choice, but since discovering Xara Designer Pro I have never looked back. It is an extremely intuitive program to use with a shallow learning curve. Also I find I can work much faster with it. The cost benefits are important, too. Plus there is a great Xara-relatedforum at talkgraphics.com and squillions of tutorials at xaraxone.com. As Edgar Monetathchi has rightly mentioned, Serif PagePlus or DrawPlus are excellent and Inkscape just keeps getting better and better – and the price cannot be beaten.

    Reply May 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm
  5. Ryan

    xara – all night long!!!

    Reply May 12, 2011 at 7:23 am
  6. Jean

    Just a few thoughts to those of you who are using Corel Draw or other programs mentioned other than AI. Most print shops no longer support Corel Draw and rarely support these other programs. When you design a logo, the company will want to have stationery created using that logo and if the printer they choose does not support these programs, they cannot get their stationery printed. Although you may be thrilled with the program you choose to use, you have to keep in mind what a printer goes through trying to get your file to work through the programs they support. I have worked as a designer in the print industry for nearly 20 years and have seen the problems that come with programs that are not the “norm”. Most printing companies cannot have every program designers choose to use and they won’t buy them for one job. One of the things I have noticed is that designers who have actually worked for printers in the past make better designers for printed work because they know the process. The company I work for uses only Adobe products now because they do what we need them to do in order to print! and we’ve been able to do just about anything with them. It is imperative that you designers read this article on raster vs vector and try to LEARN about the printing process.
    One thing……….printers don’t print in RGB, for example. Does your little printer at home come with RGB cartridges? No, it does not. It comes with CMY and Black. If you have designed something in 2 color, make it a vector image or the colors won’t separate for printing. Learn your Pantone colors and use them rather than a mix you think looks good on your computer monitor. (Unless you have a calibrated monitor, you aren’t looking at the final color on any design you do.) Your clients don’t know the difference in this, but the printer they choose will. If you design a 2 color logo in Photoshop, the print shop that is going to print this will have to print in cmyk (costing the client more) or will have to ‘redraw’ the logo in Illlustrator. It can be a painful process and all too often the company who bought your logo will be the frustrated one because they don’t have a vector design (and they really don’t know what that is, either) and will have to pay to have their logo redrawn in Illustrator or charged for printing cmyk.
    I love to design in Photoshop, but I know from experience how limited this program is when it comes to press printing other than cmyk. I use Illustrator because I know what I can get when I’m done and know that it will do what I need it to do when it comes to printing the piece on a press.
    Another suggestion: if you are creating a gray image in Photoshop, make sure its not saved as rgb. The printer will have to change it to grayscale or b/w. Printers also prefer very large images if they are done in photoshop so they can be reduced and still keep the sharpness required.
    Pixels used in raster images ……… well, think of it this way: you have 100 sandbags (pixels) to keep the river from flowing into your home and you have 4 feet of property to put those sandbags on………works great! Sandbags are on top of each other filling the area. Now imagine you have 100 sandbags and have to cover 100 feet of property…….not so good…..there will be gaps between the sandbags (pixlels) and that will let the water through. Same thing with pixels on a photoshop image. You will notice a choppy or pixelly appearance if your image has to be enlarged.
    I could go on and on but I will just remind everyone to learn about the press printing process ….. it will make you a better designer for your client.
    (if you are designing for a web site, none of these things is applicable. But remember that a vector design can be converted to a raster design easily enough to convert for websites, but a raster design cannot be converted to a vector for printing without a complete redraw.)

    I hope I’ve helped some of you in your efforts to become better designers.

    Reply May 15, 2011 at 5:34 am
    • Jason Aiken

      Jean – great comments.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Cheers,
      Jason

      Reply May 15, 2011 at 2:58 pm
  7. Andy

    Can anyone give an explanation of why you would use raster images, other than ‘it is the most widely supported on the web?’ I mean, is there any inherent advantage in the two methods, independent of everything else? It seems to me that vector images are inherently superior in every way.

    All I can find is the conventional wisdom that ‘raster images are better for producing photo-realistic images (such as when displaying photographs)’, but no explanation of why that is. Is it because all digital photographs (either scanned from film or taken with a digital camera) are pixel-based, and it’s impossible to completely convert pixel-based photographs to vector?

    Reply June 1, 2011 at 2:17 pm
  8. Web Design Los Angeles

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I to find It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I’m hoping to present one thing again and aid others such as you aided me.

    Reply December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm
  9. Bob Taylor

    When designing a logo I always use a vector program, but not Illustrator because a) it’s expensive and b) it’s clunky to use.
    However, when using Xara, it is possible to export as an ai file or pdf so that it is possible for the finished design to be in a cmyk environment. This way, designer and contest holder are both happy.

    I do have an issue with the way 99 Designs states categorically that vector designs only are permitted in the Logo Design section, this cannot be bypassed without falsifying one’s submission about vector content. This I fully understand, but in the instance where a logo is intended for use solely on the web, then should it not be possible to use raster elements or even completely raster designs?
    It would be helpful if this could be modified in the Logo Contest section.
    I would appreciate some feedback on this point.
    Regards,
    Bob Taylor.

    Reply December 8, 2011 at 2:56 am
    • Jason Aiken

      Hi Bob,

      I understand… but it is important for us to maintain consistant requirements around best practices.

      Cheers,
      Jason

      Reply December 8, 2011 at 10:46 am
  10. Bob Taylor

    Thanks for taking the time to reply Jason, I understand your reasoning. If I were to falsify my submission about vectors but in my comments to the contest holder I explained the situation with regard to raster content in the design and this was acceptable to the contest holder, would this be permissible as far as 99 Designs are concerned?
    Regards,
    Bob Taylor.

    Reply December 9, 2011 at 2:40 am
  11. Dharmender Kumar

    i like that in your services

    Reply June 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm
  12. Amit

    Is it necessary to upload design in pdf format?

    Reply October 10, 2012 at 8:29 am
  13. John Smith

    Great and informative posts. I have seen a great discussion here. Thanks to all…

    Reply November 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm

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