Vector vs. Raster – Which one do you need?

If you don’t understand the difference between vector and raster, you’re not alone!

The majority of images you see everyday on your computer are raster-based. Raster graphics are simply a grid of pixels, with each pixel assigned a color.  When you zoom in on a raster image — like a .jpg photo of your family reunion — you soon see the pixels in Aunt Sally’s face (or was that acne?).Raster art is terrific for photographs, because it can capture and show very realistic gradients in color – like the highlights and shadows in people’s faces.   Newer digital cameras can take very high resolution photos, so you have to zoom in a LOT before you see Aunt Sally’s pixels.The downside is that the file sizes can be very high — in the 20-40 megabyte range — and image quality can be lost when the file is re-saved as a JPG.Vector art is based on mathematical formulas – not pixel colors. So instead of a series of colored blocks to create an image, a vector art file is composed of “instructions” that tell the computer to show a curve with a given length and bend, an area of certain color, etc.These instructions take up far less space than an equivalent raster image — so a 40MB raster file may only be a 800KB vector file. That smaller size makes editing much more efficient, because your computer isn’t freaking out while trying to render your changes. And it  makes them much easier to manage and share.

The other huge advantage of vector is that the image is crisp no matter how far you zoom in. So you don’t have to worry about a graphic being pixely when you blow it up for a large sign, binder cover, etc. Vector art can be viewed and printed at any scale — whether business cards or billboards!  As an .eps file, it can be read by any vector-based graphics program, and even imported into Microsoft Word as clipart. This means that the same logo file that looks great on a business card will also look great on a billboard.  The bottom line — for print design, a vector logo will always look and work best. Any design agency will typically start with a vector logo, but can easily export Web-friendly files from this format.

One more thing — a raster image will either be grayscale or CMYK  color for print. If you have a logo with one or two colors, you’ll still pay for a 4-color print process using a JPG or TIF image. If you use a vector image, you can specify Pantone spot colors and really reduce your printing costs!

If you only have a logo that is raster (JPG) based, I can help you turn it into a vector graphic that can be used on many different applications. Just contact me at At a minimum, you should ask your designer for a vector EPS file of your logo!

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