Vector vs. Raster Image Formats

Vector vs. Raster Image Formats

There are two different types of images used by graphic design programs: raster images and vector.  In order to create the best flag or banner with your artwork, logo and graphics, it is important that your artwork is available in a ready to print format.

Raster Images

A raster image is made up of hundreds or thousands or millions of square pixels and is usually in a format such as .jpeg, .png, .tiff, .gif or .bmp.  While raster images are great for full color images such as photographs, they do have a few drawbacks.  The biggest issue that raster images face is the fact that they do not resize well.  While you may have great looking raster artwork on your computer, scaling your image up to be used on a full size flag or banner is going to cause the final product to look blurry or grainy.  The other drawback is that raster images that are already full size and ready to be printed are usually very large files that can be difficult to transfer from one user to the next.  Finally, raster images cannot be edited.  For instance, if you provide a raster file of what you would like on your flag but it has a green background and you want the same image but on a blue background for the flag, this cannot be done without first recreating the entire image as a vector file.

Vector Images

On the other hand, rather than being made up of individual pixels, vector images use math to draw shapes using points, lines and curves.  For example, a vector image of a square would only contain four points, one for each corner, and the computer would then calculate the missing information to fill in the rest of the square, which keeps file size down to a minimum. This also allows you to scale your image to any size imaginable without losing a single detail, whereas a raster image must guess the colors of missing pixels while sizing up. Vector images are also very easy to edit, since all the different pieces that make up the image are layered on top of each other, rather than combined as one.  All of this makes vector images the preferred image format for fonts and logos.  Most vector images or files are created using the Adobe Illustrator program and the files are typically .ai or .eps files.


To sum up, raster image have great color detail, but you can't enlarge them without becoming blurry, while vector images are great for logos since they allow you to enlarge without losing quality.


By Chad Creech, All Star Flags