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What are Vector Graphics?

Vector graphics rely on mathematical equations to generate a two-dimensional image.

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These images can be a simple shape or something more complex. The equations tell technology how to create lines and curves -- as well as which colors to use in the graphic.

Vector images have many benefits over traditional raster graphics. The scalability and flexibility makes it a crowd favorite in the digital world, and by the time you’ve read this complete definition, you’ll understand why.

What You Need to Know About Vector Graphics

1. You Can Resize Them Easily

You can resize vector graphics without pixelating or losing image quality. The image remains keeps crystal clear detail -- even when zoomed in or enlarged several times. If you’ve ever worked on an illustration or web graphic, you understand the importance of this. There’s not much that makes you feel more like an amateur than a client asking, “Can I see this in a larger size?” and all you have is an unscalable raster to send.

2. They Have a Smaller File Size

Every gigabyte counts, especially when you’re storing hundreds of designs. Another benefit of vector graphics is their small file size. Mathematical equations don’t require as much storage space because there’s less information to store. Meanwhile, raster graphics need to house the data regarding thousands of pixels, which causes the file size to swell.

3. There are Several File Formats

The standard format for vector graphics in web design is .SVG. The World Wide Web Consortium sets the standard requirements for modern web design. They set SVG as the standard file format for online vector images. However, additional file formats include: .cgm, .odg, .eps, and .xml. Vector images may also be found in .pdf files. Adobe Illustrator uses its own vector file type AI for illustrations and print layout.

4. Raster Files Aren’t the Same

Lines and shapes formed from equations create vector graphics while raster images are made up of thousands of pixels.

Vector images are scalable. However, raster graphics lose image quality when scaled.

Vector graphics easily convert to raster graphics. However, most raster graphics, especially digital photographs, can’t convert to vector.

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As you can imagine, vectors end up being much more flexible with what you can do.

5. You Can Use Them Several Ways

Business logos commonly use vector graphics because the logo will remain the same on a tiny business card or a large billboard. Icons, infographics, illustrations, and computer fonts commonly use vector graphics.

Additional common uses include: - Printing on paper and clothes - Signage - Embroidery - General graphic design - Online animations such as HTML5 or Adobe Flash

6. There Are Also Times to Avoid Them

Do not use vector graphics when dealing with digital photography, images with many shades of color, or images with high attention to detail. Raster graphics can provide up to 16 million colors compared to vector’s mere thousands of colors.

raster versus vector

Anything that requires the use of pixels or the ability to manipulate pixels would be better using raster graphics. Soft, rounded lines can be a limitation because vector graphics often create hard, definite edges.

When to Use Vector Graphics in Modern Design

Vector graphics provide high-quality, scalable images while conserving file size and bandwidth. The advantages of vector graphics make vector the primary choice for shape printing, customizing logos and signs, and creating illustrations and infographics.

It is important to use a design editor, such as Figma, to be certain your image is completely vector. Otherwise, you may end up with a surprise when you resize or print your image.

You can verify if your image is a vector graphic by clicking inside the image and looking for vector editing nodes (lines with points surrounding the outline of your image.) ### 1. When Printing on Paper and Clothing Rasterized printing on paper and clothing uses vector images to take advantage of the printer’s resolution. Printers typically have a much higher resolution than computer screens. Printed raster images often look pixelated because of the difference in resolution. Remember, vector images can easily convert to raster images.

Shape printing requires the mathematical definitions used in vector graphics to cut and transfer shapes from base materials. ### 2. When Customizing Images for Signs

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Again, the machines used for cutting colors and shapes from vinyl requires the equations used in vector graphics. Also, scalability helps images stay crisp and clear no matter what size the sign is. A graphic designer would need multiple raster files for each sign size the company needs to produce. However, vector graphics only require one image file for all sizes.

3. When Designing Infographics and Illustrations

By using vector graphics, companies can maintain a solid brand image across all their graphic design. Infographics are easy to distribute on social media and across the web.

Infographic templates often include an EPS file (one of the common file types for vector images). It is also easier to use vector graphics when using an app such as PowerPoint.

We enjoyed exploring this topic with you. Want to keep going? Pick one of these related terms to read next: A. Gradient: As the perfect transition, jump into this definition of gradients. You’ll learn about how to use them in modern design. Read the full definition. B. Skeuomorphism: Apple taught us the simplicity of effective design through this nostalgic technique. Read the full definition. C. Raster Graphics: Digital images composed of a grid of pixels. Read the full definition.

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