What is the difference between Vector and Raster graphics?
We are asked frequently what the difference is between vector and raster images, and why a particular file will not work for the printed piece the client is asking for.
We have clients send us their logo they downloaded off of their website and want us to use the logo in their upcoming promotional product project, their holiday card order, the simple rubber stamp they need around the office, and many other printed pieces where images, photos, drawings, and logos are needed to be used in some kind of printed materials. So why won't that logo off the company website work for my rubber stamp order? Why can't it be used for our new order of coffee mugs for the conference room?
Let's work through this and show you the basics when it comes to good, electronic artwork.
The difference between vector and raster graphics is that raster graphics are composed of pixels, while vector graphics are composed of paths. A raster graphic, such as a gif or jpeg, is a collection of pixels of various colors, which when all together form the image you see. Vector graphics, such as an .eps file or Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file, are made up of paths, or lines, that are either straight or curved. The data file for a vector image contains the points where the paths start and end, how much the paths curve, and the colors that border and/or fill the paths. Due to the fact that vector graphics are not made of pixels, the images can be scaled to be very large without losing any quality. However, when you try to enlarge raster graphics, they will become bitmapped and grainy because each pixel increases in size as the image is made larger. This is the reason company logos and other electronic images are preferably created in vector format. The reason is simple and makes all the difference. It is because no matter how large or small you make the image, the quality will be the same if it's printed on your small business card or a large banner or poster.
Vector artwork can also be described as a file that is made up of a set of instructions describing how your artwork should be displayed by the computer. Vector is math based. As we have stated previously, it can be scaled to any size without a loss of quality. Some popular programs that have the abililty to create vector artwork are Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Pagemaker, CorelDraw, Quark Xpress, and Macromedia FreeHand.
Raster artwork files use pixels (dots) which when combined put together the image. This is the type of image file that you have probably seen before that if you looked at it under a magnifying glass after you have printed it out from your computer, you can see that outputted image is really just a collection of small dots. That is the reason that when you enlarge raster artwork it loses its crispness and sharpness. The most popular software for creating raster images is Adobe Photoshop.
There is a common misconception that all pdf files are vector. The pdf output is based on the original file. If you are starting with a non-vector file, it will remain a non-vector file once saved as pdf. If your original file is vector it can be saved as a vector pdf using common design software such as Adobe Illustrator.
Generally speaking, most clip art and images downloaded from the internet are low resolution raster images, and while suited perfectly to display on a website, those low resolution images generally cannot be used for high quality print production. The phrase DPI you may have heard is dots per inch. The more dots per inch (or the higher the dpi), the better quality of an image. Some raster files can be used for print production if they are in high resolution which is generally 150 dpi to 600 dpi, depending on the use of the image.
The main points to remember about the differences between these two file types are that a vector image can be scaled up or down to any size and will still retain its crispness and sharpness, but in contrast, the raster image has a set size and resolution, so when you enlarge the image it will become blurry, and the larger you increase the size of the image the less recognizable the image will become.
The pdf below shows usable artwork and non usable artwork. The black and white image is vector based and ready for print production. The blue image is a raster file suited well for a website, but not for print production.
Difference Between Usable Art and Non Usable Art for Print Production
There are many very good tutorials on Youtube explaining in more detail the differences between vector and raster images, and what purposes each files are used for and not used for. Here are a few videos for your reference.
Artwork Clean-up / Conversion Fees
If you do have artwork, however it is not provided in a format or is not in the resolution or quality required to produce your item, we can in many instances, create a high resolution, vector piece of art that is print quality for a flat fee of $39.95 for a Level 1 Simple Layout. For a Level 2 Moderate Design Layout, the charge is $67.95, and for a Level 3 Complex Layout, the charge is $99.95. We will also email the finished art file to you so you can use it for other future applications.
Many of our customers would like to be able to use their newly modified artwork later on for many other applications and printing needs and need the logo in other file types. If you would like us to make your artwork print and web ready for other uses besides the order you have with us, we can create a complete library of your logo in the following formats for a flat rate of $149.95. This price takes the place of the above pricing structure and is not in addition to the above prices. This complete library is an excellent way to get your logo in a variety of file types in one easy step and for one low price.
Just ask us about this popular service. Your complete set of logos include:
Hi res .jpg color
Hi res .jpg b/w
Lo res .jpg color (website use)
Lo res. .jpg b/w (website use)
To find out what type of price structure your artwork modifications will require, please contact us. For all other custom and complicated artwork changes or new designs, please contact us for details as these jobs must be custom quoted.
Those who have no artwork:
If you don't have artwork, it's not a problem with us. Sketch out or send us any file you have and describe what you're looking for and we'll help you out. We do simple typesetting at no charge!
We maintain an extensive library of fonts, logos and other camera ready types of clipart. In the event we don't have the particular clipart you are looking for, we will be more than happy to work with you to create simple artwork. We offer royalty free, vector clipart for just $10 per image. Our clipart library is extensive and we usually will have something close to what you are looking for. Upon completion of your artwork, we will send you an email proof to review and approve. Once approved by you production of your product can begin. Your new artwork will also remain on file at PromoteSource for up to 3 years.
Note: If you already have a logo on paper and can't find it in an electronic format, you can probably ask the person or company who originally created it for the file and have it emailed to us.
Please remember, bad or no artwork should never get in the way of bringing your project to a finished reality. As we have said earlier, we can always assist at no charge or very reasonable rates. We'll tell you up front what the additional charges will be, if any. Once we create or recreate your art, you won't have this charge again for future products if used in the same way. Of course, a proof will be provided for your approval.
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