Rasters and Vectors and Pixels, Oh My!

While traveling the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy and her friends nervously entered the Haunted Forest. In an attempt to ward off their fears and anxieties of stumbling upon any wild animals, they began chanting “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!” Their biggest fear soon materialized in the form of what they thought was a ferocious lion, but what actually was a harmless creature.

Many of our clients seem to have the same apprehension when we ask about the file format of their logo or artwork. Not only are they unsure of what they have, they usually don’t know what they need or even, at times, what they want. There are times when either vector or raster artwork will work. There are times when only vector or raster will fit the requirements of the job. The fact is that there is a place for both types of computer generated artwork.

Vector art is composed of geometric shapes, lines, points etc. These vectors are defined by mathematical data and are totally scalable without any loss of detail. Raster art is composed of pixels, which are the individual elements or building blocks of a digital image. The more that raster art is enlarged, the more visible the pixels become and the less detail and quality remains.

A quick way to know in which format your artwork is created is to enlarge or “zoom in” on your image. If the edges begin to look blurred, have saw-toothing, or become pixellated, where you can begin to see the individual pixels that make up the image, you have raster or bitmap artwork.BLOG #2 image-01

When we are presented with a business card size logo comprising solid colors and asked to reprint that image on a t-shirt, vector art is a necessity. With vector art, we can enlarge that logo and it will look clean and sharp, even if we wanted to print a billboard! If that same image is in raster form, it will be unusable when sized for a t-shirt.

When color tones and variations are required, as in a color photograph, raster (bitmap) art is required. Each pixel, each little building block of the image, will have its own color information. However, when seen together as a whole, they will form a complete continuous tone in the eye and mind of the viewer.

So what happens when all you have is a raster file and we need vector art? We just recreate the artwork/logo in a vector based drawing program like Adobe Illustrator. When we’re finished, and if we’ve done it well, you won’t see a difference. In many cases, we’ll make your logo and you look even better! That’s our job.

So now you know….there’s nothing to fear,
You’ll find no lions, no tigers, or bears.
With vectors and rasters, you’ll no longer be queasy,
Maine Street Graphics will make your life easy!

OK, OK…so I’m no poet. That’s another thing we can all be thankful for.

Thanks for reading.

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