Take the 2-minute tour ×
Graphic Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional graphic designers and non-designers trying to do their own graphic design. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Also, when would you use one vs the other?

share|improve this question
    
"When would you use vs the other" is a bit broad I think. A bit more context would be needed (because in digital media, you'll often have to use raster images even if vector would be the "right thing") –  Pekka 웃 Jan 6 '11 at 18:00
    
I'm just looking for typical examples in an ideal world. I understand that often you have to use raster images, but I'm just looking for the generic use cases. –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 6 '11 at 18:56
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Vector graphics are graphics in which the image is represented in a mathematical fashion. What this allows one to do is to zoom in an image to infinite precision. They are ideal for situations in which an image might be used at various resolutions and dimensions.

Raster graphics are of a fixed dimension, somewhat like a grid pattern with specified values at each point. These graphics are the default for things from the real world (IE, scanned images, photographs, etc). They are ideal for use when an image will only be used once, and will never need to be enlarged, or if portions are coming from a photograph or other real-world image.

share|improve this answer
3  
to add to Pears answer: Vector images are good for Logos, and Icons, when the size is indeterminate. Raster images are good for backgrounds and photos, when you know how big you want something to be. –  zzzzBov Jan 6 '11 at 21:42
add comment

@Pearsonartphoto already puts it nicely. In an effort to find the shortest possible definition that is still correct:

  • Vector graphics are a collection of geometrical elements (primitives like circles, squares, triangles... as well as polygons and curves) that you can enlarge to any size.

  • Raster (Pixel) graphics is a collection of coloured dots. You can't enlarge it without the dots starting to show.

share|improve this answer
    
Resizing the raster graphic down doesn't degrade the image as much as enlarging, though. –  koiyu Jan 6 '11 at 18:26
    
@koiyu cheers, I meant "enlarge". Fixed –  Pekka 웃 Jan 6 '11 at 18:26
    
@koiyu It doesn't at all, if you use Super Sampling. –  muntoo Jan 7 '11 at 5:05
add comment

NOTES: Inkscape would be an example of a Vector Graphics editor, while GIMP/Photoshop/Paint.NET/etc are suited to editing raster images.


Ever notice that as you zoom into an image, the quality gets lower? That's a raster image. A raster image is like the one your digital camera takes. They are usually in the formats JPG (lossy), GIF (lossless), PNG (my favorite; lossless), and many others.

This is a Raster Graphics editor in action:

Paint.NET


Meanwhile, vector images are in the format of SVG, and some others. Their applications are not usually for everyday use. (Ordinary people don't use vector graphics.) You can't upload .svg files, normally, and not everyone has an editor (even though Inkscape is free).

They're based on the mathematical idea of vectors:

Vectors

Vector graphics can do more than just lines, though. They can draw other "primitives" like squares, circles, curves.


Here's an image that explains the difference best: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:VectorBitmapExample.svg

Notice I couldn't upload because it was in .svg (vector) format. You CAN convert it to a raster, though, but I was too lazy.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.