Vector and Raster: What’s the difference?

 Vector and Raster: What’s the difference?

Vector and raster (bitmap) are the two types of digital graphics commonly seen on the web. Most people do not seem to know how to interpret the differences between the two formats and can’t figure out which format is suitable for what project.

It is crucial to know the difference between the two file formats in order to select your format for your next project. Several factors can influence your choice of file format, so today we’re gonna point out which matters the most in choosing a file for your next project.

1. Scalability of vector and raster

You can first declare an image as a vector image or a raster image by considering scalability. Vector images remain sharp and clear no matter how big they are or how often they are resized. A raster image, on the other hand, looks blurry and pixelated when examined up close.

You can see the difference by looking at the example… In the following picture, you will see a raster image with a loss of quality when enlarging it. Compared to that, a vector version of the same monster illustrated next to the raster does not lose quality regardless of what size it is:

2. Resolution of vector and raster

Vector and raster formats have widely different definitions of resolution.


Raster graphics use millions of square pixels, dots per inch (DPI), or pixels per inch (PPI), and each of them has a fixed size. The only way to preserve the pixels’ quality is to resize the bitmap image down. Otherwise, it gets more blurry.

A raster image allows for the creation of complex images with all sorts of colors and variations. The pixel in a raster image can be a different color, giving a very different color.


Vector graphics are created using mathematical formulas that define the paths within the images within each dimension. Each time an image is resized, it is properly recalculated, so the image remains sharp and clear. In general, its edges are smooth.

Creatives with vector graphics build works of art and designs that have clean lines, the shapes are more easily scalable to any size, and the colors they use can be changed instantly. Simple linework or geometric images such as logos, icons, illustrations, graphs, and typography are best rendered as vector graphics. These graphics are extremely well-suited for scaling and have a small file size.

3. Creation of vector and raster

The two types of digital images are digitally created entirely differently. A vector image can easily be converted to a raster image, but a convert from one to the other is more tricky and time-consuming.

Photographs cannot be taken as vector images because they need specialized software, like Adobe Illustrator. Furthermore, all printed photos and digital photos are in raster format. Nothing else but detailed digital illustrations constitutes vector graphics. A vector image is shown in the following figure, and an example of a distorted photo is shown beside it:

4. Flexibility of vector and raster

It is possible to resize vector graphics many times without losing quality, so they are perfect for multipurpose projects. The advantage of vector logos is that you can use them for various marketing purposes, including print or web-based. Rather, you need a specific size for a particular raster format.

5. File size

Compared to their raster competitors, vector images have much smaller file sizes because they are generated in numerical calculations rather than with millions of pixels. With their smaller file sizes, it is much easier to transfer them from one device to another. Furthermore, they contain a great deal of information associated with a relatively smaller file size compared with a raster image format.

A raster file’s length depends on its SPI or DPI, its size defines its size by its width and height and is so large it consists of much less information.

6. Formats


  • Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG)            
  • Portable Network Graphics (PNG)
  • Graphics Interchange Format (GIF)            
  • Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)            
  • Adobe Photoshop File     (PDS)  
  • Portable Document Format (PDF)


  • Encapsulated PostScript File (EPS)            
  • Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)            
  • Adobe Illustrator File  
  • Portable Document Format (PDF)

7. Compatibility of vector and raster

Sometimes, an issue is the compatibility of vector graphics. You can only open and edit them with specialized software such as Adobe Illustrator. 

Unlike vectors, raster files are widely used and commonly recognized by all image programs. A few years back, most web images were vectors, but now they are bitmaps. Thus, they are highly convenient for use in large amounts.

You will quite often use vector formats if you’re a pro illustrator or designer. Without any further ado, the technology is required to produce them effectively.

7. Printing

Web publishers use 72 dpi raster images for web publication, and they work just fine. The printout should be done with either high-resolution raster images or vector sources. Raster images are often preferred because they are more accurate since vectors sometimes fail to print accurately.  Whenever possible, you should choose a resolution greater than 300 dpi so that the image remains clear. Because photos cannot be saved as vectors, printed newspapers and magazines use them in their high-resolution raster form.

Both vector images and raster images offer unique advantages and disadvantages. Both types of images must be used appropriately, knowing when one should substitute a vector for a raster et cetera. You should be able to tell the difference now. Know the strengths of each and use them to your advantage.

Related post