What’s A Vector Anyway?

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I get asked “what’s the difference between vectors and rasters?” quite often, so it might be a good idea to put an answer down here for  anyone who might be interested in knowing in the future.

Raster graphics are the common bog-standard graphics you see the most of online, they’re everywhere.

Ok, here’s an example. This is a raster image of my working area. Looks fine right? Rasters are great to use on the web, they don’t take up much room and they do the job at a nice small size like this:

home office cartoon image raster

BUT, if you enlarge the raster image you start seeing some problems.

close up of raster image

The edges aren’t as crisp, clear and well defined as they were before. Like using a microscope to see the cells of organisms, as you get closer you can see each individual pixel and it starts to blur.

extreme close up of raster image

The larger the image is stretched, or the closer you get to it, the worse it looks. Raster images are no good for big projects, they’re no good for anything that requires you to change their original size. Whatever size you’ve made the raster image, that’s the only size it’ll look decent in.

Vector graphics on the other hand, are unlike raster images. They’re made up of nodes and shapes, not little pixels. If a raster image is an oil painting, a vector is mathematical calculation. Enlarging the oil painting is difficult and the results can be poor, enlarging a calculation on the other hand is simple. You just increase the numbers by however many you want and there you go. No loss of image quality, no pixel degradation. It just scales up, or down, using the numbers within and it works a treat.

Here’s the same close ups of the desk I did before, only this time on the version of the desk I designed as a vector image.

Vector image

Already you can see the difference with the vector as opposed to the raster.
No loss of detail, it can be as zoomed in as much as you like and it’ll be as crisp and sharp as when it’s zoomed out.

close up of vector image

I hope that this goes some way into helping you get your head around the difference between rasters and vectors.

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