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Bitmap vs vector: what is the difference?

There are two major 2D graphic types, bitmap and vector. If you work with graphics, it’s important to understand the difference. When we say, “bitmap vs vector,” we’re asking, “why does it matter whether we use bitmap or vector, what are the differences and how can one tell which is which?”

Bitmap vs vector: why does it matter? 

It matters which type of graphic you create because it will affect the quality of the final product. Whether you’re creating a document yourself or hiring a professional, you want your printed items to be of the highest quality. You don’t want your images to look fuzzy or grainy. You want them to look crisp and sharp. Understanding whether a vector or raster image is preferable to your specific project is critical because it will affect the final product.

Bitmap vs vector: what are the differences?

Bitmap/Raster vs Vector

Defintion: bitmap or raster image

Bitmap images (also called raster images) are made up of a grid of pixels or dots. The smaller and closer together the dots, the clearer the image will appear, but the more storage space it will consume. Enlarge an image and the size of each pixel grows. Enlarge the image enough and it will become grainy, with each individual pixel visible.

It is the tiny dots (pixels) of a bitmap image that produce an image. These tiny dots allow an image to have continuous tones with soft color blends. The number of pixels determines the quality. More pixels, better quality. Fewer pixels, poorer quality. Digital photographs are typically raster images. Scanned images are always raster.  

Defintion: vector image

Vector images are mathematical equations which form shapes by creating a series of points connected with straight lines or curves. Vector graphics can be enlarged or reduced indefinitely while retaining perfect lines. That’s what is meant when we say vector images are infinitely scalable. Moving, scaling, rotating or filling does not degrade the image quality. Vector images also take up less disk space.

Vector is the best choice when your project requires scalable shapes and solid colors. It is also the preferred format for logos, drawings and illustrations that will be applied to a physical product. However, vector images are not the best format for photographs because they do not support blends of colors.

What does it mean to rasterize?

Rasterization takes text or an image described in vector graphics format and converts it into a raster or bitmap image. You may be asking, why would someone rasterize a vector image? Well, many of the tools that photo manipulation software such as Photoshop offer are not usable on vector images. The tools are made only to work on rasterized layers. 

Bitmap vs vector: are the differences clear now?

There is no definitive answer to the question, “Which is better—bitmap or vector?” The truth is that it depends on the project. Bitmap/raster images are good for photographs that require a wide range of color graduations. Vector format works best for images with few areas of solid color and for projects that require the image to be scalable.

If you’re interested in having trevellyan.biz create a raster or vector image, be it a logo, flyer, postcard, poster or anything similar, we’d be glad to help. For more information call (518) 392-0846, email [email protected] or visit the graphic design portfolio on our website.

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