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Vector Versus Raster

It’s the age-old debate. Vector or Raster? You’re forgiven for not knowing which option to go with, but that’s what we’re talking about today.

So, let’s start with a vector file. What exactly is it?

Also known as “object-oriented”, graphics are constructed using mathematical formulas describing shapes, colours, and placement. A vector graphic consists of shapes, curves, lines, and text which together make a picture. A vector can be reduced to the size of a thumbnail or as big as a billboard without losing definition or pixelating. In other words, it’s got some serious capabilities.

It is even possible to embed a bitmap graphic within a vector graphic, which is known as a vector-bitmap hybrid. However, as you now have a raster component in your hybrid file you need to ensure that your bitmap is at 300dpi for the size of the print that you want to produce. Be aware that it doesn’t work the other way round – you can’t embed vector information within a bitmap.

Examples of vector graphic formats are PICT, EPS, and WMF, as well as PostScript and TrueType fonts. These are created with drawing programs like Illustrator, Canva and Corel.

Now, we’ve got to give two sides to every story. So, Raster is next up.

A bitmap (also called “raster”) graphic is created from rows of lots of tiny, coloured squares called pixels that together form an image. Each pixel has only one colour. When these tiny squares of colour are viewed from a distance, they visually combine to create a smooth image, as long as they are saved at the size that they are drawn at.

Photograph-quality images may have millions and are normally used in hybrid vectors alongside text and drawing. They should always be a minimum of 300 dpi for print, unless you are printing large format where the resolution can be lower as image will viewed from a distance. When you enlarge a bitmap from it’s original saved state, the pixels enlarge with the image. The bigger the image the bigger the pixel display and the image will no longer appear smooth. This is known as pixelation.

If your file type is a jpeg, PNG, Gif, Tiff, or BMP (to name the more common ones), your file is a Bitmap and therefore has been sized for a particular application. These are created using paint programs like Adobe Photoshop.

In order to get the perfect print, always try to use vector files or vector hybrids. If you are going to supply your printer with a Bitmap always check your file on screen by looking at your file at 100%. If you have any questions about each type or would like to hear about our services, don’t hesistate to get in touch with us. Happy printing!

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