Vector vs Raster: Which file type to use?

Vector vs Raster: Which file type to use?

Studies show that most website visitors only read between 20-28% of the actual text on a web page.

This means that images are more important than ever in graphic design. 

In fact, it's estimated that over 80% of major brand communications will be mostly visually-based by next year. 

Finally, posts that include some visual content have about 650 times the engagement rate of those that don't. 

Whether you work in graphic design or just want to learn more about how it impacts your website, you may have heard of the vector vs raster image file debate. 

In this post, we're going to talk to you about which image file is right for your website, content, and brand. 

Whether you're sending these to clients, or looking for icons to upload onto a site, it's important to make the right choice between vector vs raster. 

Vector vs raster: What's the difference?

Before we dive any deeper, let's first make sure you're clear on the differences between vector vs raster. 

In a nutshell, raster is the most common type of image file. These file types are made from pixel programs or with a scanner or camera. 

You may also have heard them referred to as "bitmap images."

This makes sense because raster images are created from millions and millions of microscopic squares (AKA pixels) which come together to create your overall image. 

Sometimes, these pixels are even visible on the overall image itself. 

Raster images will also take up a bit more space than vector files because they contain more pixels and dots. This means that, in order to correctly display each individual pixel, your computer has to log each of these million pixels. 

Often, many people struggle with the large file space that raster images need to run properly. 

By contrast, vector images are created from a variety of lines and curves. These curves are often called "paths." 

To get vector images, you'll need a specific type of software that is capable of drawing these lines and then placing them in the perfect position. 

It's well worth it, though, as this software means that any unique line in your overall vector image can have its own color value. 

It's also a great option if you often need to resize and rescale your image. This is because the image will never get blurred or heavily pixelated: you'll get a crisp look every time. 

Unlike raster images, which as we mentioned, can sometimes clearly display the pixels themselves, vector images will give you a sharp edge - no matter how close someone decides to zoom in. 

Plus, vector files take up much less computer storage space than raster images do, because they don't store images by the individual pixels. 

Designer

Which one should I go with? 

In the great vector vs raster debate, the option you go with will depend on the type of image file you need to upload, send, and edit. 

Still, we want to stress that just because raster images are the most common type of image file, doesn't mean that they're the most effective. 

Especially if you're working with your logo, which will likely need to be frequently resized and edited, raster images are not the way to go. 

Plus, since the majority of logos today contain at least some kind of text, using a raster image means that it's easy for that text to become blurry. 

Instead, if you're frequently working with logo design, you want to go for the vector image option. 

Why?

It's much easier to make changes to a design this way, as well as to include it on a variety of products and promotional materials in the future. 

Keep in mind though, that vector images aren't photographs. Instead, in vector imaging software, you can create highly lifelike images that look a lot like photographs but are actually illustrations. 

So, if you need to work a lot with actual photographs, perhaps raster image files are a better fit for you. 

Essentially, if you need higher resolution, clearer images, sharper edges, and a design you can edit and enlarge without worry, you should go with a vector image or icon.

Think about it: does it really look professional if clients and website visitors can see the individual pixels of your design?

Raster images may be fine for sending a quick picture to family and friends, but that doesn't mean they're good enough for professional use. 

File names in vector vs raster

It's not just the quality of the images that changes when you're using vector or raster images. The actual file names themselves change, too. 

This is important to know when you're trying to figure out if a graphic is a vector or raster file, or if you need to ensure that the image is also compatible with the software someone else is working with. 

Vector file types will usually end in:

  • .ai
  • .ait
  • .cdr
  • .dlg
  • .eps
  • .odg
  • .svg

On the other hand, raster images will usually be saved under things like: 

  • .jpeg
  • .gif
  • .png
  • .tiff
  • .psd

Vector vs raster: where do you stand? 

We hope this post has cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the difference between vector and raster image files. 

In general, for professional use and a cleaner look, we'd suggest going with a vector image every time. 

Especially if you're creating a logo for a brand or, editing can quickly become a nightmare if you've chosen to work with a raster file. 

Looking for more graphic design tips? 

Want more information about how to get the top vector icons on the market today? 

That's where we come in. 

When it comes to your graphic design, don't settle for anything less than the absolute best. 

Spend some time on our website to learn more about the free downloads, icons for your site, and more that we offer. 

Icons help site visitors find exactly what they're looking for faster than ever. 

The right design really can make all the difference between someone staying on your site or bouncing to your competitor's!


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