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Raster vs. Vector images – what's the difference?

Posted by Jeremy Wick

Raster images are made up of a bunch of tiny pixels, while vector images are made from mathematical paths.

Why is this difference important and what does it actually mean?

Let's pretend you have a raster image that is 300 x 300.

While you could easily make the image smaller, there is no way to increase the size of the image without decreasing the resolution or recreating it entirely. Editor's note: this is actually now possible thanks to Upscale.

Now let’s pretend you have a vector image that is 300 x 300.

Because a vector image is made up of mathematical paths, you can increase the size of the image as much as you want and it would never decrease in quality. You could literally increase the size to 3 million x 3 million and all the details would still look sharp (assuming your computer could handle a file that big).

This difference usually makes vector images a superior option, especially when it comes to print. However, there are times when using raster images might be your best option. For example, photographs are always raster images. Converting a photograph to a vector image is possible, but will usually result in a drop in detail.

Raster vs. Vector Images

In this case, you might want to keep your image a raster file. As long as the resolution is at least 300 pixels per inch, your image will be able to be printed just fine.

It's also common for vector images to be converted to raster images to make them more accessible on the web. For example, Google’s standard logo on Google.com is actually a .png file, while the design itself was originally created using a vector editing software. The .png file is very small (16kb) and makes for a quick loading page. But when it comes to printing, Google would want to use a vector version of their logo.

If you plan on using a logo, text, or illustration for print, we recommend tracking down a vector version of the artwork if possible. Otherwise, try to get the highest resolution version of the artwork possible.

Common raster file types:

  • .png
  • .jpg or .jpeg
  • .gif
  • .tif
  • .psd

Popular raster-based image editors:

  • Adobe Photoshop

Common vector file types:

  • .eps
  • .ai
  • .pdf
  • .svg
  • .sketch

Popular vector-based image editors:

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Sketch

Over to you

At Sticker Mule, we accept any artwork format, vector or raster. Send us your artwork in any file format and, if necessary, we will fix your artwork for free and provide an online proof showing any changes we made. You can request changes to your proof and we will make them for free until you're happy.

Get $10 off your first order when you sign up by clicking the button below.

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