Vector vs. Raster: What image format does my designer need and why?

When working with a graphic designer, he or she may ask you for your logo, products or other brand imagery in a specific image format. Terms such as vector, raster, .eps, .pdf, .png and many more may come across communications like a new foreign language. What does this file extension mean and why is it needed over another? Below is an explanation of vector and raster files, the extensions they represent and when you should use them to help you have a better understanding of what your designer or printer needs before the project is even started. 

Vector Image Format

Out of all the file types you can produce, I receive the most questions regarding what a vector file is and if it’s the same as a raster file. The answer to this question is no, they’re actually complete opposites of each other.  A vector file is made up of curves that look precise at any size, can be easily editable and provides the option to be exported as other file extensions.

Items, such as icons, logos and typography, are designed as a vector to retain a crisp quality at various dimensions, basically looking flawless for the smallest of formats to the largest, such as posters or billboards.

Vectors are created in programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Sketch and cannot be created in Adobe Photoshop. When receiving a vector, your file should have the extension of .EPS, .AI, .SVG or even .PDF. Typically, the artwork within these file extensions should contain vector artwork if produced correctly.

Raster Image Format

A raster file is basically a computer graphic made up of many square pixels that complete the shape and color of each point in an image. Pixels are the building blocks of every image or design you see online.  While looking at a full image, you sometimes can’t tell that millions of tiny square pixels create the image; however, if you zoom in very closely, you may see a jagged edge to elements within the image itself. The larger the PPI/DPI (Pixels Per Inch/Dots Per Inch) within an image, the larger the file size and the better the quality will be. The standard PPI/DPI of an image is 300.

Raster files are completely dependent on resolution, so they only display properly at the dimension at which they were originally. If you were to make the raster file bigger, you will stretch the pixels and make the image blurry, which is the opposite effect of a vector file.

Raster images have the file extensions of .BMP, .TIF, .JPG, .PNG and .GIF and are best used for highly detailed photography or digital applications. As stated above, the quality of the raster image is dependent on the amount of pixels within the image itself (PPI/DPI) and is best used at the original size for which it was created.

Are You Ready to Send the Correct File Format?

Hopefully, this information helps explain and sort out the different file versions and why one may be preferred over the other. But if not, a graphic designer will always be able to help sort it out for you, save it correctly and send it as needed.

AboutJessica Sheneman

Jessica Sheneman joined the Proforma Creative Services Team as the Senior Graphic Designer in April 2017. Her primary role is working one-on-one with Owners to create visually appealing designs to help them build a successful relationship with their clients. She also works on internal projects such as Proforma’s Connections Newsletter, the Annual Wall Calendar, Essentials and more. Jessica graduated Magna Cum Laude from Virginia Marti College with an Associate's Degree of Applied Business in Graphic Design. Outside of work she loves to spend time with family, go for hikes, read, craft and attend hockey games.

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