bitmap vs vector graphics

bitmap vs vector graphics

In the computer/digital world, there are two different types of graphics.

  • Bitmap/Raster Graphics
  • Vector Graphics

Bitmap/Raster graphics are what your camera phone takes.  Almost all the images you see on the web are bitmap/raster graphics.  They are just a two dimensional array of pixels.  The advantage is that if you increase your resolution density, you get something that approximates an analog photograph.  The disadvantage is that the resolution that you take them in, is the maximum resolution.  If you attempt to increase the size of them, they pixelate.

Typical Bitmap/Raster Image File formats:

  • jpg
  • gif
  • png

Vector graphics are completely different.  They are made up of objects and objects are made up of nodes.  So basically it’s a set of arbitrary points in space, and there is a mathematical equation on how to get from one node to the next.  The advantage of vector graphics is that they are resolution independent, which makes them scalable.  So you can scale a vector graphic down to the size of a head of a pin (or smaller), or you can scale them up to the size of a side of a building.  They will always look the same.  This is why you always want your business logo as a vector graphic.

Now to make things a little more complicated vector graphic file formats can encode Raster/Bitmap graphic information AND vector graphic information.  So you can’t just save a raster/bitmap graphic in a vector graphic file format and think that you’ve converted it.  You haven’t.  Just because you have your logo in a vector graphic file format does not mean that it is a vector graphic.  90% of the time that I ask my clients for their company logo as a vector graphic, this is what they’ve done.  I still have to convert it from a bitmap graphic into a vector graphic.  Now software can do this automatically, however the results are usually less than optimal when it comes to logos.  Usually I like to have a bitmap graphic that is over 600 pixels in either dimension as my source image.  Most of the time the logo image that is provided to me is not that large, and will not produce acceptable results.  I almost always manually trace logos so that I know I have the best graphic I can get and provide my customers.

The most widely used vector graphic editors on the market are Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Inkscape (my personal favorite.  I use Illustrator and Inkscape primarily.  I’ve never taken the time to learn Corel Draw (I do have it) better because I’ve found 3rd party support for Corel Draw file formats to be lacking.

Typical Vector Graphic File Formats:

  • svg
  • ai
  • cdr
  • eps
  • ps

The SVG file format is the world wide standard, and what I prefer to provide my clients with.  It is the most compatible with any other software.  Whereas the .ai file format is an Adobe Illustrator proprietary format.  Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw both import .svg files just fine.