Promo University

What is Vector Art & Why Does It Matter for Printing?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: February 27th 2021

Think about the pictures you take on your phone, or the memes you save from the internet and share with your friends. If you were to try and resize those images, you'd find that the end result looks kind of blurry and pixelated. No worries – in come vector graphics to save the day!

You may have never heard of "vector" before, but it's essential when it comes to printing images. Without further ado, let's get to know more about these graphics and just why they matter.

What is Vector Art?

Vector art is a technical term that refers to the use of mathematical algorithms to create images and illustrations through software like Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW. With vector, you can easily scale, modify, or resize an image without hurting its quality.

To see this in action, take a look at the images pictured here:

raster logo raster logo

These are JPEG images like the ones you'd take on your phone. Notice how Image B becomes distorted when its dimensions are changed. You can clearly see that the water bottles look stretched out, almost like they're in a funhouse mirror.

Now look at the same images again, only this time they are in a vector format:

raster logo raster logo

You can resize Image B, and the water bottles no longer looks warped and distorted. The image was rescaled, but it still looks just as good as Image A. That's the beauty of vector graphics!

Do you want to learn more about vector art? Check out this video!

What is Vector Art Used For?

You can use vector graphics for any marketing campaign. They're extremely useful as they can be used to create your logo, promotional merchandise, billboards, and printed ads.

Vector graphics can be used for all of the following:


  • Illustrations
  • Logos
  • Websites
  • Album covers
  • Branded merchandise
  • Email campaigns
  • Movie posters
  • Billboards
  • Printed ads
  • Books
  • Signs
  • Video games
  • Cartoons
Person drawing

Illustrations

Many artists and illustrators do their creating on a computer or tablet. Vector graphics look clean and professional, which is a must if you plan on putting your work on display at an art show or gallery.

Person thinking of logos

Logos

Picture the logos you come into contact with almost every day… Facebook, Coca-Cola, Disney, McDonald's. All of these, and many more, are created using vector graphics.

Websites

Websites

Do you want a slick and stylish website? You should use vector graphics on every page! It's important to use vector files as you want your images to be viewable on any size screen, whether it's mobile or desktop.

Album Covers

Album Covers

With the world moving toward Spotify and iTunes, it may seem like old-fashioned albums are a thing of the past. Still, you have to appreciate the fine vector art that was used to create modern covers like Tame Impala's Currents or Kanye West's Graduation.

Coffee cups

Branded Merchandise

If you need branded merchandise for your business, you're going to want to use vector images to make that happen. Your design can be enlarged to fit on bigger items, like t-shirts and mugs, or shrunk down for smaller items like pens and keychains.

Email Campaigns

Email Campaigns

You want your marketing emails to get those clicks! Use vector graphics to create your campaign, and people won't send you right to the spam folder.

Movie posters

Movie Posters

The marquee is full of many cool films to check out, from the latest action thriller to the newest comedy. Many of these movie posters are created with the help of vector art!

Billboards

Billboards

You can quickly glance at billboards as you cruise by thanks to vector graphics! These images can take up all the space on a large billboard and still look crystal clear.

Printed ad

Printed Ads

As you flip through a magazine or brochure, you may encounter a ton of printed ads. These are all created by designers using vector art.

Child looking at book

Books

The world of publishing wouldn't be complete without vector graphics. They come in handy for picture books, eye-catching covers, and even comic books.

Sign on window

Signs

Open and closed signs, yard signs, banners, floor decals… all of these have to be created with vector graphics. If not, it will be hard to read what the sign is trying to communicate

Video game console

Video Games

Sega was all about vector graphics when the Atari first hit the marketplace. The video game company used this type of art to make iconic arcade classics like "Asteroids" and "Battlezone."

Cartoon

Cartoons

Do you remember tuning into Saturday morning cartoons when you were a kid? Maybe you're still doing it now! Some popular programs were hand-drawn while others were made with computer graphics or vector art.

It's not only marketers and entertainment companies that benefit from vector graphics. Maybe you have to create a poster for a school project, or you want to handmake holiday gifts this year instead of buying something from a store. You can exercise your creativity by becoming familiar with the vectorization process!

How Do You Create Vector Art?

You can create vector art by following along with online tutorials. There are a ton of free resources you can use to become familiar with the vectorization process.

As long as you have a computer or tablet, you can use the following software to create vector art:


  • Adobe Illustrator
  • CorelDraw
  • Quark
  • Sketch
  • Affinity Designer
  • Inkscape
Adobe Illustrator logo

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is the most popular software for graphic designers. It's extremely user-friendly, which makes it a great choice if you're in need of vector images.

CorelDRAW logo

CorelDRAW

Are you working from a computer with limited storage space? CorelDRAW is the software for you! You can create the vector graphics you need without taking up too much memory.

Quark logo

Quark

Let's say you're writing a new book, and you want some nifty illustrations for each chapter. Quark was specially designed for people in the publishing industry.

Sketch logo

Sketch

Hey all you Apple fans! You're going to love Sketch, a vector graphics editor that's won countless awards. Download a trial run of this software before you commit to buying it!

affinity designer logo

Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer is one part of the “Affinity Trinity,” a series of software that are must-haves for any creative. You can easily make your vector graphics with this comprehensive editor!

Inkscape logo

Inkscape

The underdogs need love, too! Inkscape is not as big as software like Adobe or Affinity Designer, but it's just as efficient when it comes to creating vector images.

What Are Raster Graphics and Vector Graphics?

Raster, or bitmap graphics, are made up of pixels and can't be edited very easily when it comes to size or scale. Vector graphics, on the other hand, can be reformatted without sacrificing the quality of the picture.

Are you still curious about the difference between raster and vector images? This infographic breaks it down even further!

infographic with file extension, vector vs raster infographic with file extension, vector vs raster

*The logos above are the property of the respective software.

All of these applications work a bit differently, so online tutorials and YouTube will be your best friend. You need to practice to really get the hang of creating and editing your images, whether they’re raster or vector. Practice makes progress!

File format

What is a File Format?

A file format is the extension that's attached to your saved file, whether it's a document or an image. If you've ever seen a .doc after you save Word, or .jpg after you save a photograph, then you've seen a file extension!

There are many file extensions, and a ton to learn about every one of them, but let's focus on a few misconceptions when it comes to raster vs. vector files. This includes such questions as:

Is Photoshop Vector or Raster?

Photoshop

Photoshop is actually a raster-based program rather than a vector-based one. You can use Photoshop for editing, retouching, mockups, and adding effects, but you can't resize or rescale the images in the same way that you could with vector software.

The best graphic designers use a combination of Photoshop and vector software like Adobe Illustrator. You have more freedom to edit and structure photographs and images by keeping both programs on your computer.

What Do Vector Files End In?

Mac OS

Each software has its own system for how to export your vector image, but once done, you'll see a file extension attached to your image.

Vector images will end in one of the following file extensions:

  • AI
  • EPS
  • SVG
  • FH
  • CDR
  • PDF
  • EMF

Some extensions, like EPS and PDF, can also be bitmap/raster files. It just depends on which program you're using to create and save your images.

What is the Most Common Vector File Format?

eps icon

The EPS format, or Encapsulated PostScript, is the most common vector file format. It's standard in the print industry, and since vector is mostly used for printed ads, logos, branded merchandise, and other marketing materials, it makes EPS a pretty common file to see attached to a vector image.

How Do I Convert a JPEG to a Vector File?

jpg icon

You can easily convert a JPEG or bitmap file into a vector file, but it depends on which software you're using. For instance, Adobe Illustrator requires a paid license to change the file extension, but Inkscape has a built-in converter.

You can also change a JPEG to a vector file with online converters like Vector Magic. Simply upload your image, and it will vectorize what you upload. This converter will cost you about $10 a month, but may be worth it if you need to frequently change your files from bitmap to vector.

Is a PNG Raster or Vector?

png icon

Just like JPEGs, PNG files are considered raster. You would have to change a PNG into a vector file using converters like Vector Magic. Keep in mind, there's usually a fee associated with changing your file from PNG to vector.

Is a PDF a Vector File?

pdf icon

PDFs are sometimes considered vector files, but it really depends on how the file is created. If you use a vector editor to make the image and then save it as a PDF, it's considered a vector file. If you save the PDF from a word doc, however, it is considered a raster file.

Is GIF Raster or Vector?

Gif icon

GIF is another raster file, much like JPEG and PNG. The biggest difference is JPEGs and PNGs are static images, while GIF is animated. Since a GIF is raster, it can't be easily resized, rescaled, or reformatted without some kind of pixilation or distortion.

Ivan Sutherland https://history-computer.com/

Who Invented Vector Graphics?

Ivan Sutherland https://history-computer.com/

Vector graphics were invented by a man named Ivan Sutherland in 1963. He developed these images alongside an early software called Sketchpad, which eventually evolved to become CorelDRAW.

It's no surprise that vector was purposefully created for the advertising world. In fact, there was high demand from companies for a program that would make it easy for them to create large billboards, posters, and branded items like coasters and towels.

Today, vector images are an instrumental part of graphic design. The world of advertising wouldn’t be the same without them!

The Bottom Line

It’s worth your time and effort to understand how to create vector images, especially if you plan on printing artwork onto t-shirts or giant posters. Vector is key to creating a print job that looks good. After all, who wants to look at a blurry picture all day?

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

Site Impulse. (2011, April 29). Raster Vs. Vector Graphics and Graphic File Formats. Retrieved from, https://www.siteimpulse.com/blogen/raster-vs-vector-graphics-and-graphic-file-formats/>

Thomas, J. (2017, February 9). How to Convert a JPEG to a Vector Image. Retrieved from, https://www.techwalla.com/articles/how-to-convert-a-jpeg-to-a-vector-image

Modassic Marketing. Vector, Raster, JPG, EPS, PNG – What’s the Difference? Retrieved from, https://modassicmarketing.com/understanding-image-file-types

Cann, M. (2018). The 8 Types of Graphic Design. Retrieved from, https://99designs.com/blog/tips/types-of-graphic-design/

Cureg, M. (2015, March 4). A Short History of Vector Graphics. Retrieved from, https://www.coalesceideas.com/a-short-history-of-vector-graphics/

Beyman, A. (2019, April 20). Why Vector Graphics Once Ruled the Arcade. Retrieved from, https://medium.com/@alexbeyman/why-vector-graphics-once-ruled-the-arcade-d9f43cec7dea

Vector Magic. File Formats. Retrieved from, https://vectormagic.com/support/file_formats