Should you use a vector or raster image? That is the question… and the answer really depends on what you’re using the design for. In this article, we’ll discuss the important differences between vectors and rasters as well as when to use each of them.

What are vector images?

Vector image
Vector images are easily scaled up and down without losing detail

Vector images are made up of basic geometric shapes such as points, lines and curves. The relationship of the shapes is expressed as a mathematical equation that allows the image to scale up or down in size without losing quality.

Logo designs and print work, such as brochures and posters, should be designed as vector images using vector drawing software like Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw or Inkscape.

What are raster images?

If raster images are enlarged, they will become pixelated

Raster images are made up of a set grid of dots called pixels where each pixel is assigned a color value. Unlike a vector image, raster images are resolution dependent.

When you change the size of a raster image, you shrink or stretch the pixels themselves which can result in a significant loss of clarity and very blurry image. Raster editors such as Photoshop or GIMP are great for photographs as well as for adding effects, shadows and textures to designs.

What design application should I use?

Use Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer or an equivalent application to create vector images for:

  • logo designs
  • illustrations
  • brochures
  • posters
  • t-shirts
  • or anything intended to be printed

Use Adobe Photoshop, GIMP or an equivalent application to create raster images for:

  • web design
  • mobile apps
  • icons
  • banner ads
  • social media images
  • editing photographs
  • or any other design intended for electronic use
Want to learn more about correct file formats? Here’s everything you need to know.