FAQ: Pixel vs Vector

There are two basic types of digital graphic images existing on the web: pixel (also known as bitmap or raster) and vector. Quite often, it can be very confusing when your designer tells you: “your image quality isn’t good enough for printing”… but they don’t always explain to you why it’s not good enough?

So, let’s shed some light on the subject and explain the basic differences between pixel and vector. We will pinpoint the most important factors which could affect your choice of file format for your next project.

Posted by Zoeke on June 05, 2019 • 0 Comments

PIXEL

So lets jump in and start with, what is a Pixel? According to Wikipedia, a pixel is defined as “a minute area of illumination on a display screen, one of many from which an image is composed”. Each of these pixels are then assigned a colour value. The screen is then defined as any electronic device that displayed this image. For example, computer screens, your LED TV, your smartphone, tablets and digital cameras. The more pixels per inch (ppi) or dots per inch (dpi) your image is composed of, the better the quality of your images is.

DPI

VECTOR

A vector, in contrast, is made up of mathematical geometric primitives like lines, circles or curves. These individual vector elements can then also be assigned a colour value. The biggest advantage that vector has over pixels is, a vector can be scaled to ANY size without losing quality. For example, if you have an image of your lovable pet pug (which you’ve taken with your smartphone) and you’d like to print it out into an A0 sized poster (so you can hang it up on your living room wall), you would need to increase the size of the image from 150 x 200mm to 1104 x 841mm. In other words, you would need to increase the image size by 600%. That will result in what the pro’s call “a pixilated print”.

Vector-Increased

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When to use Pixel vs When to use Vector

When design a logo or a Social media ad, the main process of designing happens in both Pixel-based software and Vector-based software. How you export or save that artwork defines if it is in pixel or vector format.

Pixel is BEST for:
> Website icons, logos or graphics
> Whatsapp Images
> Digital marketing material
> Social media & Website Ads
> Video Graphics

Pixel Formats: JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, PSD

Vector is BEST for:
> Logo & Branding design
> Stationary (business cards, letterheads, etc)
> Signage and Billboards
> Labels / stickers and packaging
> Any printing projects

Vector Formats: PDF, EPS, SVG, AI

What design software should you use?

Although designing is always best left for the pro’s, if you do decide to design your own material, we highly recommend using the right software from the start. Programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Sketch are best used to create and manipulate vector images. Avoid raster-based programs such as Adobe Photoshop when incorporating vector elements that need to be scaled. Below is a list of Pixel-based software (ideal for photo editing) and Vector-based software (ideal for creating).

BEST for Pixel:
> Adobe Photoshop
> Corel Photo-Paint
> GIMP (Freeware)

BEST for Vector:
> Adobe Illustrator
> Adobe InDesign
> CorelDraw
> Inkscape (Freeware)
> Sketch

Conclusion

There are many reasons to favour vector over raster or favour raster over vector. For now, it can be a matter of preference of program or the scalability factor. If you have any questions or if you like us to elaborate on any of the points above, please feel free to leave us a comment below and we’ll respond to it as soon as possible. 

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