Vector Artwork Explained

Have you ever wondered what a vector graphic is?

Graphic files come in many different formats, from jpeg to gif. Each type of graphic may vary on compression or algorithm, but all graphic files are similar. There are two types of graphics: raster and vector.

  • Vector files have file extensions like .svg .pdf .ai .eps – so if your designer gives you those – Keep these ones even if you can't open them. They are source files.
  • Files types with extensions like .jpg .png .gif are great for web and email and are probably the files you can open, but these can't be blown up. Don't use a graphic designer if all they give you are pixel graphics for your brand.

Cameras take photographs at various resolutions, and all of these photographs are a series of points and colours.  Unlike what you may have seen in the movies, you can't blow up a small image and enhance its resolution. To better understand this, let's take a look at the progression of cameras.

Vector files are different. They can be increased to any size and will always maintain clean lines. Vectors can be small files because they only include the lines and shapes rather than information about each pixel.

Images and photos taken with a camera (or "raster" images) cannot be vector files. Vector files need to be drawn or created as a collection of shapes. You can use some tools to "trace" raster images to create vector files, but these tools still need a lot of work to make a vector resemble the original rasterized image.  

If you've tried to get printing done for your company, you've heard the word vector before. Print companies ask for it, designers ask for it, and it's worth taking a few minutes to understand.

Not everything can be a vector file. Photographs, for example, can't be vector because they are pixel-based by nature. Logos and illustrations, however, should be.

File sizes matter. If you are sending an illustration formatted correctly in vector, you will notice the small file size. Not matter what size the print or view is. However, the larger the photograph, the larger the file. Something that is poster-sized in vector might be small and great for email. But a raster file with a decent resolution will be huge in comparison, making email out of the question.

Photo files are large (... huge) because they contain instructions for every pixel. Vectors merely include lines, shapes, and colours.

Your brand artwork should always be vector

You can sometimes render the vector with special effects to make it 3D or give it unique characteristics in certain use cases, but you should use a vector version for standardization.