Raster or Vector Illustrations: What to Choose and When
by Julie Weishaar
May 3, 2023
Vector or Raster Illustrations

Deciding whether to use vector or raster illustrations can be challenging for a graphic designer or a marketer.

Although both graphics have unique benefits, knowing when to incorporate them can make or break your design.

This article will examine the differences between vector and raster illustrations.

We’ll also talk about the appropriate areas of application for each.

What are Illustrations?

An illustration is an interesting type of artwork that has existed for ages. It requires using various skills and materials to create graphics that enhance the written content.

From animations to scientific articles, illustrations can convey complex ideas in ways that words alone cannot.

The essence of illustration—a picture or a group of images—is storytelling. Every illustration has a story or emotion that it communicates to the reader.

The style, color palette, and structure influence the entire message and feel of the artwork.

Because of how versatile illustration is, it is suitable for various projects, including editorial, commercial, fine art, and animation. An illustration is also valuable for marketing.

A well-designed illustration will help you remain unique and distinct from competitors, engage your audience, and efficiently promote your product or services.

Types of Illustrations

Before you start creating illustrations, you should understand the two main types: Vector-based and Raster-based.

1.    Vector-based illustrations

Vector-based graphics are created using mathematical equations to design shapes, lines, and curves.

They can be resized to any scale without sacrificing quality. As a result, their quality is not dependent on resolution.

2.    Raster-based illustrations

Raster-based graphics, on the other hand, are dependent on resolution and are made up of pixels.

That’s why a raster-based image might become pixelated or blurry and lose quality when you zoom in on it.

However, you can add more intricate details to raster designs than vector-based illustrations.

This makes it excellent for designing mobile fliers and print materials.

Where Can You Use Raster Illustrations?

Below are a few ways you can create compelling and eye-catching content using illustrations:

1.    Animations

Many animations—short, animated videos or long motion pictures—depend heavily on illustrations.

These include the character designs, environments, and special effects that give life to your story.

Also, you can use illustrations to make elaborate backgrounds that set the stage and envelop your audience in a different world.

2.    Advertising

Illustrations are a flexible and powerful way to grab your audience’s attention when used in advertisements.

You can use them to create eye-catching visuals to convey your message in print commercials, web ads, and billboards.

You can also use illustrations to develop an excellent brand identity or deliver complex ideas clearly and interestingly.

If you’re advertising a new product or service, using illustrations can leave a lasting impression on your target market.

What is a Vector?

The word “vector” is frequently used across several niches, including computer science, physics, and mathematics.

A vector is a way to mathematically express anything with a magnitude or direction and a specific size or value.

Vectors can be visually represented as arrows, circles, and many other shapes.

And it is an effective tool for visualizing various ideas, from forces and velocities in physics to market patterns and customer behavior in business.

In design, vectors produce scalable pictures and graphics that can be enlarged and modified without losing quality.

When Can You Use Vector Design?

As explained earlier, raster images can lose quality when resized, while vectors cannot.

But when should you choose to use vector graphics over raster images?

1.    Logo design

Creating logos is one of the best applications for vector graphics.

A vector design ensures that your logo looks sharp and clear at any size because logos need to be scaled and zoomed for various applications.

2.    Infographics

Imagine you’ve been tasked with creating an infographic for advertising a new product.

You want it to appear polished, professional, and eye-catching.

This is where vector design comes into play. If you want your infographic to stand out and leave a lasting impression, vector design is the way.

3.    Text-based graphics

Vector design is the best option for text-based graphics. The fact that the text is generated as a path ensures that quality is retained even when you zoom in. This makes it perfect for typography and wordmarks.

4.    Large-scale printing

Another good way to use vector design is if you’re creating something that will be printed in a large size.

An example of such a design is a banner or billboard. You can ensure your design looks great even when printed large.

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Differences Between Vector Designs and Raster-Based Illustrations

Apart from their qualities when scaled, here are some other key differences between vector design and raster-based illustration:

1.    File dimensions

Because vector designs are composed of mathematical formulas rather than pixels, they have smaller file sizes than raster-based illustrations.

2.    Editing

One of the most important benefits of vector artwork is its ease of editing, resizing, changing colors, and manipulation.

However, raster-based illustrations can be more difficult to modify because each pixel must be altered manually.

3.    Resolution

Because raster-based images are formed at a set size, they have a defined resolution.

In contrast, vector designs are not, making them perfect for producing images for various platforms and purposes.

4.    Output

Raster-based artwork is frequently used to create pictures that will be printed, such as photos or illustrations.

Vector designs are used online or in digital media to design logos, icons, and other branding graphics.

Final Thoughts

The choice between raster illustration and vector design ultimately depends on your needs for a particular project.

For example, based on their unique characteristics, you should use vector design if you’re creating a logo.

On the other hand, if you want to design highly detailed artwork, a raster illustration is a better choice.

Regardless of your project goals, you can combine both design types to create incredible designs that inspire, inform, and engage your target audience.

Raster or Vector Illustrations: What to Choose and When

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