Vector Graphics Explained

Steven Spielberg

Do you need to produce illustrations on your computer for your business or organisation? Understanding how to use object-oriented graphics will enhance your company’s literature and the vector drawing software is not difficult to use.

Vector graphics make such a difference to any form of illustration produced on a computer. This article explains what they are and the differences between vector and raster graphics. Learn how to use object-oriented graphics to enhance your organisation’s posters, flyers and letterheads.

What are vector graphics?

They are created on a computer and are a popular illustration format.

In the following article, we’ll explain exactly what they are, what benefits they have over raster graphics and when they are best used.

A vector is a line

But it doesn’t have to be a straight line. Object-oriented graphics are mathematical equations that consist of co-ordinates, positions and curve information. They’re similar to a dot-to-dot drawing, albeit slightly more sophisticated.

Think about an aeroplane taking off from the ground and rising to an altitude in the sky. There are a series of factors that determine the curve between the point at which the plane leaves the ground and the point at which it reaches cruising altitude, such as speed, angle at takeoff etc.

And it’s a similar case with object-oriented graphics. To draw a curved line, for example, the vector graphics programme requires the co-ordinates of the line’s two end points. Once these have been plotted, you can create a curve between them. The mathematics will have been calculated in the background.

If a shape needs to be enlarged, numbers are added to the equation behind the scenes to present the same shape at the same quality, but much bigger. Colours and styles are then added.

But object-oriented graphics don’t restrict you to simple 2D images; incredibly detailed, almost photo-like results can be achieved.

Increase size without decreasing quality

No matter what size you enlarge or shrink object-oriented graphics, the quality will remain exactly the same; it will be 100% sharp and clear.

Compare this to raster graphics where the images are composed entirely of squares of colour known as pixels. Resizing these graphics forces the software to estimate which pixels will fill a larger image, causing pixelation which gives a blurry and fuzzy effect.

The ability to increase a vector’s size without sacrificing quality is also closely linked to file size. Even if your vector graphic is the size of a billboard, the file size will still be relatively small, especially when compared to that of a raster image.

This is because a vector file only records the information related to the graphic’s objects, i.e. co-ordinates, positions etc., whereas raster graphics need to record every single pixel in an image, leading to a much larger file size.

One disadvantage to vector graphics in the past was that you couldn’t achieve anywhere near the photographic, lifelike quality you could in a raster image. However, developments in software mean that this is now more feasible, although the process can be time-consuming.

Perfect for print and screen

Vector graphics are used in websites, animations and business branding materials such as logos, letterheads and flyers. A logo, for example, needs to be flexible and versatile in its design so it can be applied in varying sizes and across a range of media which could be anything from an A4 sheet of paper to the side of a car.

The fact that you can easily enlarge and shrink vector graphics to any size makes this possible. And it’s not just in printed materials where vector excels.
The format has become popular on websites too because of a combination of small file size, high quality, and compatibility with all major browsers and most smartphones.

Raster graphics, on the other hand, can boast high quality, but at a cost of a larger file size. The downside here is that a larger file forces page load times to increase, which might mean a potential visitor has to wait for a page to appear.

Vector graphics software makes it easy

As you can see, vector artwork is ideal for a number of situations and, with software readily available and far from expensive, there really is every reason to try your hand at it.

Tools are easy to use too, with changes quickly made, and the results are sharp and sophisticated so it’s perfect for materials that represent your business.

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