Differences Between A Raster & A Vector File

Differences Between a Raster & a Vector File

All graphics are in either a raster or a vector format. Raster and vector files are created and edited using different principles and it is helpful to know what makes each format work.


A raster file can also be called a bitmap file, and is based on pixel data. When you are viewing the raster file at a low percentage size, the image blends and looks normal. When you zoom in or make the image larger, however, the small squares of data, called pixels, become apparent.


Vector files are based on mathematics and curves rather than pixels. This means that as the image is re-sized, the computer redefines the shape’s pixels so that the image remains crisp and clean.

Editing Raster Files

Raster files can be edited extensively, including digital painting, special effects, and montages. Since raster files look smooth at a good resolution, raster computer art can be made to look life-like.

Editing Vector Files

Vector files are much more limited in editing because they rely on shapes and curves instead of tiny pixels that blend together. Recently, however, they have become capable of supporting technology such as meshes, effects such as drop shadows and glow effects. With the skillful use of gradients, vector artists can now create life-like portraits and art using vector formats.


Most image file formats are raster. These include JPG, TIFF, PNG, GIF and others. For vectors, EPS is the most common file format. PDF can support both raster and vector images.

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Image editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and GIMP, use raster technology. Illustration programs such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw are vector programs.