What's the Difference Between Vector and Bitmap Graphics?
There are two types of computer graphics: vector and bitmap (also known as raster).
Vector graphics use mathematical statements to describe a series of points to be connected along a path, forming an image composed of shapes and lines. Vector graphics are typically detailed illustrations, fonts, logos, line art and page layouts. A vector graphic appears smooth at any size or resolution because the mathematical statement remains constant. A vector graphic can be stretched to the moon and won’t get jaggy or blurry as long as it remains in the native application.
Applications that utilize vector graphics are drawing programs such as Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, and Macromedia Freehand; CAD systems; page layout applications such as Adobe InDesign and Quark; and animation software. Adobe Photoshop can output both vector and bitmap graphics.
Bitmap graphics are composed of a grid of individual pixels. Each pixel can be given a different color, and if the pixel count is high enough the image can be of fine photographic quality, with complex gradations and shading. A bitmap graphic can be scaled up or down but not by much, because the edges become jagged or blurry. Some of the jagged appearance can be corrected using anti-aliasing (shaded transition pixels along the edge of an image). But even with anti-aliasing, the image will eventually lose definition when resized.
For presentations and Web design, Bluewave designers work almost exclusively with Photoshop and bitmap graphics. Bitmaps are generally faster and easier to create than vectors. And since the Web and projected screen shows cannot display ultra-high resolutions, vector graphics are mostly overkill. Bitmap graphics are like a speedboat, easy to maneuver and quick to get results. Vector graphics are more like the Queen Mary, requiring more time and planning.
Flash animations typically require vector graphics because vectors can be resized and animated without loss of resolution.
For print pieces, we work with both vector and bitmap graphics in Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and PhotoShop.