Why you should use vector graphics over bitmap images

Vector v Bitmap Header ImageIn the digital world of imagery, there are two main file formats that dominate. These are bitmap images and vector graphics, both of which have their positives, and equally have their negatives. So choosing which one to use should be a breeze right? Well, not exactly, but in this article we will discover the benefits of both, and which is the preferred file type.

In short, bitmap images are made up of pixels of different colours. Vector graphics are made up of objects. But here is a little more detail about each one…

What are bitmap images?

In general, any image that you take from a digital source is automatically saved as a bitmap file. So when you take a photograph using a digital camera, or scan an image from a paper source, you are creating a bitmap image.

These bitmap images are made-up of a matrix of individual dots, also known as pixels, which all have their own colour. Here is an example of a bitmap image:

Vector v Bitmap Image 01

To the left of the image you’ll see the top of the apple zoomed right in, revealing rows of small squares, all with a different colour – these are the pixels. Our eyes aren’t actually capable of seeing individual pixels, so we just see them as a complete image, in smooth gradations.

Due to the sheer amount of pixels that your computer has to store for each image, the file size of the bitmap image is often quite big. As an example, a CMYK A4-size picture that is optimised for medium quality printing (150 lpi), takes up 40 MB, which is relatively large just for one file.
You can compress the files, and you can also make some size adjustments to them to reduce the file size, however this can be detrimental to the image and it may lose its quality, especially the sharpness. The same goes when enlarging bitmap images, as they can look unnatural and blocky, which is something you should really avoid.

What are vector graphics?

Vector graphics are created in graphics packages like DrawPlus, PhotoShop and Illustrator. They consist of shapes called objects, and each object can be editing separately, by changing the shape, size, position and adding colour.

They are created with lines, all joined together with a collection of points. The most common way to draw vector graphics within these design programs is using Bezier curves, as they tend to be the easiest and quickest way to get the perfect design.

Example of a vector image

Vector graphics have the advantage of taking up a lot less space on your computer, as the file size is usually quite small, even if the graphic itself is very large. They can also be scaled, without losing any quality, which is a huge advantage for people making company logos, maps or other objects that need to be resized frequently.

Which should I use then?

There are a few things you should ask yourself before making the decision to use either bitmap, or vector graphics. Does the image need to be resized or drawn in scale? Do you want the image to look real, and are you worried about file size?

From our perspective, using vector graphics is the right choice. Not only do they take up less room on your computer, but they can also be resized without any image disruptions, and can also be customised exactly how you want. They’re more flexible, more diverse and have more options than a bitmap image.

Vector graphics can be created in many different programs such as Serif’s own DrawPlus and Affinity Designer for Mac, as well as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW.