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What are the Different Uses of Vector Images?

By Amanda Livingstone
Updated May 16, 2024
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Vector images are used in a variety of personal and business applications because of their scalable nature. Some of the most popular vector image uses are logos, web, print and character designs. Businesses often print logos on various surface mediums that require the image to be scaled beyond the original size without the loss of detail. In many instances, the use of vectors creates a uniquely crisp and clean design that some animators and designers prefer.

All vector images are created in vector graphic editor programs. All vector programs use editable curves, points, lines and shapes to create images. Unlike bitmap images, vector graphics are not based on pixels but rather on mathematically calculated vectors. Bitmap pixels are resolution-dependent, which results in pixelation when scaled up. Vector images also require less drawing information than bitmaps, which results in a smaller file size.

Coupled with a smaller file size and distinct look, vector images seem ideal for the web environment. Web designers often create decorative vectorized elements such as buttons, headers, animations and borders for web pages. In some cases, web designers choose to create whole websites composed of individual vector elements.

In the graphic and print design industry, vector graphics have become increasingly popular. Besides their scalability and resolution flexibility, vectors enable designers to create highly stylized designs, layouts and art. In most designs and layouts, vectors are identified by the use of different shapes, with crisp edges and bold outlines that contain gradient fills nestled with bold highlighted effects. If a design element needs to be tweaked, vectors retain editability ensuring high productivity. After a bitmap gradient has been filled, editability becomes extremely difficult compared to that of a vector.

Vector images are often seen in mainstream media in the form of advertising and character design. Many digital artists use vector editor software programs to create fresh and edgy character designs. The method of creating a vector character is not complex. Basically, a hand-drawn or digital sketch is imported into the vector editor to be traced using the program’s tools.

Vectors are often seen in media advertising campaigns in the form of commercials, billboards and web ads. Sometimes ads, might be composed entirely of vectors, and other times, the ads might contain only a few vector elements. Vector image involvement in media advertising mainly depends on the subject matter, product, image, direction and overall look and feel of the marketing campaign.

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Discussion Comments
By Markerrag — On Apr 09, 2014

@Terrificli -- one of the problems with the new emergence of vector graphics is that the most popular design programs out there are based on raster graphics. Converted between vector and raster causes its own set of problems.

Still, the appeal of vector is easy to see. Ask any print publication designer who has dealt with a raster graphic that is too small (that can be a photo, drawing or anything else -- generally anything with a PNG, JPG or BMP extension). Scaling is the problem -- the image might look OK on a computer screen, but whether it will look fine when printed is a different matter entirely. You don't have that problem with vector graphics -- they can be scaled up or down as needed and still retain full resolution.

Still, the desktop publishing industry is built around raster graphics. Making the transition to incorporate vector images may be a painful and expensive process.

By Terrificli — On Apr 08, 2014

It has been fascinating over the past few years to hear people talk about vector graphics like they are something new. Those have, in fact, been around for quite some time. Back in the 1980s, for example, there were a few video games that used vector graphics ("Asteroids," "Battlezone" and "Tempest," to name a few). They were known for their high-resolution, wireframe look that distinguished them from their raster (i.e., bitmap) counterparts. Those games featured sharp angles and well-defined geometric shapes.

The underlying principals of vector graphics are still in place, but they sure as heck look different as the wire frame appearance has largely been abandoned in favor of full-color designs that are comparable to raster graphics. The main difference, of course, is that they can be scaled to as large or as small as needed without the risk of losing resolution.

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