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Comparing raster vs. vector images

From: Print Production Fundamentals

Video: Comparing raster vs. vector images

You've probably heard the words pixel, raster, bitmap, vector, what do they mean? And more importantly once you know what they mean, which format is appropriate? If I tell you that Illustrator generate vectors and Photoshop uses pixels, that might help a little. We'll start with Photoshop. This image looks nice and smooth, but when I zoom in you can see that it's made out of pixels. A pixel is short for picture element, and you might think about pixels as being sort of like little mosaic tiles. Think about re-creating this image by coloring in squares on graph paper, and you start to get the idea.

Comparing raster vs. vector images

You've probably heard the words pixel, raster, bitmap, vector, what do they mean? And more importantly once you know what they mean, which format is appropriate? If I tell you that Illustrator generate vectors and Photoshop uses pixels, that might help a little. We'll start with Photoshop. This image looks nice and smooth, but when I zoom in you can see that it's made out of pixels. A pixel is short for picture element, and you might think about pixels as being sort of like little mosaic tiles. Think about re-creating this image by coloring in squares on graph paper, and you start to get the idea.

So you'll hear a pixel based image referred to as a raster image or a bitmap image, it means exactly the same thing. Now the terms are sort of interchangeable. So there are limitations to pixel-based graphics. You can't scale them up much before they start to show some degradation and some loss of detail. Now if it's a very highly detailed image to begin with, say a close-up of elaborate jewelry, you may not even want to scale up above 125%. Now if it's something like gauzy shot of clouds, you might be able to get away with enlarging it up to 200%.

So there's no magic number, it sort of depends on the content. But, for example, let's look at this it's part of that bigger image, and you can see that it's pretty pixilated. It's because it's really small. But what if my customer needs a much bigger version of it? Well, I can try scaling it up, and let's see what happens. When I go to Image and Image Size, if I try to scale it up to let's say 200%, Photoshop CS6 chooses a method for enlarging. You can pick one if you want, but I recommend that you let Photoshop pick the most appropriate method.

When I click OK, now I think you can already see that it's really softened things up. So it doesn't look as nice as it would if it had been scanned the correct size to begin with. So I have to make do with this because it's the only artwork that my customer has, but you can tell that it's not really going to look all that great. So I just want you to be aware of the limitations that you have when you have raster-based images, pixel images. Now Illustrator on the other hand creates vector art. If I zoom in on this logo, you can see that it's very, very sharp, no matter how far in I zoom.

I can keep on going and keep on going, there aren't any pixels. So everything in Illustrator that's created as vector art has no pixels. So it has no inherent resolution, which means that you can pretty much scale it up to the size of the building, and it'll still look great. That's why, if you're going to create something like logos or maps or diagrams, you want to do that in Illustrator, not in Photoshop. Now I'll give you one last little comparison. I have two versions of that same logo, the one on the left is out of Illustrator, so it's vector art, and the one on the right is out of Photoshop, so it's made out of pixels.

So I am going to start by scaling up my vector art to 200%, looks pretty good. Then I'm going to do the same thing to my image out of Photoshop that's made out of pixels, and even before I zoom in you can tell that--well, it's going to look a little bit rough. And when I do zoom in, and we can compare them, there is the vector art on the left, and there are the pixels on the right. So what I want you take away from this is that vector art is appropriate for something that may change size, something like a logo, something like a map that needs very, very sharp detail.

And if you have an image just understand that there are limitations to how much you can scale it up, and you sort of have to be prepared to pay the penalty.

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This video is part of

Image for Print Production Fundamentals
Print Production Fundamentals

68 video lessons · 23273 viewers

Claudia McCue
Author

 
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  1. 2m 7s
    1. Welcome
      1m 31s
    2. Using the exercise files
      36s
  2. 7m 5s
    1. What is print production?
      1m 51s
    2. Understanding roles and responsibilities
      5m 14s
  3. 13m 49s
    1. Communicating with your printer
      3m 49s
    2. What does the printer do with my files?
      2m 39s
    3. Understanding the importance of contract proofs
      1m 57s
    4. Handling corrections and alterations
      2m 8s
    5. Attending press checks
      3m 16s
  4. 13m 27s
    1. Choosing the correct type of printing for your project
      3m 15s
    2. The art of letterpress
      1m 33s
    3. Understanding the advantages of sheet-fed printing
      2m 22s
    4. Using a web press for long runs
      1m 39s
    5. Understanding thermography
      1m 38s
    6. Considerations for digital printing
      3m 0s
  5. 15m 11s
    1. What's a process color?
      2m 55s
    2. What's a spot color?
      2m 52s
    3. Exploring how ink behaves on paper
      5m 14s
    4. Comparing monitor vs. press output
      4m 10s
  6. 15m 15s
    1. Building to the correct size
      4m 37s
    2. Folding and trimming
      3m 18s
    3. Setting up for die cutting
      3m 19s
    4. Embossing
      4m 1s
  7. 3m 17s
    1. Choosing an application
      3m 17s
  8. 9m 54s
    1. Understanding font formats
      1m 45s
    2. Using OpenType fonts
      5m 20s
    3. Fonts to avoid
      2m 49s
  9. 13m 52s
    1. Comparing raster vs. vector images
      3m 23s
    2. Understanding color space
      4m 26s
    3. Examining image formats
      6m 3s
  10. 13m 13s
    1. Looking at image resolution
      7m 16s
    2. Masking basics
      5m 57s
  11. 39m 53s
    1. Understanding Illustrator
      2m 34s
    2. Illustrator layout tips
      2m 48s
    3. Building a simple three-panel brochure
      6m 29s
    4. Using swatches
      5m 22s
    5. Working with effects
      5m 16s
    6. Cautions about some effects
      1m 23s
    7. Importing images
      2m 41s
    8. Exploring fonts
      2m 42s
    9. Saving for users with older versions
      3m 2s
    10. Saving as PDF
      4m 36s
    11. Gathering up the pieces
      3m 0s
  12. 57m 8s
    1. InDesign layout basics
      5m 21s
    2. Building a simple three-panel brochure: method one
      7m 19s
    3. Building a simple three-panel brochure: method two
      3m 21s
    4. Working with color and gradient swatches
      7m 12s
    5. Making gradients and creating a rich black swatch
      4m 45s
    6. Exploring fonts in InDesign
      2m 54s
    7. Importing graphics
      7m 49s
    8. Copying and pasting graphics
      3m 38s
    9. Saving for users with older versions
      2m 21s
    10. Packaging up a print job
      6m 57s
    11. Generating PDFs
      5m 31s
  13. 22m 43s
    1. Using Overprint Preview in InDesign
      3m 3s
    2. Managing swatches in InDesign
      5m 29s
    3. Preflighting in InDesign
      7m 58s
    4. Using the Links panel in Illustrator
      3m 16s
    5. Using blending modes in Illustrator and InDesign
      2m 57s
  14. 35m 35s
    1. Basic forensics in Acrobat
      11m 3s
    2. Using Output Preview
      5m 30s
    3. Dealing with display artifacts
      2m 52s
    4. Using TouchUp tools
      8m 17s
    5. Converting colors
      4m 11s
    6. Using preflight profiles
      3m 42s
  15. 3m 27s
    1. Submitting the job
      2m 29s
    2. Being a good print customer
      58s
  16. 1m 2s
    1. Next steps
      1m 2s

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