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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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