Vector vs Raster
There are two main types of images; Raster and Vector. Raster images are often more widely common found on the web and can include .jpg, .bmp, .tif and .gif. Vector images are more used for images that will be applied to a physical product through any one of a number of methods.
An image created in a Raster format could be thought of as painted – similar to dipping a paintbrush and producing colours and lines that can be blended together. Once applied it is difficult to amend or remove parts of a Raster image. For example, a camera produces Raster images that are comprised of millions of dots(pixels), each a different colour to the one next to it that when put together, create a seamless pattern which is what us humans can see as a photograph.
On the contrary, an image produced in a Vector format contains many different parts that have been assembled together to make the final image. Parts such as text, blocks of colour, lines and curves can be moved around, stretched or shrunk, and cleanly laid on top of one another quickly and easily. Vector images are easily interpreted by software and machinery that can pick up on the different parts and the colours they contain to produce extremely high quality, clean work.
How do I know if my image is a Raster or Vector?
A quick way to tell if your image is a Raster or Vector based is to simply zoom in. If you enlarge a Raster image you will soon start to see the individual pixels appearing as jagged, square dots. If you perform the same procedure with a Vector based image and zoom in onto the edge of a piece of text or block of colour, it will never dissolve into individual pixels but instead remain a clean line.
An example of a piece of Vector artwork on the left, and Raster on the right. Note the individual pixels appearing as jagged dots.
Embedded Raster Images
There are several file types than can be Vector based, or have an embedded Raster saved within them, which often is the reason for confusion when providing acceptable artwork. Most commonly found image file types such as .jpg, .bmp or .gif are always Raster images.
An often found example of this is a .pdf file. PDF documents are one of the few file types that can contain either a Raster or a Vector image, and because PDF files are so common they are an easy trap to fall into. The quick test of enlarging your image is the easiest way of determining if your PDF is a Raster or Vector.
Working with Raster images
A vector image is always preferred when designing with the final goal of applying the image to a physical product such as a namebadge, sign, medal or trophy.
However, sometimes a Raster image is the only one available. If this is the case, there is software available that can convert your Raster image to a Vector by performing a digital tracing operation on it. Tracing can only be performed successfully if the original image provided is a high enough resolution to clearly identify outlines or shapes.
A digital tracing operation is the virtual method of placing a piece of tracing paper on top of a printed image and using a pencil to trace around all the outlines before coloring them in. If the image that you are trying to trace is too small or of a poor resolution, you will have trouble identifying the outlines and end up creating a poor representation of the original image.
Here at Crown we have the capability to either trace your Raster image, or redraw it in a Vector format if necessary. Artwork fees will be incurred depending on the amount of work required.