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Raster vs Vector

The best way to silence your sign designer is to tell them to use the logo from your website! There will be a pause as they try to figure out how to explain that this plan isn’t going to work out.

Here’s why that is- There are two types of graphic files that are used by sign designers, one is Raster and the other is Vector. Each format has its purpose and limitations. The files used for websites are very low resolution raster files called gif files which are meant to load fast on your computer but are unusable for any other reproduction purposes. Below are brief explanations of the two types of files.

Raster Art – (.jpg/jpeg .tiff .png .bmp .gif) – Rich photographic detail. Large file size. Created in Photoshop.


Vector Art(.ai .eps .pdf) – Infinitely scalable, small file size, easily edited. Created in Illustrator.


Raster Art or Bitmaps are photos or images with shades or tones that are made up of pixels. Pixels, or Dots, as they are sometimes referred to, are the tiny squares of color you would see if you looked closely at your monitor. Each pixel is assigned a color code and when combined with other pixels will create beautiful shades and tones. A 300 Dot Per Inch Photo will have 90,000 little squares of color information per square inch. As the size of the image is increased so does the size of these squares of color. The computer fills in the spaces between pixels with the average of the adjoining pixel. This creates a stepping stone effect around and through a shape. What appeared very sharp when it was small becomes a mosaic of color blocks when the size is increased. Most signs are much larger than the original art and when blown up become pixilated and blurry.

Vector Art is line art created mathematically by the computer. A straight line has a dot at each end and the computer figures out the math to make it happen. A square has only four dots, so you can see how a vector file can have a small amount if information yet be increased in size with no loss of detail. Think of vector art as a coloring book image which can have various color fills and even shades and tones but it will not be a photograph.


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