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Vector Vs. Bitmaps - When Should you Use Them and Why...

Vectors Versus Bitmaps



Your images are created, stored, processed and even printed in two different techniques: bitmap graphics and vector graphics. It is important to know when it is best to use one type from the other as well as their weaknesses. This article will provide you a summary of the comparison between these two concepts in various dimensions—from its definition, to its subtypes and even their visual differences.


Vectors are lines and shapes defined by mathematical equations. In this sense, lines are not referred to as lines but as strokes, while shapes are not only shapes but paths. The difference is due to the integration of direction and intensity when it comes to vector graphics by means of mathematical estimation. Another key quality of a vector is its strength and keen detail which is achieved also because of its mathematical construction.

Bitmaps, known as raster, are images composed of pixels. Pixels refer to miniscule boxes that serve as points in a line. Hence, a shape would constitute of line blocks of pixels. Bitmaps are used in a wider range of photo-editing software programs such as Photoshop which enables flexibility in creating or editing your images. Furthermore, it is easier to include and edit photos from digital cameras into your artworks using bitmap.

File Formats

The tables below will show various file formats under the vector and bitmap types.


EPS (Encapsulated PostScript)*

AI (Adobe Illustrator Artwork)


SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)

PDF (Portable Document Format)*






*compound file formats which means they can handle both bitmap and vector but are most commonly used in vector formats.



TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)


PSD (Photoshop Document)

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)

PNG (Portable Network Graphics)

.tif; .tiff

.jpg; .jpeg





Visual Appearance

To help you observe the marked differences between vectors and bitmaps, graphics will be used below coupled with some brief explanations. Here are two examples of vector graphics with file extensions in .eps and .pdf.

Both pictures show very sharp images even in detail. Furthermore, once zoomed in, the object shows that the line is continuous, with no open spaces in between. This time let’s take a look at bitmap graphics under a .tif file format.

For printing bitmap graphics, typically the minimum resolution is 300 dpi. Examining the image closely at 300 dpi, it showed that the lines are not as smooth as they were in vector format. When zoomed in, we do see one pixel after the other which formed roughness on the edges of the line.

This time, let’s examine a JPG image. Like the TIFF image and given the fact that its quality is already set to High, the JPG image also showed rough patches on the line itself. Furthermore, the white background in-between the lines is no longer pristine, there are spots of different colors which resulted from a compression noise. Another limitation of a JPG image is that it converts spot colors to a CMYK or RGB value which of course loses the purpose of the desired detail.

It may be concluded that vectors will be highly useful and will yield greater quality when use for your images. However keep in mind though that if you need to work with photographic images, bitmap files are much more preferable. This only means that although quality is top priority, you should still try to assess your needs first in order to achieve better results.


Vincent Sevilla is a professional graphic designer and a marketing consultant for You The Designer. The leading source of design news, tips, and tutorials and inspirational graphic designs.

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