Article - Vector Effects

Vector Effects

Vector images are made of objects like lines, circles, rectangles and other shapes which are connected using paths and points. Unlike raster images, vector images do not use pixels but they use mathematical code to describe the shapes. Changing the shape or size of these mathematical objects only affects the equation and not the object itself, so plain vector graphics with solid colors are perfectly scalable to any size. Even a complex vector image with multiple shapes, graphics and text filled with solid color without any effects like shadow, color gradient or drop shadows can be enlarged from a thumbnail size to full size posters printed on buildings without any distortion to the objects. Due to this vector images are a popular choice for creating corporate and company logos. Logos have to be changed to various sizes without losing quality, so bitmaps and raster images are not suitable. In the same way, vector images are also not suited for photo-realistic graphics where color blending, gradients and many other effects are needed.

Vector images with effects are different from the vector graphics made of solid colors. Vector images are modified by changing its attributes, nodes and control handles. Vectors filled with solid colors without any graphic effects can be enlarged to practically any size without any loss of image quality. The paths and text in vectors retain the exact colors and shape with the same sharpness even after you resize them. But the same vector images with effects, like color gradients, behave differently when you resize them. The effects are applied to the vector graphic at a particular size. When you try to enlarge the vector images beyond this size, the image becomes pixelated and loses quality like the way raster images do. There are special tools and methods to avoid quality loss for pure vector effects, but they do not work in all conditions. The best way is to avoid color gradients, shadows and other effects in vector projects like logo designing.

Vector drawings are completely resolution independent, so you can easily re-size and print at any resolution like 72 dpi or 3000 dpi. Bitmap images become grainy and lose details when their size and proportion are changed repeatedly. A vector graphics editor handles the image as individual objects with characters and attributes. They manipulate the points and nodes using the mathematical equations and reproduce the same image at different sizes without losing any quality. The same cannot be said about effects used in the Vector graphics. These effects tend to behave like raster images when they are re-sized. Once applied to a particular size vector image, these effects get distorted in quality if the size changes. Vector editors work well in manipulating the points, lines, curves, colors and nodes, but lack the photo editing abilities of raster editors.

Effects like gradients and shadows give the illusion of depth and lighting to a flat image. Combined with reflections and other effects, they can add photo features to the plain colored vector graphics. There are various ways to create these effects in vector graphics now using any of the vector editing tools, but those images have to be used as such without any modification in the sizes. Vector images are difficult to create and their main use is for printing under different sizes without losing quality. When more effects are used in vector graphics, we tend to lose that ability because such images cannot be modified like plain lines and curves. If your objective in using vectors is to resize the image later, it is better not to use graphic effects which may distort the image quality - or to know the largest intended size of the image. If the largest intended size is known, the effects can be applied at that size, and used from that size or smaller.

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