So explain this Vector stuff - what is a Vector?

Vector vs. Raster Images - DPI and appropriate software

We are often asked to produce Vector files at 150 DPI, or 300 DPI, etc.

This is the big difference between raster and vector images...

Vector images do not have a "DPI"...DPI stands for "dots per inch", and vector images are not made up of dots like raster images are. Raster images, like JPGs, TIFFs, GIFs, etc., are made up of small dots - this is the reason they distort and get blurry when you enlarge them. As the image is enlarged, the computer interprets what color dots to "fill in" to make the image larger, eventually blurring and distorting the image.

Vector images on the other hand can be enlarged without a problem, because they contain geometric shapes, colors, and computer instructions. So when you enlarge a vector image, the "shape" is simply produced larger.

What software can I use for vector images?

We use and recommend Adobe Illustrator because it's one of the industry standards for vector use. Many printing companies use this software and are able to work with your vector images in the print industry.

Can I use Photoshop?

No. Although you can open a vector image in Photoshop, you lose all the vector qualities, because Photoshop is designed to work with raster images. So opening your vector image in Photoshop essentially "converts" the image back to raster. You must use vector software, such as Adobe Illustrator.

Vector Images are your "Master" Copy

Here's the cool thing about vectors - let's say you have your logo as a vector image - this should be considered your "master" image. If you use the proper software (like Adobe Illustrator), you can create raster images (ie., JPGs) at any size for use on letterheads, websites, etc. For instance, let's say you need a JPG image of your logo for your website, and it needs to be 300x300 pixels - you can create it from your vector file with perfect quality.

Now let's say you take that 300x300 pixel image and enlarge it for a poster, 1500x1500 pixels. It will distort and blur terribly. BUT...if you use your master vector image, you can create that 1500x1500 pixel image with perfect quality.

Exceptions to the rule

Some vector images actually have "raster effects" within them. For instance, many highly detailed image effects, like reflections or drop shadows are created in a vector image with raster effects. When this is done, it is critical to know the largest intended size you will ever use that image at so the vector file is created with those effects at that largest intended size. If this is done, then you can again create raster images at that size and below, without any problems in quality.

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