What is the difference between a bitmap and vector graphic?

Eva Pettifor

9

January 2015

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There are two types of digital image files: Vector (preferred format for logos and illustrations) or Bitmap (preferred format for photos). Below are the main details on each format:

Vector

Construction: Scalable geometric points, lines and curves based on mathematical expressionsPopular file extensions: .ai, .eps but there are othersExamples: Logos, diagrams, fonts, illustrations, solid colour graphicsTransparency: is possible for example a logo with background removed so graphic is isolatedScalability: unlimited enlargement size without any loss of quality (ie edges remain crisp and clear, ideal for signage, billboards and any other large format needs)

Bitmap (also known as Raster)

Construction: Tiny squares (pixels) for a computer screen or points of colour for printed mediaPopular file extensions: .jpg, .gif, .tiff, bmp but there are othersExamples: Photos, graphics with many shades of colour, poor quality logosTransparency: is not possible, there will be a solid backgroundScalability: Poor, quality will degrade showing blurred content and rough edges (pixels) upon enlarging

Example

The following diagram demonstrates enlarging both formsts and the resulting difference between a vector file (crisp and clear) and a bitmap file (blurry and also with solid white background/rough edges). You will notice in each file's original/small form, both images appear quite crisp and clear but upon enlargement the bitmap file loses quality).

Eva Pettifor

Founder and project manager at Darwin Web

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