Digital Art in Raster vs. Vector

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Why should you understand the difference between rasters and vectors when using digital drawing apps?

Because the file format you use impacts the quality and potential applications of your work.We’ve compiled an overview to help you distinguish between rasters and vectors.


In This Article...

  1. What is a Vector?
  2. What is a Raster?
  3. Key Differences
  4. When Should You Use Vectors vs. Rasters?
  5. Vector-Raster Hybrids and Concepts


Bezier vector curve is one way to edit vectors.

What is a Vector?

Vector graphics are points, lines, curves or shapes based on mathematical formulas.

How do they work?

Vectors build images using anchored dots connected by lines and curves to create shapes.

  • They are composed of xy coordinates – think back to geometry class – to locate points in two-dimensional space.
Pixel gradient

What is a Raster?

Raster files are images composed of tiny colored squares called pixels. 

How do they work?

The pixels are organized in rows and columns to form a grid.
    •    Each grid cell (pixel) contains information about color and tone. 
    •    Collectively, they create a two-dimensional image.

Why does resolution matter?

Resolution determines the quality of raster images.
    •    Resolution refers to the number of pixels contained within the image.
    •    Raster images measure resolution in DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). 
    •    A higher resolution means more pixels and better image quality (and larger file size); a lower resolution means fewer pixels and lower image quality (and smaller file size). 

Raster (top) vector (bottom)

Key Differences

When it comes to the differences between working in a vector app versus a raster app, here’s what you need to know:

Vectors are scalable; Rasters aren’t.

  • With vectors, you can scale your work without losing quality or worrying about pixelation.
  • Rasters are locked into the resolution and dimensions you set before you start.

Vectors are flexible; Rasters allow precise editing.

  • Vectors are fully adjustable, which means you can edit the color, weight and brush type of each stroke at any stage of your creation process.
  • Raster marks are final, but you can edit each individual pixel.

Rasters are more compatible; Vectors are less compatible.

  • Rasters are compatible with more devices, apps and web browsers.
  • Vectors require special software to open, view and edit.

Rasters are detailed; Vectors are simplistic.

  • Raster images allow for greater detail, shading and tonal variation on a pixel-by-pixel basis. Rasters display a broader range of colors than vectors.
  • Vector graphics support clean lines and solid colors.

Vectors are resolution independent; Rasters are resolution-dependent.

  • Vectors aren’t impacted by screen or printer pixel capacity. 
  • Changing the size or scale of a raster image will start to show individual pixels (known as “pixelation”) and reduce the image quality.

Vector files are small; Raster files are big (generally).

  • Vectors are relatively lightweight and take up less storage space.
  • The higher a raster image’s resolution, the larger the file size. So, a high-quality image can slow down the page load speed of a website or take up a lot of device storage space. 

When Should You Use Vectors vs. Rasters?

Vector graphics are ideal for artwork that needs to be scaled or used across various product types and sizes:

  • Logos
  • Icons
  • Digital illustrations and graphics
  • T-shirt graphics and other images printed on fabric
  • Product printing

Raster images are best for high-quality, detailed artwork:

  • Digital photography
  • Detailed graphics
  • Print materials
(Mural created in Concepts by Erica Christensen)

Vector-Raster Hybrids and Concepts

Most digital drawing apps only support working in one format or the other – either vectors or rasters – so you may be required to use different software depending on your desired output.

At Concepts, we offer the best of both worlds with a vector-raster hybrid engine designed for both flexibility and versatility.

Here’s what that means:

Your work can be detailed. You can use a selection of customizable and realistic raster or vector brushes or even create your own* (iOS-only).

Your strokes are flexible. Special tools like  Nudge and Select in Concepts make your vector strokes endlessly adjustable. Even if they’re “softer” brushes, like Pencil or Watercolor.

Your work is scalable. Each stroke stays sharp at any zoom level.

Your work is resolution independent. You can change the size of individual portions of your drawings or the dimensions of your final export without losing quality.

You can export your work to any file type. Your drawings can be exported as raster or vector file types according to your project and sharing needs.

Start creating in Concepts, our vector-raster hybrid drawing app today! 


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