Web Graphics – Vector vs Bitmap

Trying to figure out the world of graphics can get confusing. Knowing what to use and when to use it can give anyone a headache. However, the building block of all graphic images rests on the shoulders of the Vector vs. Bitmap image. Once you know the difference between these two categories, you'll be on your way to understanding all about graphics.

Graphic images basically fall into two categories: vector images and bitmap images. (Vector vs. Bitmap) If you're going to be designing for the web or print, it's necessary to know the difference between vector and bitmap. Otherwise, you may end up wasting precious time creating files and saving them into formats that you will not be able to use. Here's a crash course to get you going.

Vector images and bitmap images are composed of different elements. Vector images are composed of lines and curves. When viewed up close, the lines appear smooth and fluid. Vector images look great in printed form. In fact, most printed graphics that are not photographs are vector images. Vector images retain their clarity and crispness no matter how often they're resized.

On the other hand, bitmap images are composed of pixels. Viewing a bitmap up close reveals hundreds of little jagged squares. Bitmap images are basically only good for web graphics because they do not print clearly. The jagged pixel edges make images appear fuzzy and blurry.

File formats

There are hundreds of graphics file formats, and some are more popular than others. The choices can be overwhelming if you're not familiar with image file formats. As stated above, graphics are either Vector of Bitmap. Below is a list of file formats that fall under those two headings:

o Vector file formats

o EPS

o AI

o WMF

o Bitmap file formats

o BMP

o TIFF

o JPEG

o GIF

All graphic design programs have "native formats". The native format is what files are saved as in their raw form. For example, Photoshop's native format is PSD; Illustrator's native format is AI. You should always save a copy of your image in your program's native format. This enables you to edit the image at a later date. Once the image is saved as a TIFF, JPG, BMP, or GIF, it can no longer be edited.

Currently, the only formats that can be viewed on the web are the two bitmap files GIF and JPEG. Considering the limits of bitmaps, the format is strictly ever used outside of website images. If you're working with vector images to be printed, be careful when saving an EPS. EPS files only print clearly when printed using a PostScript printer. They can be printed to non-PostScript printers, but the resolution will be low.

Whew … that's a lot to comprehend, and there's more. In fact, there are books on the subject. If you're new to design, do not try to learn everything at once. Just take it slow and learn all you can about the subject. You'll be creating great graphics before you know it.

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