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What Is the Difference Between a Vector and Raster Image? - Back to Basics

What Is the Difference Between a Vector and Raster Image? - Back to Basics

What is a vector image? What is a raster image and what's the difference between raster and vector? Keep reading to find out!


What is a vector image?

A vector image is scaleable. That means you can change the size to as large or small as you want and the image will remain the same quality. That's because it's mathematical.

If you draw a square of 1cm by 1cm and you scale it by 100 you will have a box that is 100cm by 100cm and it will look exactly the same. No quality will be lost. You are simply telling the computer to draw a line between different points.

What Is the Difference Between a Vector and Raster Image- vector logo-2048x1025 (1)

Here the BricsCAD logo has been scaled in vector form, notice that the image quality stays the same.

Vector file types:

  • .dwg
  • .svg
  • .ai
  • .dxf
  • etc

What is a raster image?

A raster image is a specific size. If you make a raster larger, it will become "pixelated" and lose quality. That's because it is essentially made from a set of colored squares.

Think about old school video game graphics. This is exactly how a raster image works, but with much smaller squares.

What Is the Difference Between a Vector and Raster Image- What Is the Difference Between a Vector and Raster Image- vector logo-2048x1025 (3)

Here the BricsCAD logo has been scaled in raster form, notice that the image quality is greatly reduced.

The resolution of a raster image is defined by dpi (dot per inch). The best resolution for screen/digital images is typically 72dpi the best resolution for print is typically 300, although sometimes 150 is "acceptable". That means any image will be around ¼ the size when printed.

Raster file types

  • .jpg
  • .bmp
  • .tiff
  • .gif
  • .png
  • .heif
  • etc.

What is the difference between raster and vector?

Vectors are scalable and rasters are not -- is the short answer. In reality, the two different file formats tend to serve different purposes.

Raster images are more "typical" and are used primarily for graphical work: photography, print, website images, digital artwork, etc.

Vector images are more "specialist" and are better for technical drawings, images that need to be scaled, high accuracy plans, logo design, exporting to machines such as CNC, etc.


Raster or Vector?

What Is the Difference Between a Vector and Raster Image- What Is the Difference Between a Vector and Raster Image- vector logo-2048x1025 (2)

Top left: Vector image in BricscAD workspace. Top right: zoomed-in Vector image in BricsCAD workspace.
Note the same quality of the image.
Bottom left: Screenshot of BricsCAD workspace. Bottom right: zoomed-in to same detail on the raster screenshot.
Note the loss in quality and clarity.

Raster images

Pros Cons
Complex colors, textures and shading Not scaleable
Hyper-realistic images Can have large files size
Photography Might require expensive graphics cards
Print Lower accuracy
Good for web
Easy for beginners

Vector images

Pros Cons
ScaleableLower file size Less options for colors, textures and shading
High accuracy Harder for beginners
Can be used for CNC machines Might require you to embed raster images
Less practical for web

Is .dwg vector?

Yes, .dwg is a vector format. This is the default file type for all drawings in BricsCAD. However, BricsCAD also gives you the option to export to other formats, both raster and vector! Plus, the Communicator for BricsCAD, offers even more import and export options.

Learn more about importing and exporting files in BricsCAD →

Which is better?

When choosing between vectors and rasters, you need to decide what you are looking to create. For high-accuracy, scalable drawings, vectors are the obvious choice, but for complex, textured images or simple website inserts, raster images are the better choice.

More Back to Basics:

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Bricsys, part of Hexagon, is the global technology company that creates the BricsCAD® family of computer aided design products and the Bricsys 24/7 project collaboration platform.

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