Out of all of the different programs, formats, and color modes to choose from we always prefer to have a vector file from our customers. Vector designs and raster designs may seem similar in nature but there is a serious difference in the outcome of the printing process. This is a conversation we have daily with our customers, and it can be more than a little confusing. Follow the yellow brick road below to figure it out.
Raster images, also known as bitmap images are made up of millions of pixels. A pixel is a tiny dot or square filled with information. Raster images are created by millions of tiny pixels that all together make up the details of the drawing. When searching for images on the internet most that you will find are raster images. Most of the raster images are .jpg, .bitmap, .tiff, .gif, or .png. Raster files usually have larger image sizes and carry a lot of data that make them slow when loading them. When you expand a raster image, each individual pixel can only be enlarged to a certain extent. After an image is stretched to its largest point the image begins to look fuzzy. When it comes to our art department a raster gives them an idea of what you are looking for, but they cannot manipulate it to be printed on your product. If one of these files is the only thing you have access to we ask for it to be 300+ DPI. Our art department would be happy to come up with a new design, or if the design you create is a raster image they can reproduce it.
On the flip side, vector images use numbers, points, thin lines, and curves (or paths) instead of pixels to create an image. Vector paths are more like numerical wire frames of an image and coordinates, rather than pixels with the color and other information. Vectors are more like blueprints instead of actual tiles filled with details. A noticeable difference between vectors and rasters are when you enlarge a vector it stays smooth and does not become blurry. Using paths rather than pixels allows the image to produce a clear and bold picture whether enlarged or shrunken down. Not only do Vectors produce a better image, but they also make any changes to the design much easier because they are wire frames and shapes.
If you have the choice to begin making your design as a vector or raster image, always choose vector, as it produces higher quality designs and can be easily manipulated. It creates a great foundation for our departments whether it be screen printing, embroidery, promotional products, or vinyl. Vector images can easily be made into a raster image with one click of a button, but raster images will require many hours of work by our art department which can be a costly project.
Remember designing and saving on our design studio (creativeimprintsystems/design) will give you the ability to make a vector design that we have access to.