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View Full Version : Raster vs. Vector Images


Xray
12-05-2003, 03:11 AM
Vector images are made up of many individual, scalable objects. These objects are defined by mathematical equations rather than pixels, so they always render at the highest quality. Objects may consist of lines, curves, and shapes with editable attributes such as color, fill, and outline. Changing the attributes of a vector object does not effect the object itself. You can freely change any number of object attributes without destroying the basic object. An object can be modified not only by changing its attributes, but also by shaping and transforming it using nodes and control points.

Because they're scalable, vector-based images are resolution independent. You can increase and decrease the size of vector images to any degree and your lines will remain crisp and sharp, both on screen and in print. Fonts are a type of vector object.

Another advantage of vector images is that they're not restricted to a rectangular shape like bitmaps. Vector objects can be placed over other objects, and the object below will show through. See the example to the right. The vector circle and bitmap circle appear to be exactly the same when seen on a white background. But when you place the bitmap circle over another color, it has a rectangular box around it, from the white pixels in the image.

Vector images have many advantages, but the primary disadvantage is that they're unsuitable for producing photo-realistic imagery. Vector images are usually made up of solid areas of color or gradients, but they cannot depict the continuous subtle tones of a photograph. That's why most of the vector images you see tend to have a cartoon-like appearance. Even so, vector graphics are continually becoming more advanced, and we can do a lot more with vector drawings now than we could just a few years ago. Today's vector tools allow you to apply bitmapped textures to objects giving them a photorealistic appearance, and you can now create soft blends, transparency, and shading that once was difficult to achieve in vector drawing programs.


Bitmap images ** also known as raster images ** are made up of pixels in a grid. Pixels are picture elements; tiny dots of individual color that make up what you see on your screen. All these tiny dots of color come together to form the images you see. The typical computer monitor has 72 or 96 pixels per inch, depending on your monitor and screen settings.

To illustrate this, let's take a look at a typical desktop icon. The icons on your desktop are typically 32 by 32 pixels. In other words, there are 32 dots of color going in each direction. When combined, these tiny dots form an image. The icon shown in the upper left corner of this example is a typical desktop icon at screen resolution. As you can see, when you enlarge the icon, as I have in this example, you can clearly see each individual square dot of color. Note the that white areas of the background are still individual pixels, even though they appear to be one solid color.

Bitmap images are resolution dependent. Resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image and is usually stated as dpi (dots per inch) or ppi (pixels per inch). Bitmap images are displayed on your computer screen at screen resolution: 72 or 96 ppi. However, when printing bitmaps, your printer needs much more image data than a monitor. In order to render a bitmap image accurately, the typical desktop printer needs 150-300 ppi. If you've ever wondered why your 300 dpi scanned image appears so much larger on your monitor, this is why. For more in-depth information about resolution, scanning, and printing bitmap images, refer to my article Getting Started Scanning.

Because bitmaps are resolution dependent, it's difficult to increase or decrease their size without sacrificing a degree of image quality. When you reduce the size of a bitmap image through your software's resample or resize command, you must throw away pixels. When you increase the size of a bitmap image through your software's resample or resize command, the software has to create new pixels. When creating pixels, the software must estimate the color values of the new pixels based on the surrounding pixels. This process is called interpolation. This is why bitmap or raster images get fuzzy.

dobehap
12-05-2003, 11:08 AM
Good info Xray, thank you for sharing.