Vector vs. Raster Artwork for Custom Signs: Which to use and when!
In the custom sign design and print world, there are really two types of file formats most commonly used; raster and vector formats. Very different, though often used together, there is a certain scenario and usage for each format. When beginning a project for a customer here in the shop, we always request a vector format file. More often than not, we are composing the artwork with the elements and direction of the client, so that’s where it is imperative for us to have the vector formatted artwork.
Vector, in itself, is a synonym for the word line. A vector, is a shape made of mathematically-generated points, connected by lines, objects, and/or fills. Because of this concept, vector art is infinitely scalable, without losing quality. A vector created logo for instance, is a logo originally created in a vector formatted program, such as Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, Fireworks, Flash, or Freehand, to name a few. Do not be confused by someone saving a jpeg, or png file of their image as an .EPS, or .AI file- it’s not a true vector file. Because of these mathematical points and lines, the vector image created can stand alone; and is also just as infinitely editable. Think of a scale: if you choose to resize the vector, the computer program calculates the points on the X and Y axis, and maintains 100% crisp visual quality, so matter the size.
When looking for printed media, especially in the wide format printing industry, logos, text, designs need to be scaled to all different sizes. A vector image printed on an 3”x5” flash card will have the same quality as printed on a billboard. Because of this, we recommend when contracting a designer to create logos, media, etc, that your information be created as a vector, for the best usage and quality. Raster, on the other hand, is an image made up of pixels, which are essentially tiny squares. This is where the term “resolution” comes in to play as well, or DPI(dots per square inch These pixels are set at a standard size, depending on the original file format size. That’s why higher resolution cameras take and print better. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop create incredible raster graphics, and is a staple in the design industry. With Adobe Photoshop for instance, when you attempt to scale out a raster image, the pixels increase in size, unlike vector points. When the pixels increase, your essentially spreading them over a larger canvas, causing it to lose detail and sharpness. When you scan or upload a picture, for instance, the picture is now rasterized; a series of micro squares (pixels) to form your image. Remember this; higher the resolution of a picture, the bigger it is. The bigger it is, the less pixel distortion you’ll get when scaling out.
This brings me to the combination of both. Because of the mathematics behind vector formats, you can be limited to the effects and capabilities in a vector program. Adobe Photoshop, however, can be more flexible, and there are so many more effects created with much more ease than in a vector program. For example, when designing a backdrop for a wrap, we will design the file “to scale” size; meaning the actual artboard would be say 52”x200.” This allows for crisp, cool, visually appealing graphics to be created, without needing to be scaled. We then would import the vector logos and elements into the Adobe Photoshop file, and place them. The vector logos remain in vector format, layered on top of the Photoshop-created file, and gives us that crisp, sharp, graphic text or logo, over a sharp, fun, background. This makes the best combination for beautifully created, print ready graphics for all kinds of media.
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12-Point SignWorks provides attractive and effective commercial signage including custom car wraps, vehicle graphics, lobby signs, indoor business signs, and outdoor commercial signs.
We provide our services to customers located in Williamson, Davidson, and Maury counties of Tennessee including the cities of Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, and Spring Hill. We also enjoy relationships with clients nationwide from coast to coast.
Call us now at 615-595-6564 or contact us via email. We are located at 1120 Lakeview Dr, Ste. 900, Franklin, TN 37067.