When to use vector files.
The key difference between vector and raster files comes down to utility. Raster files are composed of a set number of pixels. Because of this set number, if a raster file is printed at a larger dimension than what it was designed for, it will appear visibly grainy and pixelated because the dots that compose the image are forced to grow larger as the medium they’re printed on grows. In other words, don’t print an image from Instagram at poster size and expect it to look as crisp as it did onscreen.
“The key difference between vector and raster files comes down to utility.”
Since vectors are based around formulas, vector graphics can scale at high resolution to virtually unlimited sizes. If you have a business logo saved in a vector format, it can be resized to fit on a billboard with no problems or reduced to be printed on a ballpoint pen or business card. Many printing processes can only work with vector file input.
“Since vectors are based around formulas, a vector image can scale at high resolution to virtually unlimited sizes.”
Do I need a vector file for my logo?
A vector file is often the best format for a logo. Many production companies require high resolution files and will request your logo as a vector. This is because a vector image comes in the same clarity whatever size is required – whether it’s being printed on a massive billboard, the front of a mug or simply on an A4 poster.
How do I convert a file to vector format?
When creating an image in Adobe Illustrator, you can automatically save it as a vector file. You can also use Adobe Capture to convert photos into a vector format. To manually convert a file into a vector format in Illustrator, follow these steps:
- Open Adobe Illustrator and select the Tracing workspace in the top right-hand corner.
- Add your image from the file menu or drag and drop it, then select it to activate the Image Trace panel.
- Check the Preview setting and try one of the pre-sets in the Image Trace panel (such as auto-colour).
- Adjust the colour complexity with the colour slider – converted vector images don’t always show well in all their natural colours.
- Open the advanced section of the Image Trace panel and use the Paths, Corners and Noise functions to form a smoother image.
- Click Trace when you’re finished.
- When the tracing is complete, click Expand – this replaces your .jpg with the vector image.
- Export your image as a vector file, saving as a .ai file first so you can go back in to make more edits if necessary.
How can you tell if an image is a vector file?
One quick way to tell if an image is a vector file is to look at the extension. If it’s saved as .jpg, .png, .gif or .tif, it’s a raster file. When it’s saved as a .ai, .eps, .svg or .pdf, it’s a vector file.
Alternatively, you can visually check by enlarging the image on your computer, phone or tablet screen to around 200% or higher. If the edges blur and the colours appear in different shades, then you have a raster image. Should the edges remain clean and the colours solid, then it’s a vector image.
Editing vector files in different applications.
The most common type of editable vector file is the Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file. This file type can store an enormous amount of graphics information and is editable in Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator files can be easily converted to .pdf. Adobe Acrobat is the best tool for editing .pdf documents, which are designed for both printing and document transfer. Many printers utilise .pdf as a standard for printing. The work you do in an Illustrator file is non-destructive, so conversion to the .pdf format is usually a last step.
The best way to edit and create vector files is in the Illustrator environment — start exploring it with the Adobe Help Centre.