What are vector images and vector graphics?

Vector graphics are designed with curved points and lines which create a clean, infinitely scalable picture when combined in vector artwork. Vector graphics are based on mathematical formulas rather than square pixels, allowing for a crisper display. Discover the creative opportunities offered by this file format.

Vector art illustration of a cheetah under the moonlight.

What is vector artwork?

Vector artwork is a term that describes any art made with vector illustration software like Adobe Illustrator. Vector artwork is built from vector graphics, which are images created with mathematical formulas rather than colourised pixels.


What are vector graphics?

Vector graphics are made up of lines, curves and points designed to retain their quality and avoid blurring when enlarged. They use colours that are separated into different types and sizes. Conversely, regular pixels are blended together to form a colour. This makes changing colours easier when editing vector graphics.


What’s the difference between vector and raster graphics?

In contrast to vector graphics which are made from mathematical equations, raster graphics (also referred to as bitmaps or raster images) are created with colourised pixels. Enlarge pixel-based art in a raster file too much and it looks jaggy - whereas you can enlarge vector art to any size without negatively affecting its appearance. Find out more about vector files and vector images.


Why are vector graphics better than raster graphics?

This resolution independence allows vector art to be used in a variety of forms, from small illustrations to large billboards. The consistent appearance of vector artwork, at whatever size it is displayed, means it is generally used to produce the highest-quality artworks available. Any professional artwork should be made using vector graphics - not just for an amazing end display, but also to keep things simple during the design stage.

Vector graphic design of a winking penguin.

The rise of vector graphics.

Some of the first types of computer graphics were vectors, as the computational power necessary to create raster images was too expensive. Early computers used vector displays in the 1960s and ’70s; video games like 1979’s Asteroids also used vector graphics. This practice continued until the 1980s, by which point most displays had switched to raster graphics.


Due to the need for art that prints at multiple sizes and responsive web designs that adapt to varying screen sizes, vector files are a necessity of modern design. They create clean, scalable images that allow for exciting visual possibilities with the added bonus of functionality.

Modern typography is almost exclusively created using vectors. The text you’re looking at right now is a product of vector graphics. 3D modeling and the computer graphics (CG) we see in blockbuster superhero films are the direct consequence of developments in vector art and illustration. 

Why are vector graphics and artwork needed?

Vector graphics and artwork is clean, camera-ready and can be scaled infinitely without loss of quality. Lower resolution files don’t offer the same display standard – whether digitally or printed.

Bitmap file formats are a perfect example of this. For example, whenever a .PDF, a .JPG or a .GIF file is resized for an artwork, it will generally become more jagged in its appearance. Pixels become more prominent and the result is a blurry, poor-quality end product.

By using vector graphics, you can display artwork as big or small as it needs to be. Vector graphics can be saved as .AI, .EPS and .CDR. Using these file formats will enhance the quality of your work and make design and illustration much more simple.

Vector art pieces being used for character customization in a video game.

Where vector art and design meet.

As both designers and illustrators may work with vectors, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.


Vector images and designers: 

Vector graphics and designres: Designers think about overall composition when they create advertisements, websites, or anything else that features careful organization of text, graphics, and other structural elements. In these compositions, designers use vector artwork created by illustrators, or they sometimes produce vector art of their own for the designs. A designer may create a vector-based design that incorporates many different pieces of vector artwork.


Vector images and illustrators:

Illustrators are often more art-focused and create individual images, not an entire design. Illustrators may produce individual pieces of vector art that can stand alone or be added to another piece by a graphic designer. 

Vector illustration of a nature landscape.

Explore vector art and vector graphics from Adobe Stock.

Find the perfect vector graphics for your project by browsing popular categories. Choose from vector icons, logos, infographics and more.


Learn more


Add highlights and shadow.

Make your fish stand out with highlights. Whitlatch leaves a thin white stripe unpainted along the top of the tuna’s body, which suggests reflected light. For his Moorish idol highlights, Braun added turquoise around the edge of the tail and around the belly.

Creating your own vector art in software applications.

Vector art beginners can benefit from starting with the wireframe of a drawing before fleshing out the illustration. It’s like a house: If the walls aren’t built correctly, the front door may not open, no matter how brightly painted it is.


For aspiring artists looking to make vector artwork, here are examples of illustration in the vector format to draw inspiration from:


Orlando Arocena: Arocena’s creation of the artwork for the 2019 Dumbo’s theatrical release poster is an excellent step-by-step overview of how a skilled illustrator can create an iconic image using vector graphics.


Susanne Paschke: Paschke’s artwork is notable for the level of complexity and detail in the paths she creates with her digital art.


Cristiano Siqueira: Siqueira’s work is dynamic and created to work well with imagery surrounding athletes and sports competitions.


Helen Huang: With an emphasis on creating beautiful illustrations for children’s books, Huang creates clean vector characters and landscapes.


Don’t forget to study up and practice your drawing fundamentals, but don’t shy away from breaking the rules: “There aren’t any hard and fast dos and don’ts,” says art director Dylan Todd, “but I do think that you need to have a good base in the fundamentals before you start trying to break rules.”

“You need to have a good base in the fundamentals before you start trying to break rules.”

An Illustrator tutorial can be a great place to start mastering the fundamentals of vector art before flexing your creative muscles. Begin exploring how using the Illustrator platform helps illustrators master the basics to create beautiful, functional artwork that can stand alone or enhance graphic designs.


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