Vector images are made up of many individual, scalable objects, defined by properties like lines, curves, fills, and colors. These objects are defined by mathematical equations rather than a grid of dots (picture elements commonly shortened to pixels), so they always render at the highest quality.
Vector images use drawing instructions that can allow complex highly detailed image to be rendered at any size, dropping the smallest details when rendered small but revealing fine details when scaled to larger sizes and maintaining sharp edges, curves and corners at any size.
Bitmap Images (also known as raster images) use a fixed grid of pixels. When enlarged bitmaps start to show stair-step artifacts along edges as each pixel, which is intended to be a single point, has to be stretched to cover a larger area. Modern software tries to smooth bitmaps as they are scaled larger, up to a point this works well to smooth edges but lines and edges become soft and blured.
The Benefits of Vector Art
Vector art is key for achieving a high quality result, vector based images will print very crisply no matter how they are resized. For instance, one can print a vector logo on a business card, and then the same vector logo can be enlarged to billboard size and still keep the same crisp quality.
Another advantage of vector images is that they are not restricted to a rectangular shape like bitmaps. Vector images can be placed over other images or text, and the object below will show through cleanly and exactly where they should. Vector images can include transparent areas with complex shapes that always remain sharp. The ability to easily combine images elements is essential when designing coats of arms.
|To the right is a sample section of one of our files in the vector SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format.
This will display correctly in most modern browsers.
|To the right is a sample section of the same file in the bitmap PNG (Portable Network Graphics) format.|
|To the right is the exact same SVG vector file as above, scaled to 4 times the size. Note that it looks just as sharp.|
To the right is the exact same PNG bitmap file as above, scaled to 4 times the size.Note that it looks blurry and jagged.
|You can also zoom this page and see that as you zoom the bitmap looks worse while the vector looks just as good.
To zoom use Ctrl (or ⌘ command) and + or - on the keyboard, roll the mouse scroll wheel while holding Ctrl on the keyboard or use pinch zoom on touch devices.
To use our art, you need graphic software that will allow you to open and edit vector images. Check out our vector format page where you will find information about the formats we offer and a partial list of software. If you're not sure whether you can work with the file formats offered you can ask for a free sample and we can help you get started working with our files.
More about graphic image file formats currently in use:
If you don't have graphics editing software we recommend that you start with the free InkScape editor available from inkscape.org, it works on Windows, Mac and Linux computers. We can help you if you get stuck trying to work with our files. We use CorelDraw as our main editor but we can also help with Inkscape, Illustrator and other editors.
About the most common vector file formats:
|.wmf||Windows Metafile||The Windows Metafile format was created by Microsoft to encapsulate graphics for easy exchange between programs. WMF is used primarity for vector graphics but can include bitmap elements. Windows includes built in functions that allows any Windows to easily make use of these files. Microsoft has published the specification allowing open source software and cross platform software to read and create WMF.|
|.cdr||CorelDraw||The CorelDraw format is a proprietary format originally created for use in Corel's Draw program. CDR is used primarity for vector graphics but can include bitmap elements and complex blends of both. Open source software projects have reverse-engineered the file format to allow it to be read by open source and cross-platform software. We currently use CDR files compatible with CorelDraw version 8 or newer that can be opened by most programs that support any version of the format.|
|.svg||Scalable Vector Graphics||The SVG format is a open standard developed by the organization the defines the main web (Internet) standards. Despite the name, SVG files can also contain bitmaps and even animation effects. This format is relatively new and the standard is still having capabilities and variants developed for specific uses. SVG is the main file format used by the free Inkscape editor.|
|.ai, .pdf, .eps||Adobe Illustrator, Portable Document Format, Encapsulated PostScript||These three related formats are all based on The PostScrip page description language developed by Adobe. These formats can include vectors and bitmaps and the three file extensions largely indicate the target use of the file. The .ai files are intended to be used by Adobe's Illustrator graphics editor. The PDF files are intended for distribution and viewing with the free Abode Reader program. The .eps files are popular with print and publishing services. Because all of these formats are all based on the PostScript language many programs that can read one of the formats can read all of them. Many programs that will not read these files can still export or save to the PDF format and some operating systems (like Windows 10) have a software 'printer' that will create a PDF file from anything that you can print.|
On the topic of bitmap file formats:
Bitmap graphic files are excellent for storing photographic content but their tendency to grow very large has led to the creation of a number of formats that make trade-offs between file size and image representation features.
The primary trade-off is between 'lossy' and 'lossless' formats. JPEG (.jpg) files are the best known lossy format. Lossy files use compression that can make pictures dramatically smaller but when the file is opened it will not be exactly the same as the original. When JPEG files are created there is a compression amount option that allows selection of a smaller file or a more accurate file so that the trade-off between size and quality can be adjusted for a particular need.
An important limitation of JPEG files is that they do not support transparency at all. If they have to blend with a background that background has to be edited into the file in an image editor.
Lossless formats have the advantage not losing quality but they also tend to support additional features like transparency. In some cases only allowing a single color to be specified as transparent, in others allowing each pixel to have a specified amount of transparency.
Lossless formats that support all types of color, greyscale, and black and white images with or without transparency include PNG (Portable Network Graphics), TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) and BMP (a contraction of bitmap). Of these PNG is probably the best option, it is widely supported in its compressed form, TIFF files are not as widely supported, particularly the compressed version. BMP files do not support compression at all.
The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is limited to 256 colors but is still widely used on web pages, it has a few interesting capabilities that keep it in use despite its limitations and age. GIF files support specifying that one color should be treated as transparent, they can be animated, and withe careful choice of settings can produce slightly smaller files for some common types of website graphics than PNG which would generally be preferable because of its greater versatility.