Why should you know the difference between a bitmap (or raster) file and a vector file. It may not seem like this is an important topic to you, but if you have a business logo or want to have a graphic etched (or engraved), or blown up to a large size, it is important to the results you get. If you have a deeper interest in this topic or are planning to have a logo created check out our blog article on the Ideal Logo.
A Bitmap File is a Bunch of Dots
A bitmap file is a map of bits or dots. A bitmap is created by a digital camera (a photo), a scanner or bitmap drawing programs like Photoshop, PhotoPaint, Paint, etc. These thousands of dots can be any color, black, white or shades of gray. Most bitmap files sent to us by our clients are off their web site or sized for the web. That is, they are small pictures with very low resolution (how many dots or pixels per inch on the screen). These are fine for the computer screen, but when blown up for other uses, they become very ugly. All the edges of objects become edgy or jagged. They don’t engrave or etch well and they can’t be used on larger signs such as banners. So how do we get big, beautiful logos and graphics? Well, you can design a bitmap to be large and of high resolution (300 dots per inch is about the best the eye can distinguish). The other option is to make your design with vector art.
Vector Art Provides Small Businesses with Very Flexible Graphics and Logos
Vector art can only be created in a vector art drawing program such as CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator. Vector art uses objects such as rectangles, circles, free formed objects, and text to make the drawing. Since we are not using a bunch of dots, the computer uses math to keep track of the shapes of the objects and the colors you fill these objects with. If you want to change the color of an object you simply click on it in one of these drawing programs and change the choice of colors you filled it with. So you can make a graphic or logo into a grayscale or black and white object very easily. That is much more difficult and time consuming (and not very exacting) to do with a bitmap graphic as every dot that makes up the object must each be individually changed. Bitmap programs have tools to help with this task, but they are inexact to work with. The other beauty of vector art is that you can blow up the graphic to as large as you want without any jaggies or fading of colors. Why can you do this so easily? Because the computer uses math to track the shapes and colors, it simply uses a multiple of the math formula to change the size. We can also alter the graphic fairly easily when needed as the shape or shapes can be changed as well.
All engraving is done with grayscale images or black and white graphics and all sand etching requires black and white. This adds to the challenge when I receive a full color 72 dpi half-inch by half-inch logo. I typically have to turn the graphic file into vector art. And yes, it’s time consuming and can be expensive. And in some cases the graphic is so poor it can not be accurately recreated.
So if you are have a graphic or logo designed for you, make sure it is done in a vector drawing program and you get a copy of the original artwork file. Watch out for a future article on tracing or redrawing bitmap art to make a vector art file.