Difference between raster and vector graphics

There are two main types of computer graphics - raster and vector. What characterizes them?

Facts about raster graphics

Raster graphics are digital images that are built from pixels - single points painted in a specific color. They have a number of key characteristics. Namely:

  • value (expressed in pixels in width as well as in height - for example, 800 by 600);
  • the total number of colors used (there are monochrome pictures, there are those that consist of 256 shades, as well as those that are formed by 16 million colors);
  • resolution (as a rule, corresponds to the size of the image, but sometimes the area of ​​the screen as a whole or its separate area is taken into account).

Bitmaps can be created in different ways. First, the image can be photographed and scanned - it will consist of single pixels and therefore be considered a raster image. Secondly, a picture of the corresponding type is easy to draw. For this, a raster graphics editor should be used - for example, Photoshop.

The main advantage of the graphics in question is the ability to form almost any image on the screen. In particular - to display a realistic photo. With sufficient color depth and high resolution of the picture, as well as with the use of a high-quality video card and monitor, it will hardly differ from the original view of the photographed objects.

Raster graphics are universal - there is a wide range of devices and programs that can work with it. It can be used in almost any multimedia content - from desktop icons to huge advertising posters. The frames in the movie are also actually raster graphics.

The pictures of the corresponding type also have disadvantages. For example, it is very difficult to enlarge them in size without visually degrading the quality. If the bitmap initially has a low resolution, then it is most likely not suitable for use, for example, as wallpaper for the Desktop or as an element of a large poster.

Facts about vector graphics

Vector graphics are digital images that are built not from pixels, but from ready-made geometric shapes, able to reach, as a rule, any size and be painted in any color (but, as a rule, the total number of simultaneously used shades in such pictures is usually small).

Of course, there are vector pictures that are very complex in structure. For example, they represent a drawing of a car or any other type of complex equipment. But they will fully retain the properties noted above - namely, the ability to increase or decrease in any proportion.

If a raster image can be created by drawing or photographing, then the formation of vector images requires the use of exclusively specialized programs. Such as, for example, Adobe Illustrator. The programs that are included in the Microsoft Office package also have a certain functionality in terms of working with vector graphics. For example, most of the pictures that are drawn using special tools in Word or Excel are vector. True, it is difficult to save them as a separate file - only as part of a Word or Excel document, which, in turn, is problematic to process in specialized vector editors.

Thus, vector graphics have a very significant advantage over raster graphics in terms of scaling. However, as a rule, it is much inferior to it in terms of the possibilities of filling the picture with complex elements. It is very problematic to build, for example, a colorful poster using only vector shapes, since among them there may simply not be those that can successfully fit into the concept of the project.


The main difference between raster graphics and vector graphics is in the principle of image construction. In the first case, the picture consists of pixels - single points, in the second - it is a ready-made shape. This predetermines all other differences between raster and vector graphics.

It should be noted that vector images are easily transformed into raster images. In fact, at the moment of being displayed on the screen, they temporarily turn into them - having a specific size and resolution, expressed in pixels. But their "raster" can be easily fixed by saving the pictures into a separate file of the corresponding type.

In turn, it is much more difficult to transform raster graphics into vector graphics. The fact is that such pictures often consist of a very large number of individual elements - for example, when it comes to full-color photographs. Technologically, it can be extremely difficult to turn them into vector shapes that can be easily scaled up or down.

Having identified the difference between raster graphics and vector graphics, we will reflect its criteria in a small table.


Raster graphics Vector graphics
What do they have in common?
Vector images can be easily transformed into raster images (but not vice versa), having specific indicators of resolution, size and color depth
What is the difference between them?
Arranged from pixelsArranged from ready-made figures
Has a fixed resolution, magnitude, depth colorCan have any size, resolution, color depth (but in practice, as a rule, few shades are used)
Allows you to display pictures with almost any content on the screenAllows you to display pictures with relatively few elements on the screen