In the world of digital images, we have two types of formats, vectorial images, and bitmap images. To understand more easily what is a vector file format, I need to explain both.
What is a Bitmap image?
For most of us, this is the most common type of image. We use them in the pictures we take with our phone, we see them on almost any page on the Web.
The distinctive feature of these images is that are formed by pixels. Each pixel is one color and all the pixels together show the shapes and colors of the image.
These images can show wonderful pictures but have an inconvenient, needs pixels, and each image has a limited number of pixels. If you need a larger image, you will need more pixels. The software will create new pixels based on calculations to fill in the missing pixels.
So, what is a Vector file format?
A vector image is not formed by pixels and does not depend on the resolution. It is created with coordinates and mathematical expressions.
For example, to draw a circle, a bitmap will need to fill in all the pixels inside the circle. But with vectors, only needs to place 4 points in specific locations of a plane, each point is joined by lines, the curvature of the lines is established by equations or formulas and numbers.
Vector images are perfect for logos because you can have a high-quality image, that can be used in almost any application, also, can be scaled to any size without losing definition. You can vectorize your logo and get all these advantages that you would not have if your logo is in JPG or PNG.
These two formats (vector and bitmaps) are not opposed but can be complementary. A designer can combine both formats in any piece of design.
There are several file formats to save a vector file. These formats depend on the software used to create it, on using the file, and on other different standards.
Most of these file formats require special software to open and edit. If you are not used to these kinds of graphics, I’m going to give you a description of what software you may use to edit and open each format.
These are some of the most used file formats for vector graphics.
Filename extension proprietary of Adobe Illustrator. This file format is one of the most popular, if not the most popular professional graphic design software. Despite, it started as a vector graphics format, nowadays, is much more than that. The software can save multiple combinations of bitmaps and vector graphics, in several pages and other advanced drawings and image features.
You can find this software in macOS and Windows environments, as well as apps for mobile devices.
Outside the Adobe ecosystem, few programs support this format, and those that do, have some limitations.
This file type belongs to Corel Draw. Another popular vector drawings software. This file format, like Adobe Illustrator, can have much more than vector graphics, like bitmap images, effects, typography and it’s a multi-page document.
This software is available only in Windows and Mac environments.
Besides Corel software, other programs like Inkscape and LibreOffice have limited support to this format. For this reason, a CDR file needs to be converted to another format to facilitate the distribution.
Stands for Scalable Vector Graphics. Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium and it’s used as a vector format for internet and apps. Support vector graphics, animation, and interactivity.
Since this is an open format, almost any current graphics software can open and edit these files. Even with the appropriate knowledge, it can be created and edited with a text editor.
If you want to visualize this format, you can use any modern web browser.
The Encapsulated Postscript format became one of the standards for graphics format to distribute images (vectors and the combination of vectors and bitmaps).
Usually, a designer uses software like adobe illustrator and Coreldraw to design and create logos, banners, magazines, flyers, postcards, etc, and once finished, it’s converted to EPS for final printing or distribution.
Software that can open this format is, of course, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw. But also, Photoshop, Affinity Designer, QuarkXPress, and Scribus, among others.
The PDF (Portable Document Format) files, nowadays are much more than graphics formats. Practically any program can save in this format. Also, a lot of software can open these files.
It’s a flexible format and largely used to distribute any type of document especially on the internet, in part also, because allows creating light files.
Perhaps one of the few disadvantages of this format is that once a document is converted to PDF, many resources will be lost and the edition very limited.
Images may lose significant quality and in complex vectors might be complicated to edit even with professional software.
These formats are not the only ones but the most commons. When I was researching for this article, I found out many more formats like CGM DXF EVA EMF HVIF IGES PGML VML WMF Xar, CDF DjVu PS SWF XAML, but not widely used as the previous ones.
Vector images, unlike bitmaps, use coordinates and mathematical formulas to draw shapes.
Vector graphics are the best way to have your logo. Your vector file will serve you to use it with the best quality, from your business cards to large billboards.
Also, you can use your file in vectors to convert it to JPG and use it on your social networks or web page.
Do you have any other questions about vector images, write your question or comments down below? I will reply to all your inquiries.