The art of perfecting your artwork | Vector vs. Raster Filetypes

By Sandra Christian on January 17, 2019

No matter the industry you are in, SkyLine Canopies is certain to have one thing in common with you — we both want your custom product to be absolutely perfect. We want the design process to be seamless and smooth. Let's take a look at vector files vs raster files and how best to prepare your artwork for custom-printed canopies, banners and other promotional products.

Vector vs. Raster Filetypes

The raster image is made of square-shaped picture elements called pixels similar to a digital photo. Unlike its pixelated counterpart, a vector file creates its image using math to describe the paths of each curve and line. And on the mathematical tangent, resolution does not factor into any equation involving a vector file. In fact, vector images maintain their integrity regardless of how closely you zoom in on them. The same integrity is maintained for image size reductions.

When should you use vector files?

Businesses should have their logos, icons and insignia created as vector images to be saved and used to make raster copies of any size and format for print and web publishing. If you don’t already, you should make sure you have a version of your company logo saved as a vector file. This is because you are likely to need the graphic displayed at a range of sizes, from tiny images on mobile devices to towering eye-catching canopies. Needless to say, you will need your logo vectorized when co-creating your artwork for SkyLine Canopies, LLC.

Why should you use a vector image?

In summation, the pathways used in vector images make them scalable and they will never appear pixelated no matter how much you zoom in on a portion. The lack of pixel composition means smaller file sizes that don’t require nearly as much room. Moreover, vector files allow manipulation of more than size, you can easily play with colors, layouts and shapes.

The choice seems simple. Why do anything any other way? Vector all the way! But there has to be a reason why other file types are still around. And here is why. A vector file isn’t compatible with most systems and so it won’t open unless you open them in a vector-based design program such as Sketch and Adobe Illustrator. Any raster-based programs will typically open the vector image but in doing so it will rasterize it, which means you lose the ability to easily edit any graphics.

The Raster file

Raster files are pixelated images and they allow for the editing of each individual pixel, which is the smallest visible element of any digital image. Because a massive amount of individual pixels compile to make up one image, the file sizes can be significant.


Dots per inch are a common count used for measuring raster files. DPI is often used interchangeably with pixels per inch, but there are substantial differences between DPI and PPI. DPI is something a professional printer will advise you on a minimum standard for because this has more to do with the settings and capabilities of the printer used. You see, printers do not duplicate an image by tiling pixel squares one on top of another as they appear digitally. Instead, the duplicate the image through the use of four colored dots, even smaller than the pixel. These four colors are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). The printer combines these colors in order to create a spectrum of hues using a subtractive color model. With this method there is always some space between the dots and DPI measures how dense the dots are. So DPI is a technical bit of info best left to your printer to determine and advise on for each print out you do, especially if using different printing companies.

Now, when it comes to transference of a digital image onto a non-digital surface, PPI is relevant to the conveyance of the image. PPI doesn’t adjust the resolution of an image, it adjusts the eventual printed image size. So by decreasing the pixels per inch, you are increasing the size of the print out. This may appear to make the image a more blurred resolution but the pixels have simply been made larger and more visible and from a literal standpoint the image may appear distorted but by stepping further away from the printed image, its absolute resolution hasn’t changed. There are still as many pixels in relation to the image but there are fewer per inch and more inches are needed to display the entire image. Therefore, if you are looking to increase the resolution of your image you don’t want to increase PPI, you want to produce an image with more pixels.

Raster files are the basis of every digital image online. Be aware that when using raster files, you can scale down without compromising the integrity of the image but you should exercise caution when enlarging as the pixels become more visible and the image can become very blurred.

Hopefully this little bit of insight into the different types of files you will run across in digital imaging and printing will shed some light on why we place so much importance on getting your artwork just right. If you have additional questions, remember, we are here to help. It’s what we love and helps us in our mission to provide you a product that is exactly as you imagine.

Vector Files vs Raster Files

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