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Vector vs. Raster. What’s the Difference?

When designing digitally, there are two main types of image files designers work with: vector and raster. For any designer working digitally, deciding between vector vs. raster first considers how the files will be used. But first, what’s the difference?

Vector vs. Raster


According to Adobe, “Vector files are images that are built by mathematical formulas that establish points on a grid.” These images can adjust in size infinitely without losing resolution. This ability makes them very versatile for certain types of tasks, such as business logos and when working with type.

The most common types of vector files are:

  • .ai: Short for Adobe Illustrator
  • .eps: Encapsulated PostScript
  • .pdf: Portable Document Format
  • .svg: Scalable Vector Graphics


Adobe defines raster files, on the other hand, as “composed of the color blocks commonly referred to as pixels.” This set number of pixels creates the image. Scaling these types of files can lead to a grainy, pixelated image. That’s because when you’re enlarging the image, you’re adding pixels. The software you’re using won’t know what that pixel is supposed to be, so it will make something up based on what’s around it. Raster files are perfect for working with something like a photograph taken with a digital camera.

The most common types of raster files are:

  • .jpeg: These compress images and are mainly used for digital photos.
  • .png: Portable Network Graphic, similar to jpeg but can display transparent backgrounds.
  • .gif: Graphic Interchange Format, a basic image file designed for the internet that allows for basic animation
  • .tiff: Tag Image Format File, a file that stores raster graphics and image information.

So, why did we choose vector?

Digital printing is highly customizable. For us, that’s the whole point of using digital printing as our tool of choice for printing our patterns. We wanted to be sure that our designs are as easy to customize as possible. For us, when we asked vector vs. raster, we know the right answer for our purpose was vector. With a vector file type, printers can edit the files to scale up or down as needed for the project, without losing any detail or quality. Interior designers using our patterns will have maximum flexibility when it comes to how they want to use our designs.

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Kristin Crane

Kristin Crane has designed jacquard designs for the home furnishing and residential jobber market for many years, with mills in the US and in China. She writes about pattern and design trends for Design Pool from her home in Providence, Rhode Island. When not writing about fabric, she can be found weaving on her Macomber loom, standing over a vat of indigo dye or hiking along the Rhode Island coast.


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