Maybe you’ve heard these terms from your printer, designer, or marketing manager but you still aren’t sure exactly what they mean. You’ve come to the right place, by the time you finish this article you’ll be a pro at understanding the differences and importance of these graphic art terms.

Raster Art is something you’ve seen quite a bit of, and in fact most computers, both Mac and PC, come with some form of a raster based program like Adobe Photoshop. Digital photos, for example, are raster. The image is made up of tiny boxes of color and each box contains only one color. Having thousands of boxes, each slightly different shades of one another is what makes up a photograph. When there are many boxes per square inch (aka, high resolution or high dpi – dots or “boxes” per inch) then the image appears clear and smooth. But when a raster image is enlarged (or when it doesn’t have many boxes per inch, aka low resolution) the image will look jagged and unclear. You’ve probably noticed this if you have ever printed a copy of a webpage or any other graphic from the web, as those graphics are usually only 72 dpi (high resolution printing requires 300dpi.)

Vector Art is drawn imagery such as many illustrations or logos and is a little more conceptual to understand. With drawing programs (like Adobe Illustrator) there are no “boxes” of color. Instead, you draw your image using points, lines, and curves. The program takes note of the coordinates of every point created and calculates the exact curve between each pair of points. It’s all mathematically designed. Because of this, if you shrink or enlarge a piece of vector art, the program simply recalculates the math and the image remains crystal clear.

So, why is this important? Well, whenever you design using raster art you will want it to be the appropriate dpi so you image is clear (and so your piece portrays the professional, quality company that you are). That means, for web based designs you will need your artwork to be at least 72dpi at 100% of the usage size. With print, you will want at least 300dpi. In addition, certain graphics are better designed as vector art. Logos designed as vector can be enlarged to create building signage, vehicle graphics or sized down to create embroidered hats and company logo pens. You are never limited by the quality of a vector graphic, and it can always be converted to raster if needed for certain print and web applications (however, raster cannot be converted to vector).

Post written by KRSmith at


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