Digital images can usually be divided into two distinct categories. They are either bitmap files or vector graphics. If you work in prepress, you need a good understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of both types of data. These pages try to explain the differences.

As a general rule, digital pictures and scanned images are bitmap files. These are sometimes also called raster images.

Drawings made in applications like Adobe Illustrator are saved as vector graphics.

Both data formats are completely different. The end result, however, can look virtually identical in either format. As a general rule bitmaps are typically used to depict lifelike images whereas vector graphics are more often used for abstract images such as logos. There are however numerous exceptions to this rule. It is often impossible to determine whether an image is a bitmap or a vector file just by looking at it.

Vector Vs Bitmap - Which is  Best and why?

Bitmap Images

Bitmap images are exactly what their name says they are: a collection of bits that form an image. The image consists of a matrix of individual dots (or pixels) that all have their own color (described using bits, the smallest possible units of information for a computer).

Bitmap data can be saved in a wide variety of file formats; these include:

  • GIF: mainly used for internet graphics
  • JPEG: or rather the JFIF file format, which is mainly used for internet graphics
  • PSD: the native file format of Adobe Photoshop (which can also contain vector data such as clipping paths)
  • TIFF: a popular and versatile bitmap file format

Vector Graphics

Vector graphics are images that are completely described using mathematical definitions.

Vector drawings can usually be scaled without any loss in quality. This makes them ideal for company logos, maps or other objects that have to be resized frequently. Please note that not all vector drawings can be scaled as much as you like.

Vector graphics can be saved in a wide variety of file formats; these include:

  • EPS: the most popular file format to exchange vector drawings even though PDF is quickly gaining ground.
  • PDF: a versatile file format that can contain just about any type of data including complete pages.
  • AI: the native file format of Adobe Illustrator.


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