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Raster vs. Vector – What’s the Difference

Rack of Ribs artwork from Great Dane Graphics.When getting started in the T-shirt business, the most common question people have is “What do I do about artwork?” For those just starting out, the first, and arguably the most important, principle to understand is the difference between raster images and vector images.

Vector graphics are typically used for vinyl cutting and embroidery, where raster art is more commonly used among direct to garment and digital printers. It’s important to know when to use each file type and to understand the differences between them.

What is vector artwork?
Vector artwork is created using a series of points, or nodes, and outlines, or paths, to create shapes which can then be filled or outlined with color. Each shape can be selected and modified individually. You can enlarge this type of artwork without effecting the sharpness of the image.

It is resolution-independent, so you can move, resize, or change the colors without losing the quality of the graphic. It is the best choice to use when dealing with text, especially small type and bold graphics that need to retain crisp lines when scaled to various sizes.

Vector artwork is already created using outlines of color, so this saves embroiderers and sign cutters the time of having to trace and draw the outlines of the art.

What is raster artwork?
Raster artwork on the other hand is tonal artwork created with a series of small dots
or pixels. A pixel is assigned a specific location and color value. An image can end up looking jagged if it is printed at a low resolution because the size of each pixel will be increased. Photographs or digitally painted illustrations would be examples of this type of art. You can’t select individual shapes like you can with vector art.

This type of artwork is becoming more popular with the growth of digital printing. It’s not recommended to enlarge raster artwork. It can become blurry and pixelated if enlarged too much, losing its sharpness and clarity.

This blog post is an excerpt from The Ultimate Guide To Artwork for T-Shirts from Great Dane Graphics.

Download the ebook now.

Image is Rack of Ribs from Great Dane Graphics.

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