Vector graphics are all around us and provide an important way to visually communicate information, whether it’s corporate branding, street signage, or a flyer in a coffee shop window. But vector graphics themselves are even more fascinating when you look behind the shapes and fonts that combine to communicate a message quickly and recognize them for what they really are and why they are such a powerful tool in any designer’s toolbox.
Before we delve into what vector graphics are, let’s clarify the two main types of computer graphics: vectors and rasters. You’re probably already familiar with the latter, thanks to many of the more common file formats – JPEGs and PNGs – that fall into this category. The former is less popular, but essential for digital design, with the most common file formats being EPS, AI, or SVG, among a few other lesser-used types.
Whether we see an image on a billboard or an ad on a subway car, that image started out as one of these two essential types of graphic before it made its way into the material world, but the two graphics follow the same path from the digital pen to the ad on screen. wall.
Vector graphics are images made of mathematically defined points, such as points, lines, and curves. They are 2D by nature, but with the help of colors, textures, and layers, they can look 3D. Vector images are saved on your device as a set of commands that represent a list of attributes of the stored image, and it is this characteristic that makes them incredibly useful for a graphic designer.
What are vector graphics for?
Since vector graphics are essentially just mathematical functions that define a shape, they are easily scalable, editable, and generally simpler to work with. They are used for a variety of tasks, but advertising and marketing are by far the top use cases for vector graphics.
Vectors are an ideal choice for logos, business cards, posters and other materials used in promotional campaigns. What makes them suitable for advertising is their scalability among a few other attributes. You can enlarge or reduce a vector image in any proportion and it will not suffer any loss of quality.
If you took the math function that defines a perfect circle, no matter what you enter as the radius of that circle, it will always have the same shape at any size.
So companies turn to vector graphics for images that need to be scaled up and down for, say, a billboard and a business card, respectively. As they are not only easy to work with, but also easy to store, they are a great choice for both online and print design. This gives companies an extra advantage of working with vectors, as it allows them to ensure consistency between their online and print marketing campaigns.
Vector graphics carry immense potential to make illustrations attractive. With the addition of eye-catching colors and eye-catching designs, mere lines, dots and curves can be enhanced to grab the attention of consumers. Therefore, they are also a personal favorite of web designers and application developers. Websites and apps often use vectors for interfaces, fonts, landing pages, and infographics.
Another common use of vectors is the designs you see on products, clothing, or merchandise. As they are relatively easy to duplicate, brands and individuals opt for them to expand their products.
What makes vector graphics different?
As mentioned above, their ability to scale without losing quality gives vectors the biggest advantage over raster graphics. Since vectors are essentially lines, points, and curves held together through a mathematical equation, they can be scaled to your preferred size without being smudged. There is no chance of pixelation as there are no pixels involved in the process unlike raster images. Because of this quality, vectors are called “resolution independent”.
Another unique feature of vector graphics that is closely related to math equations being its building blocks is the size of the small files. Since vector images don’t store pixels, unlike rasters, they don’t require a lot of memory on your device. Images are saved as mathematical relationships translated into code. This makes it easy for companies to save multiple vector images on their devices without straining their systems.
File size and upload time are interrelated. Since vector images have small file sizes, they also load faster. Therefore, it is easier and faster to transfer and load vector images on various devices and programs.
As mentioned earlier, vector images are also easy to duplicate, making it very simple for designers to create copies of an existing design, making it simple to tile or mosaic an image. Another interesting feature of vector images is that they can be easily converted to raster images. Raster images, however, do not have the ability to be converted to vectors, at least not easily.
Since vector images are not made up of pixels, they look sharper and more accurate. Have you ever noticed how a JPEG image loses sharpness when it is enlarged too much? Vector images will never give you this problem.
How do you make vector graphics?
Of the many programs available for making vector images, Adobe Illustrator is the most popular and also the industry standard. However, you have to spend good money to be able to use it. Among the best free vector Adobe Illustrator alternatives, Vecteezy and Inkscape are some of the best graphic design software out there, especially if you are on a tight budget or just starting out in graphic design.
Learning to make vector graphics is quite easy once you know how to use these programs. It can take some practice to make complex designs, but you can make a simple graphic using just a few tools in Illustrator or other alternative vector design software. The most commonly used tools for vector drawings in Illustrator are the Pen tool, the Curvature tool, the Shape tools, and the Shape Builder tool, and these four tools alone allow you to create almost anything.
Let’s see how to make a simple house in Illustrator. If you don’t have Illustrator, don’t worry, Inkscape has pretty much the same functionality, although the interface may be different.
- First, use the Rectangle tool in the Shape tool group in the toolbox.
- Then drag the shape from the base of the house to the artboard.
- Then select the Polygon tool from the Shape tool group. Create a hexagon with a diameter as wide as the roof needs to be. After drawing the shape, look along the blue box frame of the shape for an anchor point slightly to the side of the center anchor for that side.
- By clicking and holding on this anchor point, you can drag the mouse to increase or decrease the number of sides of the polygon. drag it until there are only three sides.
- Using the rotator handle at the corners of the shape frame, rotate and position the triangle so that it forms the roof.
- You may need to use one of the handles to scale the shape to fit the artboard.
- At this point, the triangle and rectangle are two separate shapes that can be colored separately, apart, have effects applied to them without affecting the other shape.
- If we select the Shape Builder tool, we can transform two shapes into one. Do this using the Selection tool while holding down the Shift key to select both shapes. With the shapes selected (it helps to click on the lines of the shape instead of trying to click in the center), select the Shape Builder tool from the toolbox. Then left click outside of the shapes you want to combine and drag the mouse over the two shapes that make up the house.
- When you release the mouse button, the shapes will automatically be combined into a single shape, eliminating any edges between them and taking on all the characteristics of the first shape drawn with the Shape Builder.
And that’s it. This vector image, while pretty basic, can be scaled to the size of a city block, but it won’t blur or lose its shape.
There’s a lot more to know about the best way to use vectors to add depth and texture to an object, but this little house is a start, and it could be the start of a new graphic design career.