Understanding Graphics File Formats

Computer can create many, many kinds of graphics -from simple line drawing to three-dimensional animations. But all graphics files fall into one of two basic categories, known as bitmapped and vector files.

A Vector graphics file are mathematically described and appear smooth at any size of screen or resolution. A Bitmap graphics file on the other hand require higher resolutions and anti-aliasing for a smooth appearance.

Victor Graphics FileVector Graphics File

A set of vectors, which are mathematical equations describing the size, shape, thickness, position, color and fill of lines or closed graphical shapes. Wherever possible use the vector based graphics file (format) for all of your type, line art and illustrations. Only use bitmaps for photos and images with complex shading. If the graphics program recognizes native vector files such as those created by Illustrator, CorelDRAW, FreeHand or Canvas then use them first.

[quote]Graphics best suited for the vector format are a webpage layout, typography, line art or illustrations.[/quote]

bitmap graphics fileBitmap Graphics file

A grid, called a bitmap, whose cells are filled with one or more colors. The easiest way to imagine how bitmaps work is to think of your computer’s monitor. It displays images as collection of individual colored pixels. Each pixel is a cell in the grid of a bitmapped image. In face, the individual pieces that make up a bitmapped imagesare often called pixels.

[quote]Bitmaps are best used for photographs and images with subtle shading. [/quote]

Some types of graphics programs work with bitmaps, some work with vectors and some  can work with both. Each type of graphics file has its own-advantages and disadvantages. Whether you use a bitmap or vector based program depends on what you are trying to do. For example, if you want to be able to retouch a photo, create seamless tiling textures for the Web or for 3D surfaces, or create an image that looks like a painting, you will choose bitmap based graphics file format.

Bitmap Image

Bitmap Image

Vector Image

Vector Paths

Vector Image

Vector Image

Vector based software is your best choice if you want the flexibility of resizing an image without degrading its sharpness, the ability to reposition  elements easily in an image, or the ability to achieve an illustrative look as when drawing with a pen or pencil.

Strictly speaking, vectors are lines drawn from one point to another, as shown above. Vector based software can use mathematical equations to define the thickness and though a line on the screen is still displayed as a series of equation to the computer.

Today’s graphic artists are skilled with both (image editing and illustration) skills. And, Adobe Photoshop started to incorporate vector based paths, which can be exported as native vector based graphics file. Four of our major illustration applications also allow bitmaps to be embedded in the vector based files they create.


One response to “Understanding Graphics File Formats

  1. Pingback: Use PSD to HTML Service for a Creative Website·

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