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The Difference Between Raster and Vector

What is Vectorizing for Screen Printing? Well, art work for screen printing should always be in vector format (sometimes you can use a very high resolution photoshop image). Vector format is digitally drawn art that uses your original image as a reference. When an image is vectorized properly it can be resized to any size and not lose its image quality.

“What’s your vector, Victor?”

This famous line from the 1980 movie, Airplane, was funny not only to general audiences but insanely popular with graphic designers. At that time, industrious graphic artists were working on getting their ideas printed on paper. Printers were working on getting those ideas printed as well. And the people in between were figuring out exactly how to get that done.

The reason this movie line became such a great inside joke is that it was – and still is – essential to know the difference between vector graphics and raster graphics to maintain print quality. All the more so with the emergence of the desktop publishing industry.

Keep reading, and you’ll soon understand how it all works.

First Impressions of Vectorizing for Screen Printing

The transition from traditional film lithography to computer-generated film, and then plates, proved fatal to many printers unwilling to commit to the new technology. The ones who hung in there employed pre-press service bureaus, where diligent computer operators were learning more about printing than they ever thought possible.


First, those service bureaus had nice-quality laser printers to produce black-and-white pages for printers to use as artwork. Next, the companies invested in imagesetters that produced even better quality artwork from which to print.

Lastly, and before printers took the plunge into in-house publishing systems, service bureaus transferred computer images to film so printers could use them directly to make printing plates. A considerable part of this evolution was learning all the software and knowing how to apply it to design. Vector and raster graphics and their uses created many, uh, teachable moments during this time.

 The Two Types of Graphics

Those teachable moments that we mentioned were often to do with image quality. Logos were kept safe at print shops in flat drawers of film. Brochures with high-quality photos were laid out for the press in layers and layers of film separations protected from dust and fingerprints.

screen printing tools 01

Service bureau operators were quickly learning the difference between vector and raster graphics and how to use and create both of them. They were also policing the work from designers delivering digital land mines.

Photos stretched or enlarged, and logos embedded in incompatible applications were the norm. Operators took on the role of teachers so that designers could get their work printed as quickly as possible. Time and film were costly, and the work needed to be right. Vector and raster each had their places.

So What Is the Difference Between Vector and Raster Graphics?

Raster graphics are made of pixels – small squares. They have a specific size and resolution and can be edited with programs like Adobe Photoshop, MS Paint, and your phone. They can be saved in numerous file formats including .jpg, .png, .gif, and .PSD.

Raster Vs Vector

Vector graphics are a collection of paths (points, lines, and curves), and the paths have fills, strokes, or outlines – not square pixels. These graphics are typically created using applications such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw and are not associated with image resolution. They can be saved as .eps, .ai, .svg, and .pdf.

In the graphic arts world, these files are based on the PostScript language. More on that further down.

Resolution and Image Quality 

Printed photos are made up of tiny halftone dots that vary in size to achieve the lights and darks of the image. The higher the dot density – lines of dots per inch – the better the printed photo looks.

For a printed photo to look its best, its resolution needs to be two times the printed dots per inch. For instance, if the printer uses 150 dots per inch (DPI), the resolution of the photo needs to be 300 pixels per inch (PPI) in its final state.

Halftones 01

Placing a 300 PPI photo into InDesign or Microsoft Word and enlarging it reduces its image quality. Reducing it has no bearing – it increases the resolution of the photo but will not improve the image quality.

 Vector Image Quality – Vectorizing for Screen Printing

Files made from fills and strokes don’t need to comply with these rules of resolution; they are resolution-independent. They can be enlarged or reduced at will with no loss of quality.

Vector graphics created in Illustrator or CorelDraw are written in the PostScript page description language. In simple terms, it defines the page or file’s upper left corner and maps the shapes in the file according to their position.

High Quality Image

For example, let’s say you create a file that is three inches square, and you use the path tool to draw a one-inch square in the center. The PostScript writes that an inch from the top left is a shape that equals a one-inch square.

When a designer enlarges these files in their layout, PostScript does the math and scales the graphic accordingly.

File Handling and Editing

Raster files are big. Once you begin to print full-page, high-quality images that are not jpeg compressed, you are dealing with files upwards of 100Mb. For large-format printing, the file sizes can reach 1Gb or more.

Files of this nature require professional editing software. Adobe produces the gold standard of these products in their Photoshop, Lightroom, and Camera Raw applications. Other options include Capture One, PaintShop Pro, and Luminar.

editing design 01

Web images are much smaller: These files are 72 PPI for screen resolution. No longer are expensive editing programs necessary for these files. There are several free image editors available for simple enhancements and retouching.

Vector graphics can grow in size due to complexity, but a vector file larger than 50Mb is unusual. A simple logo file, on average, will be 1.5Mb.

You May Like: The Art of Image Re-Creation for Screen Printing

Adobe Illustrator is arguably the most popular and versatile vector graphics editor available. It has powerful processing and ink handling, so much so that it has become the standard for creating packaging layouts for nearly every company – worldwide. Other options include CorelDraw and Sketch.

Raster or Vector? Both!

Think of a simple real estate flyer. It contains a logo, text, and a photo or two of a home. For this flyer to look good, the logo should be a vector graphic, the text should be clear, and the images should be raster graphics at 300 DPI.

Choosing your file formats well is the key to great-looking reproduction. Understanding the difference between vector and raster is the first step to knowing how to get your work printed on time and on budget. Check out our available file formats to see which will work best for you.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to bother with all of this, SpeedySep is standing by to take care of your vectors, rasters, and anything else you need to get your image ready to print. Vectorizing for screen printing is our specialty!

What are the limitations of Vectorizing for Screen Printing?

When we talk about, Vectorizing for Screen Printing Limitations, One of the main disadvantages of screen printing is that it has a much higher initial setup cost than digital printing and takes more time. Other cons of screen printing include: more limited color ranges available. the amount of ink used can make the design look as if it is raised from the print material.

SpeedySep, Your Graphic Designer for Screen Printing

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