Vector, Raster and Raw files.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Most image file types fall into two categories – Vector files and Raster files. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the two image file formats to help you make an informed decision.



When deciding on a file type, there are three factors to consider:

  1. Scalability – the flexibility to resize images to a variety of sizes. It is important to note how clear and detailed the image is after being resized.

  2. Compatibility – compatibly with software, transparency, animation, color modes. and more.

  3. File size – storage size and how it can affect page loading times and other storage issues.

In most cases, these three factors affect each other. they are dependent variables. it is important to note that it is almost impossible to achieve a universally ‘perfect’ file format. The best file format depends on the application and the unique situation.

Vector files

Vector files are typically used for design purposes. They do not use pixels, instead, they are composed of mathematical equations that describe both the shape and color of an image. The mathematical equations place lines and shapes on a two-dimensional or three-dimensional grid. This makes them infinitely scalable- meaning they can be sized up or down without losing any quality.

Examples of vector file formats: PDF, EPS, AI, SVG, STL, Asymptote, INDD, DXF, STEP, DWF, SKP, IGES, PS, 3DS, EMF, Collada, FLT, JT, PRC, 3DXML, MB.

When to use: Illustrations, logos, print work, posters, banners, signs, vehicle wraps, website graphics, and packaging.

The small file size and scalability of vector graphics make them ideal for digital printing from business cards to billboards. They’re also used in lower thirds for videos, web-based objects, and 2D or 3D computer animation rendering. If you need an image that can be scaled up or down without losing quality, vector files are a good choice. They are also a good option if the file size is a concern, as they are typically much smaller than other types of image files.

When to avoid: Avoid using a vector file if you are going to add a raster image to the vector artwork.

A camera can’t produce a vector image so you should avoid using raster images within a vector file. The main disadvantage of vector files is that they cannot realistically recreate complex images like photographs. Vector files are better suited for logos, illustrations, and flat graphics.

  • Scalability – You can make a vector image as big or tiny as you like without losing quality because vector graphics are inherently highly scalable.

  • Compatibility – Vectors are widely compatible, and can be opened by most design software programs.

  • File size – Because vectors don’t use pixels, they have relatively small file sizes.

more about vector files…

Raster files (AKA Bitmap files)

Raster images are the most prevalent form of digital imaging. Most digital photographs are raster files. Many digital cameras automatically take and save photos as raster files, which is also the format you typically see images in online. Raster files are made up of pixels (hence the alternative name ‘bitmap’), which are tiny squares of color. The number of pixels in an image is its resolution. The more pixels there are, the higher the resolution, and the better the quality of the image. When you zoom in on a raster image, you will eventually see the individual pixels that make up the image.

Examples of raster file formats: JPEG, PNG, GIF, HEIC, TIFF, PSD, Webp, HDRI, EXIF, JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, DPX, PPM, PCX, PGM, ECW

When to use: Raster files are best used for photographs, complex graphics, and digital paintings. Use raster graphics when you need a photo or an image with complex colors, gradients, and shading. Raster files are also the best choice for images used on the internet.

When to avoid: You should avoid using raster files when you need a graphic that must be scaled up without losing quality. Raster images are not always ideal for logos or illustrations because they can’t be easily enlarged without degrading in quality.

  • Scalability – Raster images are Resolution Dependent- meaning they can only be scaled down, not up, without losing quality. When you try to enlarge a raster image, it will become blurry and pixelated. Raster images can’t be scaled up without losing quality.

  • Compatibility – Most software programs can open and edit raster files. They support most color modes.

  • File size – Raster files tend to have larger file sizes because they contain many pixels. The file size of a raster size is determined by the number of pixels in the image, as well as the color depth of each pixel.

more about raster files…

Raw files.

Raw files are the direct output from a digital camera’s sensor before they are processed. Raw files contain all of the data captured by a digital camera’s sensor, before being processed or compressed in any way. This means that raw files offer the highest quality possible, but they are also much larger than other types of image files.

Raw files contain more data than raster files and can be edited more flexibly. However, raw files are often much larger than raster files and require special software to open and edit them. For most internet usage, raw images are generally converted to a raster format such as JPEG or PNG.

Examples of raw file formats: CR2, ARW, RAW, DNG, ORF, SR2, MRW, CRW, MDC, R3D, SRF.

When to use: Raw files are typically used among digital photographs, commonly exported from DSLR cameras or other professional cameras. . Raw files are best used when you need the highest quality image possible. They are ideal for editing, as they give you more control over the final image. Raw files are also a good choice when you need to print an image in large format.

When to avoid: Raw files can be difficult to work with, as they require special software to open and edit them. They are also much larger than other types of image files, so they can take up a lot of storage space. If you don’t need the highest quality image possible, you should avoid using raw files.

  • Scalability – Raw images are like Raster images in that they are resolution-dependent, meaning they can only be scaled down, not up, without losing quality. When you try to enlarge a raw image, it will become blurry and pixelated.

  • Compatibility – Raw files can be difficult to work with. Because they are not as widely used, not all software programs support raw files. Even among programs that do support raw files, there can be compatibility issues depending on the camera model and the software version. As a result, it’s important to check for compatibility before trying to open a raw file in a new program.

  • File size – Raw image files are typically much larger than raster file formats because they contain all of the data captured by the camera’s sensor. This data includes not only the RGB color information for each pixel, but also details such as exposure, white balance, and sharpness. As a result, raw image files give you greater flexibility when editing your photos. However, this increased versatility comes at a cost: raw image files are often several times larger than raster files, making them more difficult to store and share.

more about raw files…

Converting between the different types


Vector files can be converted to raster files, but the reverse is not always possible or reliable.

When converting from vector to raster, the software has to determine how to turn the continuous lines and curves into a grid of pixels. This process is called “rasterization” and it results in some loss of detail and accuracy. However, once a raster file has been created, it can be edited and manipulated like any other image file.

Although it is not straightforward, it is possible to convert a raster file into a vector file by using vectorization software. this process involves tracing the raster image to create vector points, lines, and curves. the result is a scalable, editable image that can be used for print or web design. while it is possible to convert a raster file into a vector file, the results may not be perfect. some imperfections may be introduced during the conversion process, so it’s important to check the results carefully before using them in your project.



Raster images are the most common type of photo. Digital cameras frequently capture and store pictures as raster files, and the pictures you see on the internet are usually raster files as well.  Vector files work better for digital illustrations, complex graphics, and logos.  Raw images are typically derived from a digital camera and are best used to edit photographs. The format you choose should be based on how you plan to use the image.  If you need an illustration or graphic that can be scaled without losing quality, a vector is the better choice. If you need a high-quality image for printing, raw images are the best option. And if you need to use an image or photograph for sharing on the internet, raster is the way to go.


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Leon Olagh

Leon Olagh is an experienced photo retoucher and editor. He shares insights and expertise in the field of photography through his blog posts. His work reflects a meticulous approach to the art of creating and refining visual content.

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