What is a Vector?

And why do I need one?


Have you ever been asked by a printer or designer to provide your logo or artwork in a vector file rather than a JPEG? We suspect that many of you have. But if you’re wondering what a vector is and why it’s needed, then hopefully this article will answer your questions.

What is a 'Vector'?

Vector files are basically mathematical instructions, not really images at all. Instead of a picture of a shape, some lines, a curve and perhaps some text, it is a mathematical description of how to create those items. They can be very complicated, but they are in essence a combination of polygons (i.e. multi-sided shapes) filled with solid colours or gradients (a colour that 'blends' into another colour or colours).

Essentially vector files are considered the best choice of graphics format for high resolution printing of logos, illustrations and infographics.

Vector files are basically mathematical instructions, not really images at all.

Vector or JPEG – what's the difference?

Vector graphics can be made as big as you like, because every time you change the size it simply recalculates. So however large you need it, it will always remain crisp and clear with no loss of quality. Vector files also allow for spot colours, which means that your carefully selected brand colours are maintained and can be reproduced faithfully. Vector files end in either AI or EPS.

JPEG, PNG, TIFF and GIF files are bitmap graphics. They are made up of small dots (pixels) and can only be printed as large as they are initially created, any bigger and they start to pixelate, so they appear distorted or fuzzy.

Here are some questions, that we often get asked about vectors, together with our answers. Hopefully, they will help you in the future.

Vector image Bitmap image

Use the slider on the image to see the difference between a vector and a bitmap image (such as a JPEG or PNG). A vector can be enlarged to any size without pixellating or becoming blurry

Can I save a JPEG as a vector?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, your logo will need to be totally re-drawn from scratch into a vector format using software such as Adobe Illustrator.

Is my logo in vector format or not?

The best way to check is to open the file on your computer and zoom in, if it remains sharp with no pixellation even at very high magnifications it is probably a vector file.

Why can’t I read a vector file?

Unless you have Adobe Illustrator, or similar graphics software, installed on your systems, you won’t be able to read the file, But rest assured, every graphics professional can. Your logo designer should create a master vector EPS file and then provide you with JPEGs or PNGs exported from it so that you can use them.

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