What are Vector Images?
What are Vector Images?
November 10, 2018 / Sarah Pritzker
What are Vector Images?
November 10, 2018 / Sarah Pritzker

Simply put, vector images are computer graphics that use math to create the impressive images you see before you. Don't worry, even if you're a complete troglodyte when it comes to numbers and equations, you'll still be capable of appreciating the beauty of stock vector art. In terms of visual appeal, these images are crisper and high-quality. In terms of design potential, vector images are more flexible, cleaner, and easier to work with than the standard digital images, making them a great choice for most design projects. So, for professional designers, vector images open up a world of possibilities you couldn't even consider before. Suddenly, the art world is your oyster.

What are Vector Images? The Short Version

Vector images are digital forms of art. They’re made up of varying points and paths to create impressive designs, stark contrasts, and vivid imagery. Without getting too technical, each time two vector points are created, a path is formed, and you can connect multiple points to create longer or more intricate paths. You can create any number of paths, and each one will obtain its own unique formula.

What this means when it comes to designers is that they can resize or change the path, while the formula remains the same. So, the image retains its crisp quality and sharpness. Vector images are frequently used to create graphics at a much larger or smaller scale because the quality is not diminished despite the size having been manipulated. Vector images come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. They can be hand-drawn, paper cut, or digitally-rendered in other ways, and they can be used to create individual images or an entire design made up of many vector-based designs. No matter what the style, pattern, or design, vector illustrations are great graphics to use when you need a sleek, sharp-edged image like you would in logos, illustrations, etc.

What is Stock Vector Art?

You already understand vector graphics on a basic level. Stock vector art is illustrations that you can purchase the license to use. Much like stock photography, stock vector art that's found on most stock content sites will be royalty-free. That means you can legally use the vector graphics many times for promotional, marketing, and other business purposes without fear of consequence.

There are some rules that apply to stock media content. For example, you cannot use the images in a derogatory way, to endorse a product or brand, or for the promotion of illegal activities. But royalty-free stock vector art can be used hundreds of thousands of times for a wide range of personal and business uses, including online marketing campaigns, emails, print outs, social media ad campaigns, t-shirts, and more.

Vector stock images are a great way for businesses, designers, and illustrators to get their hands on royalty-free vector graphics for considerably less money than it would cost to hire someone to do the work for you. Additionally, when you buy vector images from one of the well-known stock vector art websites, you can sign up for membership plans or buy graphics in bundles. So, you end up saving even more on each image you purchase. But we’ll talk more about that in the section below.

Stock Vector Art Vs. Stock Images: What’s the Difference?

Vector graphics are digital illustrations. Stock photos are also digital images, and while they might sound like the same thing, there are several important variations between the two. The main difference that counts for most designers is that stock images are made up of pixels, whereas vector graphics are not. This means that vector illustrations can be edited, resized, and basically played around with as much as you like without losing image quality. This feature makes vector stock images much more flexible and convenient for designers to work with.

Vector illustrations are also faster to edit, making it more time-efficient for designers to create the changes they need for their individual projects and needs. Vector graphics allow you to edit all aspects of the file, including colors, forms, text, and more.

The other important difference to note is the file type requirements. Since these aren't your typical stock photography images, vector graphics need specific programs if you want to open and work with them. Vector editors such as Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape (an open-source vector editor by the way), or CorelDRAW are useful tools that can manage this task with ease. It's important to note that a raster-based photo editing program will only rasterize the vector images. So, it's best not to use this type of software for vectors (since you won't be able to do the quick editing jobs that this file format is useful for).

The file format that the vector stock photo is saved as will also determine which vector editors you can use to open them. The most commonly-used file format is EPS, a format that is compatible with the vast majority of vector-editing software. The other file formats that some vector images will come in include AI, SVG, and PDF.

Finally, the other benefit you gain when you buy vector images is conservative file sizes. Because vector graphics use the paths technology versus pixels, file sizes are considerably smaller than the same image would be if it were pixelated.

As we’ve already mentioned, compatibility is the only downside to working with vector illustrations. Rather than being able to open it using just about any photo editor, designers will need to use specific vector-editing programs. For real designers, this isn’t generally a problem since they’ll have these programs already and use them on a regular basis. It’s important to note that distinction, though, so you’re not stuck with a file format that you can’t open, edit, or use.

When Should You Use Vector Graphics Instead of Standard Digital Images

Vector graphics are best used for projects that require you to project the image in a number of different sizes. For example, let's say that you are designing a logo for a new business. That logo is going to be used in many different ways, including letterhead, company t-shirts, billboards, brochures, emails, and more. Since the logo will need to be used in various environments and purposes, a vector stock image would be the most efficient and suitable option.

You might also want to use vector graphics for things like backgrounds, patterns, icons, typography, and more.

Where & How to Buy Vector Images

Reading about the way vector illustrations are made might make you feel overwhelmed by the technology of it all. The good news is that you do not have to make the files yourself. There are plenty of places online where you can buy vector images. These libraries are loaded with stunning and professional stock vector art.

Vector stock libraries include things like patterns, fonts, icons, and other vector illustrations. There are even free vector stock images that you can access without having to pay. Check out reputable sites like iStock, Shutterstock, and Pond5, where you can buy vector images for a fraction of the price that it would cost to hire a designer to create them.

Vector Graphics: Next Level Designing

Vector stock images are bringing a new level of customization to the world of marketing and design, in general. Buy vector images, open them using a compatible vector-editing tool, and discover the possibilities that this digitally-enhanced file format will introduce you to.

By Sarah Pritzker
Sarah Pritzker is a professional writer who loves scouring the web looking for the coolest products and services at the best prices. Sarah writes for www.beststockimage.com. Sarah has lived and traveled all over the world, but has finally settled down with her family in the Middle East - and yes, she misses winter!