What is Vector Art?
What is digital art without brushes, pixels, or sketching? Vector art uses shapes, paths, fill, and strokes to create a scene. Let’s see how it’s done.
Vector art is a type of digital art produced with a vector graphic design software.
These programs build images by using mathematical formulas to generate simple shapes between points instead of combining millions of pixels.
A vector graphic is generated by creating points (also called nodes) and joining these together with lines (also known as paths) to build shapes.
Vector software enables you to produce high-quality images that never become pixelated, no matter how much you enlarge them. This is because vector files do not use pixels but instead uses clean lines and geometric shapes, which are infinitely scalable. Vectornator is a perfect example of a vector software platform, and it's free!
See how Laura builds her image out of shapes by connecting points to create each shape and curve?
That's vector art. It's fun, effective, and essential for most graphic designers and illustrators.
In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know to get a good understanding of what vector art is, from differentiating between vector images and raster images to identifying vector files, as well as ideas and inspiration for how to use vector art.
Is it Art or Design?
Vectors can be used purely to create digital art and illustration, as well as for design projects like logos, posters, advertisements, etc.
Vector vs. Raster
In contrast to the curves, points, and shapes that make up vector images, raster graphics are composed of a rectangular grid of pixels.
The main difference between vector graphics and raster graphics is that raster images are resolution-dependent, meaning that their resolution can only be as clear as the number of pixels in the image, whereas vector images can be scaled infinitely without loss of quality.
Raster images are most common for digital photography and are better when very sharp attention to detail is needed. Vector graphics are more common in illustration and graphic design, because often these materials need to be enlarged and are more stylized than realistic.
Vector shapes make retaining quality possible because they do not pixelate. The shape can be stretched and stretched without being compromised at all.
What is a Vector File?
A vector file refers to the format to which the final image is exported.
Different software types use different file formats, and you'll be able to tell which file format your vector image is in by reading the last few letters of the file name after the dot.
To put it in basic terms and refer to an example you probably already know: think of a Microsoft word document. Any document created in Word will contain ".doc" at the end, e.g., "Term Paper.doc." This means the file format comes from Microsoft Word.
The types of vector files you get tell you which program they were created in and are compatible with.
There are a few varieties when it comes to vector file type, namely:
- .AI - Adobe Illustrator
- .EPS - Encapsulated PostScript File Format
- .SVG - Scalable Vector Graphics
- .PDF - Portable Document Format
- .CDR - CorelDRAW
- .FH - Freehand MX
- .EMF - Enhanced Metafile
The most common vector file format is .SVG. This is the industry standard in print and marketing.
A raster file, on the other hand, will end in extensions .GIF, .PNG, .JPEG, .PPT, .EPS, .PDF, .TIF, .PSD, or .BMP.
You'll notice that some extensions can be both vector and raster file formats, like .PDF and .ESP. For these files, whether the file is raster or vector depends on how it was created, and whether vector or raster tools were used to build or capture the image.
It is also possible to convert vector files to raster and vice versa with software.
For instance, in Vectornator, you can use the Auto Trace feature to transform a raster images into beautiful vector shapes.
How to Use Vector Art
Vector art is used for many different types of design projects, including graphic design, illustration, and digital arts.
Vector software can be used for most forms of graphic design. It’s up to the designer to decide which type of software is most appropriate for their particular design project.
These are some of the main areas that use vector art to create high-quality, imaginative, scalable images.
Illustration has become a very in-demand profession, with brands going crazy for authentic visual content to capture their persona and products beautifully.
Illustration is used for editorial content (print and online), social media, UX/UI design, and much more. This is an exciting industry that promises a lot of freedom. Many illustrators choose to freelance and run their own personal studio. What a fantastic time to live in when artists can make a good living doing what they love, right?
Vector art is used for many elements that go into the design of a website, including icons, logos, illustrations, and layout.
You'll need to know how to create vector graphics as a website graphic designer or as a UI designer. If you're a freelance graphic designer or illustrator, your services might be outsourced by website designers and developers.
You'll need vectorized images to print posters successfully. Poster design can be used for art and decor, film, and marketing.
Most graphic designers use vector software to create logos.
Vector designs are especially necessary for billboards as these are printed at an enormous scale, so vector files are needed to maintain the quality of the image.
Video game designers use all kinds of software. It is a highly complex form of design. The critical component of the artwork is generated using vector art.
Getting Started With Vector Art
If you're interested in getting started with vector art, you'll need to do some learning.
There are tons of online courses available nowadays and even free YouTube videos you could learn from if you have the patience and focus for self-learning.
The great thing about proper online courses is that they are structured well and use proven teaching methodologies (which keep you from getting lost and overwhelmed down a YouTube rabbit hole). Social media and online videos are perfect for extra tips and finding inspiration.
The Vectornator YouTube channel aims to bring designers and digital artists (both seasoned and aspiring) tips and ideas to help you improve.
Along with the right learning materials, you’ll need the right software for your vector art.
What is the Best Vector Graphics Software?
As you should know by now, vector art requires software in order to be generated.
The design market is packed with vector graphics software, so how do you know which one to choose? It takes a bit of exploring to see what works best for you, and it depends on budget as well. We’ve listed some of the best vector design programs worth exploring below.
Yep, it's a shameless plug. But we believe in our product.
We've been working for years to create a vector software tool that's extremely simple to use yet has all the features you could desire to be as creative as possible AND doesn't break the bank.
Vectornator is a free software tool because we are passionate about empowering everyone's creativity and helping them to express themselves through digital art.
This is one of the most popular vector design software platforms on the market.
It's high quality and feature-rich, so you can do a lot more with it than you might think.
The downside is that it has a steep learning curve that generally requires proper training in order to use it effectively. And in addition, you have to pay an expensive monthly fee.
Adobe Illustrator is a powerful tool, but you'll need to be willing to commit a lot of study time and a decent chunk of your wallet if you're planning to use it for your graphic design and illustration.
This vector graphics software is a worthy competitor to Adobe Illustrator, but it's way more affordable.
Affinity Designer is a vector editor that comes with all the features you need to create fantastic designs. Many graphic designers are open to software that's more affordable than Adobe's Creative Cloud suite and are finding that Affinity Designer is a great alternative.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite is a complete suite of graphic design applications.
From vector design to photo editing, editorial design, and more, CorelDRAW offers a wide range of tools to satisfy all graphic design needs, whether that’s creating apparel or business cards and everything in between. CorelDRAW comes with LiveSketch powered by AI technology which converts sketching into vector curves.
However, it's quite expensive, and it's showing its age a bit.
What About Photoshop?
For those who are new to design or not entirely in the know, the mind automatically goes to Photoshop when thinking of design software because it's become a household name. Adobe Photoshop is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, but it's a raster graphics tool (which is why it's used for digital photography.)
There's a lot more to know about each of the programs we mentioned here, so be sure to check out our article on graphic design software tools, where we detail everything you need to know about 21 different graphic design software tools.
Vector Artists for Inspiration
Often when we imagine vector art, the mind immediately jumps to flat, surreal, or cartoon-style images. But Yuki Miyamoto shows that realism is possible with vector art. His digital artwork is incredibly detailed and realistic.
Charles Williams of Made Up studio creates beautiful graphic design and illustration work for magazines, branding, and advertising campaigns. He uses vector art to bring images to life with movement, geometric shapes, and a 3D aesthetic.
This Ecuadorian illustrator's amazing portfolio boasts a very impressive client list, including Adobe, Apple, Netflix, and The New York Times.
Line Birgitte has honed the use of line work in her vector art, creating images that often have a laid-back, sketchy-style aesthetic.
This Dubai-based illustrator’s vector art is stunningly vibrant alive with shape and color, which goes to show how much is possible with simple geometric shapes.
Want to Make Your Own Vector Art?
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what vector art is and just how much is possible with this incredibly exciting and diverse digital art form.
We’re (obviously) obsessed with it, which is why we’re working hard to make it accessible to as many people as possible.
We can't wait to see what you'll make.
August 16, 2021