Vector vs Raster Art: Which is Best for Transfers?

There are basically two different types of art – vector and raster (bitmap/jpg). And the long battle between the two continues: vector vs raster.

Which one do you need when? If you need heat applied transfers, which file type works best?

Both are useful depending on your end use. Let’s see what each type is and then find out which is best for heat applied transfers.


What is Raster Art?

Raster art is made up of tiny boxes known as pixels. An example of a raster image is a digital photograph.

Typically, rasterized files end with file extensions such as .jpg, .tif, .bmp, .gif, and .png. One of the most common mistakes made with raster art has to do with scaling (sizing) a rasterized image larger.

[Related Content: The Complete Guide to Image File Types]

Since raster art is resolution dependent, you can scale smaller, but you shouldn’t scale larger. This is because there are only so many pixels in the image.

Raster images are measured by their dpi (dots per [linear] inch). A crisp, high resolution image will be around 300 pixels per inch.

When scaling larger, the same amount of pixels remain, but over a larger area. Therefore, if you scale a high resolution (300 dpi) photo twice the size, you now only have 150 pixels per inch, which is half the resolution previously. When scaling larger, the pixels per inch decreases, which in turn makes the resolution decrease. This creates the distorted and pixilated look.


Raster Artwork

When zoomed in on raster artwork, you can see the pixels that create the image.


What is Vector Art?

Vector art, on the other hand, is not resolution dependent. You can scale it larger or smaller and it will still look the same.

Vector art can be used on a golf ball or the same art can be used on a billboard and either one will look clear.

This type of art uses mathematical formulas to create the artwork. There are no pixels involved. Instead, it uses points and curves to create shapes. This type of artwork is created in applications such as CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator, which can have file extensions such as .cdr, .ai, and .eps.


Vector Artwork

When zoomed in on vector artwork, lines and curves are smooth.


How do I know which type of art I have?

Did your customer give you an artwork file and you don’t know if it is vector vs raster art?

Or maybe you made it yourself, but you don’t know which kind it is.

There are a few ways you can find out.

The easiest way to know is to just zoom in on the artwork. If you see pixels, then it’s raster artwork. If the lines are smooth, then it’s vector.


raster vs vector artwork


Some other ways to know if your artwork is raster is if it is a photograph. Photographs from a camera will always be raster, made up of pixels.

Check your file extension (the type of file such as .jpg, .png, etc.) and sometimes that can be a sign of what kind of art you have. If the file is .jpg, .png, .bmp, .tif, then your artwork is raster.

Typically, a file that ends with .ai, .cdr, .eps, or .svg is vector art.

However, if you have a file with those extensions, it is possible that your artwork could still be raster. That’s because you can save a raster image into one of those file types. But that doesn’t make the artwork vector.


Vector vs raster art: which one do I need for transfers?

Rasterized artwork is fine for our full color transfer types, such as UltraColor® transfers, as long as it is high resolution at full size (300 dpi or higher).

Also, vector artwork is perfectly acceptable as well for full color transfers.

If you are interested in our screen printed transfers, the printing process differs some. In this case, you can send us raster artwork, however, it will only be used as a guide from which the artwork will be recreated. Vector art is preferred for screen printing.

[Related Content: Artwork Guidelines for Your Custom Transfer Designs]