The Difference Between
Vector & Raster Files

Understanding what it is and why it matters.

vector vs rester file screenshot

Vector Image Defined

A vector image is an artwork made up of points, lines, and curves that are based upon mathematical equations, rather than solid colored square pixels. This means no matter the size or how far zoomed in the image is, the lines, curves, and points remain smooth. This is the ideal image format for printing and embroidery.

Raster images are created using pixels, or tiny dots, containing unique color and tonal information that come together to create the image. Since raster images are pixel based, they are resolution dependent.

Often times clients send us files saved as vector file types with graphics placed inside that are not truly vector. Simply saving a file as an .AI or. EPS file type does not transform the file into a vector image.

How to Tell the Difference

The easiest way to tell a vector from raster graphic is to simply open it, and then zoom in. With your file open, hit the keys Alt + 0 on PC, or ⌘ + 0 on Mac to bring the artwork to front and center. Then hit Alt and + on PC, or ⌘ and + on a mac to zoom in. Continue to hit +, and if the file stays nice and crisp around the edges it is most likely vector, if it starts to pixelate as you zoom in, then the file is raster.

If the Artwork is a Raster Image

You zoomed in and you have a raster file, it’s not necessarily a problem, often times we can still use them. The raster file just needs to be close to the dimension of the area on your garment or object that we’ll be printing on.

photoshop To see if it will work, open your file in Photoshop, navigate in the Menu to Image < Image Size. That will bring up an Image Size menu, switch your dimensions to Inches.

If the Image Size is equal to or larger than the area you’ll be printing, and at least 150 PPI, then we’ll be all set.

If the image file dimensions are smaller than the area we’ll be printing, it’s likely our Creative Services Department can recreate the art.

photoshop screenshot

Raster Images That Work

Ideally your file is the same size as the area you’d like us to print and 300 PPI. But the real world is not ideal. There are many raster files we can work with, but knowing from the beginning will help speed production down the line rather than having to ask for new or better files.

If your image is on a huge canvas like 100″ x 100″, but only 100 PPI you can scale down the file to print size and change the PPI to 300.

If an image is smaller than the size you’d like us to print, but a very high resolution like 600-1000 PPI, you can typically scale it to print size and lower the PPI and the image will be useable. Say for example you send us a file at 6″x6″ and 600 PPI, you can scale this to 10″x10″ and 150 PPI without loss of resolution.

Need Help?

From designing to formatting, our creative department can help you end up with awesome goods you’ll love. Just let us know what you you’re looking for by starting an order, and a team member will get back to you with answers.