What Is The Difference Between A Bitmap And A Vector Image?

Design jargon can be infinitely confusing. You may have found yourself asking your designer why the logo on your website would not be suitable for use on the large format signage you want to have printed for your storefront. If you have ever wondered why you couldn’t use the same image file for all your needs, or why the logo that you designed using PicsArt isn’t suitable for printing, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s discuss the difference between bitmaps and vectors.

What Is A Bitmap?

In simple terms, a bitmap image is an image that is constructed from many smaller squares of colour. These ‘squares’ are referred to as pixels or dots. A typical example of a bitmap image would be a photograph. You may have seen the following examples of bitmap file formats: PNG, JPEG, and GIF – to name a few. The most common design software used to process these types of images is Adobe Photoshop. 

Advantages Of Using Bitmap Images:

Detail & Editing Capability

Bitmap images contain a lot of visual information including precise shading and minute details. This visual information can be measured through the image’s dpi – which stands for ‘Dots Per Inch’. The dpi is a measurement of how much information your image contains.

Let’s imagine that you have a square image that is 1″x1″ at 300dpi. This means that your image contains a whopping 90 000 squares of colour (300×300)! The higher the dpi of your image, the more detail the image contains. Highly detailed images are fantastic for editing and the possibilities are virtually endless as each square of colour has the potential to change.

Note: When printing images, most printers require that the image contain a minimum of 300dpi for the best quality print.

This is what your bitmap image looks like when zoomed in. Each pixel contains information that makes up the entire image, but if you zoom in too far the image becomes blurry.

Cons Of Using Bitmap Images:

The biggest con of using bitmap images is that they become blurry when enlarged past a certain point. The reason for this is that there are a specific number of pixels within each image. When you enlarge the photo in question, the software is forced to ‘guess’ which colours to use in order to fill the gaps in the image. Since it has no way of calculating exactly which colours or patterns to use, the image becomes blurry.

Because these images are able to contain so much unpredictable data they are often incredibly large in size.

What Are Vector Graphics?

You may have heard your designer ask you for your logo in a vector format before working on your project. What is a vector graphic?

A vector graphic is a graphic produced using a predictable mathematical equation. They are created from points and lines based on these mathematical formulas. In comparison to a square bitmap image, with 300 pixels of information per linear inch, a vector graphic in the same shape (square) will only contain four pieces of data – one for each corner of the square. The software then completes the rest of the details by ‘predicting’ the sequence through the mathematical formula.

As a result, vector graphics are much smaller, in file size, than their bitmap counterparts. 

Vector artworks are typically created using software such as Illustrator or Corel Draw. Vector artworks can also be saved in PDF format, and later used in design software (such as those listed above).

The vector image above illustrates the scalability of vector graphics. No detail was lost in resizing the vector graphic.

Advantages Of Using Vector Graphics:

The most important benefit of vector graphics – and why the majority of designers request your logo in this format – is that they are infinitely scalable. This means that a logo design in a vector format can be printed on something as small as a business card and something as large as a billboard without losing any detail. The vector image will not become blurry regardless of its size. 

In contrast, you would not be able to use a small bitmap photo on a billboard as it would become too blurry for use.

Vector images are also editable in a non-destructive manner. Once opened up in design software, each layer or element used in the vector image can be edited. These elements can easily be re-coloured, resized or moved around without damaging or affecting any other elements. 

It is for this reason that your designer will supply your logo designs to you in vector formats. You will then be able to use them for a variety of applications. 

Cons Of Using Vector Graphics:

Although vector images are infinitely scalable and contain less data, it also means that they are not as complexly editable as bitmap images. They are not practical for complex colouring (beyond basic colour grading) and they are unable to handle certain editing effects such as drop shadows and blurring in the way that a bitmap image would. 

So Why Isn't The Logo That I Designed on my phone or in Paint Ideal?

These days there are multitudes of online logo generating and image editing apps on the market. It seems like an easy choice to create your own logo using an image editor as opposed to paying a designer to create one for you (for a hefty price). You may end up with a beautiful image, however, it won’t be functional in the way that a professionally designed vector artwork would be. 

Here are the main reasons why this will hamper your business in the long-run:

  • Your logo design is most likely a bitmap image. This means that it is a low-quality image which cannot be re-sized without losing quality. Your pretty image may look great on social media but will blur when you attempt to use it on a poster or business card (for example).
  • Your logo most likely does not follow basic design principles. Your designer receives proper training in order to create designs that are well aligned and communicate your chosen message to your audience. They have an understanding of colour psychology and the subconscious messages that are interpreted from different font styles. Your designer also takes into consideration the applications for your logo. Not all designs will be suitable for embroidery – for example. Your designer makes sure that your design meets all of your requirements.  Without these elements in place, you risk limiting your ability to use your logo in various applications. You also risk having others assume that your business is unprofessional. Your logo speaks volumes about your business. 

Which business would you trust to bake your wedding cake? The funny thing is that these are both logos from the same business before, and after, a makeover! It’s amazing how one image is far more trustworthy than the other. 

The Ideal Solution

Make sure that your designer creates, and supplies your logo to you in a vector format. If you currently have a bitmap logo design, contact your designer to request that it be re-created as a vector artwork. 

Investing in a professional logo design is one of the best things that you can do for your business to ensure it’s long term success. If you want to learn more, check out this article on why you need a professional logo design

We'd Love to Hear From You!

Do you have a professional vector logo design? Get in touch and we’ll create a stunning design for you that captures your unique brand identity. To view some of our previous designs please visit our portfolio.

We’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment below or leave us a message. If you feel that this article could help someone you know just hit share using one of the social buttons below. If you have any questions about native files feel free to leave them in the comments.