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Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.


Vector vs Bitmap – What’s the Difference?

November 19th, 2008

I had a client recently tell me that she was emailing me “vector” images. The web, I thought, was made up of bitmap images – .jpg, .gif, .png – and so this confused me. I took some vector math in college – it was the math series right after differential equations – and boy was it confusing. So even to this day when I hear “vector”, I feel a little pit in my stomach.

So when I received .jpg images from the client, it got me to wondering about vector images versus bitmap images and what was the difference – could a jpg be a “vector” image? I knew that vector images had to do with math, and that’s why they were scalable. And I knew that if you tried to enlarge a bitmap image, it got fuzzy. But I didn’t know much more than that.

I did what I usually do when I don’t know, I Google it. Here’s a lovely article I found that does just a simply fabulous job at explaining the difference: Vector vs. Bitmap Graphics – an Introductory Guide for Clients and Designers

Here are some highlights:

“Bitmap graphics are the most common graphic format in use on the web and, indeed, on the computer…Bitmap graphics are composed of pixels, each of which contains specific color information.

Rather than being composed of pixels, Vector graphics consist of points, lines, and curves which, when combined, can form complex objects…Vector graphics are mathematical creations. For this reason, the programs that are used to create them save instructions on how the image should be drawn, rather than how it looks.”

So, as a web designer, I live in a bitmap world, because my artwork is rendered on computers. I can scale things down/smaller, but not up/larger – because there are only so many pixels to work with. If you’re a logo designer, you probably live in a vector world, because your artwork needs to be scalable, from letterhead to huge banners and signs. The article goes on to highlight the different tools available:

“Adobe Photoshop, Corel PhotoPaint, and Macromedia Fireworks ( this is what I use ) and Paint Shop Pro are just a few of the more popular Bitmap Editors. Common bitmap file extensions include: .jpg, .gif, .png, .tff, and .bmp.

Adobe Illustrator, Corel DRAW!, Macromedia Freehand, and Macromedia Flash are the predominate editors on the market. Common universal file formats include .eps and .wmf and .svg. Unlike Bitmap graphics, it is far more likely to see Vector files delivered in formats unique to the programs which created them.”

Hopefully, writing this blog post will quell the funny feeling I get everytime I read about vector graphics and wonder if I should be using them.

I live in a bitmap world 🙂

J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.

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