"Vector graphics?? What are they?"

In this blog I want to explain to you what "vector images" are, how they are manipulated and give you a little information on how to get the tools used for creating them.


As a sign maker I get graphic files sent to me all the time...in all sorts of fashion. Obviously not everyone is an expert of the graphics industry, educated to know the common terminology or formats used. Therefore, not at anyone's fault, some graphic files sent to me are not optimum for the commercial printing process.


Fortunately, I'm experienced enough to know how to work with just about any graphic file sent to me even if that requires having to recreate the graphics from scratch! Other times it's simply a matter of converting the graphics to a another workable format. Recreating a piece of artwork from scratch is usually time consuming and will translate to an artwork fee.


However, while an extra fee is good for business, there is an impractical downside for me as well...which is actually having to sit and take the time to do it. This can be a bit tricky especially during a busy season where just the printing and sign assembly alone can take up 95% of the time.


So with that said, I want to show you what a "vector graphic/image" is. If you learn how to do it...you can save yourself some money and me a little time.


By the way, if you wish to see a very technical description of what vector graphics are, you can see an article on Wikipedia. Click here.


If you did take the time to visit the Wikipedia link, basically what they are saying is that a vector graphic is a computer generated image comprised of lines connected by points drawn by a "Pen or Shape Tool". These lines can be bent into shape using your mouse cursor directly on the line or by bending them with handles that appear at the connect points (See Fig 1.)


The above image is about the simplest way I can explain this concept. With the proper tools, which we will get to in moment, you can draw many shapes and then combine them to make a more complex image. There are some absolutely gorgeous and creative pieces of artwork out there that have been made in this manner. We're talking far beyond my skill set or just my unwillingness to create them!


One of the most awesome aspects of a vector image is that it can be resized to oblivion without losing any quality which you cannot do with digital images such as jpeg's, png's or any other bitmap format (which will be described in another blog post).


So how is this type of artwork created? Well thanks for asking because I have been waiting for me to get done writing all the above in order to give you the answer! Below is a small round up of programs to make it happen.


First on the list is Adobe Illustrator which according to the maker is "The Industry Standard". That very well might be but I would debate on it being the best.


Illustrator is a subscription only app provided by Adobe Inc. through their Creative Cloud service and will run you about $30/CA. It is for both PC and Mac platforms (free trial version available). Many graphic artist swear by it.


Next is CorelDraw which is offered as both a one time purchase app ($649/CA) or as a subscription ($44.95/mo or $325/yr). CorelDraw is my preferred application. It is also for both PC and Mac platforms (free trial version available).

I personally don't have much experience with Sketch ($99 one time payment or $9/mo subscription model) or Inkscape (Free - Open Source) but I have not heard anything negative about either one. Illustrator and CorelDraw are more apt to be more fully featured as they have been around for a much longer time.


No matter what you choose, as long as your choice of application allows you to export or save your final result as a PDF or EPS for sending off to print...you're good :). Just don't export/save a bitmapped image as a PDF and think somehow it's going to turn into a vector. It has to be a vector image right from the get go.


So just to finish off here, I will admit that these applications have a bit of a learning curve...and if you are going to learn, put on your gym pants and get ready to sweat! There are hundreds (if not thousands) of Youtube and Rumble videos dedicated to teaching the ins and outs. Just do a search for "vector programs" on either platform.


If you're not going to learn, at least now you have an idea of what this technology is if you ever hear the term "vector graphics". You now know enough to be able to decide whether you want to learn it yourself or hire a graphic artist to do it for you. Any good graphic artist will know what to do and with that said I will be happy to help you with your graphic needs. After all that IS why we are here.


Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

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