CorelDRAW

The Guide to Vector Design

Develop your edge as an artist and designer with CorelDRAW’s Guide to Vector Design. Learn the basics of vector graphics and design, and feel empowered to tackle any challenge that comes your way.

vector illustration of two mountains in a thunderstorm

How Do Vector Graphics Work?

As we’ve explored in previous articles in the Guide to Vector Design, vector graphics have a long history, and they continue shaping the use of digital art throughout the world. We have discussed that vector graphics are scalable and suitable for use across a wide variety of print and digital applications, but we haven’t touched on how they work.

The technical foundations of vector graphics are fascinating and help explain what makes vector art flexible and versatile for many uses. While vector art is primarily an artistic and creative discipline, learning about the technical side can help you harness the full capabilities of your design software and make you a better, more well-rounded designer.

example of raster and vector images side by side

What are Vector Graphics?

Vector graphics are digital images created from a series of geometrically defined points, lines, and shapes. By contrast, digital artists create raster images using a grid of colorized pixels. If you zoom in on a raster image, the individual pixels become pronounced and visible. This pixelation effect doesn’t occur with vector images because they store as a series of mathematical equations that render the image whenever users open the file.

Maintaining image quality across various sizes and applications is just one benefit of vector graphics over raster image files. We will cover more benefits of vector graphics in a later article.

vector image of woman with dog

How Do Vector Graphics Work?

Vector graphics are computer-generated images created using geometric shapes placed within a Cartesian plane. As complicated as this might sound, vector artists don’t need to know any mathematical formulas to make art — all the math happens behind the scenes. Thanks to modern computers and powerful vector design software like CorelDRAW, creating and editing vector art is fast and simple from the user’s point of view.

Graphic designers add points, lines, and shapes to a canvas in their vector design program of choice to create vector art. When saving an image in a vector file format, it turns into mathematical data that describes the various points, lines, curves, and polygons and their size, shape, and position on the canvas. When opening a vector file, the software turns that stored data back into an image, rendering it precisely according to the stored coordinates.

With vector graphics, designers can create just about anything using a combination of points, lines, curves, and polygons — from simple shapes to complex pieces of art.

Why Use Vector Graphics?

Now that we know vector graphics use math to store image data and render it visually — why does this matter? Why should graphic designers create artwork using vector graphics? A few fundamental properties make vector art superior to other image types.

Scalability

One of the main benefits of vector graphics is the scalability of the format. Because the stored file contains mathematical data about points, lines, shapes, and positions, vector images can be sized up or down without losing quality. Resizing a vector image merely changes the numbers stored in the file, and the software re-draws the image according to the new data whenever a user opens the file. By contrast, scaling up a raster image stretches the pixels and causes distortion and blurring.

The inherent scalability of vector files means vector images can be enlarged to any size and used on any surface or screen without distortion. For this reason, many industries work mainly with vector graphics rather than raster images.

Geometric Precision

Vector image files can be much smaller than raster files because it takes less memory to record mathematical coordinates than a map of pixels. This smaller file size is beneficial for all users looking to save some space on their hard drives or online cloud storage, but it’s especially crucial for web designers.

Website images need to be small to facilitate loading speed, vital for both site health and a good user experience. Vector file types, especially .svg files, are the industry standard for web icons and images.

Technical drawing of racecar

Smaller File Sizes

Vector image files can be much smaller than raster files because it takes less memory to record mathematical coordinates than a map of pixels. This smaller file size is beneficial for all users looking to save some space on their hard drives or online cloud storage, but it’s especially crucial for web designers.

Website images need to be small to facilitate loading speed, vital for both site health and a good user experience. Vector file types, especially .svg files, are the industry standard for web icons and images.

Easier Revisions

No matter how simple or complex, vector images are always, at their core, a collection of points, lines, and shapes. Because of the way vector graphics preserve visual elements mathematically within an image file, it’s easy to edit and adjust them. And unlike raster images, it’s possible to update vector files many times without sacrificing image quality.

The geometric precision also adds to the ease of revisions. For example, you can shift a single point on your canvas a single millimeter to the left in a vector file. Precise edits like that are possible no matter how many times you save the file and return to it another time.

Understanding How Vector Graphics Work

Although it’s a technical topic, reviewing how vector graphics work can help artists understand the various use cases for vector images and the vast capabilities of their vector software.

Vector art’s geometric and mathematical qualities set it apart from other types of digital images and make it the obvious choice for all sorts of projects. Join us in our next installment to learn more in-depth about the pros and cons of using vector graphics.

Start designing with CorelDRAW

Try CorelDRAW today for free, and take advantage of powerful tools for vector illustration, page layout, and more. Start creating today!

TRY FOR FREE LEARN MORE