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.
In this first chapter, we're breaking down the definition of vector art, what vectors are, why designers should use them, what you can make with them, and more. As you work your way through each chapter of this series, you'll learn about the history of vector art, its role in pop culture and business, careers as a vector graphic artist, and more.
Using design elements defined using a sequence of mathematical statements or commands, users can create stunning two or three-dimensional vector graphics. Called vectors, these lines, points, curves, and shapes in these graphics allow designers to create artwork that can scale almost anywhere and at any size without losing quality.
Even though they're primarily in the digital space, vectors are in the world all around us – when you see a bus wrap or a company logo on the side of a building, those are vector art designs. If you're looking for designs with clean edges and a clean look, vector graphics software allows you to create these stunning pieces of artwork.
Vector illustration is a valuable design skill for digital designers because it allows them to resize designs infinitely without sacrificing quality. We will discuss that and a deep dive into what vector graphics are, why you should use them, what you can make, and who uses these designs in this guide.
In simple terms, a vector graphic is defined by math and considered the exact opposite of raster images. In other words, raster images store data as a map of pixels and vectors are a service of mathematically defined lines and shape. If you were to zoom in on a vector, that wouldn't affect its clarity. No matter how far you zoom in or out, you'll always see crisp edges – that's where these graphics differ from raster images. You'd see pixels if you zoom in on a raster image, whereas a vector is infinitely scalable.
You can find examples of vector designs on everyday things like bus wraps or large-scale print items like billboards. Think of it this way – if you're looking at a flat design, it's most likely a vector design. Keep in mind, though, that if you see something that's photo-real, that's a raster image.
If you need something like a logo, an icon, or a flat illustration, vector graphics are ideal. The main reason is that they're small files despite their infinite scalability. Vector graphics are also much easier to manipulate if you need to make a new shape, join two points, or adjust a curve.
Vector art is a technical term for using mathematical algorithms to create simple illustrations using geometric shapes, lines, and curves. These math-based designs use geometry and are stored as a series of formulas rather than pixels as in photography.
Vector graphics show up in many different formats. You might see file extensions showing .eps or .svg or .ai or .pdf. Each has a different use.
Vector graphics can make things appear with deeper dimensions than just a flat image. For example, a 2D image like a circle, triangle, square, rectangle, or pentagon can become a 3D cylinder, pyramid, cube, or prism using vector graphics software.
Professional and non-professional designers and illustrators in all genres use vector art in many ways to create bold, crisp graphics to use anywhere ‒ for example:
You can learn more about what you can create with vector art by reading this chapter in our series: What can you make with vector art?
The emergence of "flat design" between 2010 and 2020 serves as a catalyst for who creates and uses vector art. Previously, brands preferred designs featuring drop shadows, embossing, or highly detailed. Then, a shift occurred during this decade, leaning toward cleaner and crisp designs. Instead of designs featuring a lot of "noise," like textures and ornamental features, brands wanted to see minimalist, clean, and crisp designs.
Digital artists predominantly use vector art to enhance digital presentations, infographics, mobile apps, and websites. You'll also find these graphics in advertising and marketing assets and other brand collateral. Other examples of who creates and uses vector art include:
We can trace vector graphics to the 1950s in early computers because they took up less space than bitmap or raster images. In their earliest days, these graphics were ideal because they featured simple displays that didn't require a significant amount of memory. Because early computer systems had far less memory, vector-based displays were a better choice.
In 1963, a scientist at MIT, Ivan Sutherland, created a program called Sketchpad. It was the first implementation of digital image editing and is now considered the early beginning of CAD programs and computer graphics. Sketchpad organized geometric data, or what we refer to now as GUI, ultimately leading to CorelDRAW and similar image editors.
In the 1970s, the video game industry sprang to life. Earlier games had been text-based, but vector graphics were a game-changer that led to using better consoles and, ultimately, home computers with more powerful processors.
Previously thought of data processing machines for businesses, the 1980s changed that by bringing personal computers into the home. Their early introduction of graphic arts to home computer users made it possible for users to play games, input data, calculate budgets, and create designs. That was an important step as users shifted from print to digital.
We have a more-detailed vector art timeline in this chapter of our series: Vector Art in History.
Of all the benefits of using vector art, scalability tops the list. Because they’re math-based, that places vector graphics at the forefront of design assets in the digital world. Professional and hobby artists can use these images to create a body of impressive work that’s crisp and features clean lines no matter the device they’re using. CorelDRAW’s functionality allows digital artists to create powerful image files no matter the size or application.
In the next chapter of this series, you'll learn about the history of vector graphic art.
History of vector art