Vector graphics Meaning, History, applications, formats and more

In this article the reader will learn about vector graphics,   elements that are essential resources used to make designs through the use of lines and geometric figures. Do not stop reading it will be very useful. vector graphics meaning

Vector graphics meaning

vector graphics meaning
vector graphics meaning

The vector word is generally used in design activities to specify a type of graphics that has two dimensions that are produced through a PC and specific software for it, in a way to produce graphics that result with quality.  vector graphics meaning

A vector image is a digital figure that is formed from dependent geometric objects, such as: segments, polygons, arches, walls and others, and each one is delimited by mathematical attributes of shape, position, as is the case of a color circle, which would be determined by the position of its center, its radius, the thickness of the lines and its tone. vector graphics meaning

The term vector has several connotations, it all depends on the subject to which it is applied, for example: geometry, physics, mathematics, when referring to design and illustration by a computer, it specifies the way in which a graphic or drawing can be produced, then a vector graphic represents a digital image captured by different independent geometric elements.

Each of the elements defined by mathematical parameters such as shape, position, color, type and thickness of the contour, among many other aspects, are part of the elements of vector graphics. vector graphics meaning

Vector graphics are formats that are completely different from bitmap graphics, also known as matrix graphics, which are made by pixels. vector graphics meaning

Vectors have an advantage over pixels of being scalable, which means that they can increase their size, and always maintain their original quality, it is an aspect that does not happen with graphics a b.

They also have other considerable distinction, is that these two types of digital images contain aspects of weight, which gives us to understand that the vector are only mathematical parameters, which are generally less heavy than a raster or known pixel image. vector graphics meaning

It is also important to note that vector graphics can be converted through the process of rotating, stretching, distorting or moving, it is done in an easy way, and does not require much memory on the computer. vector graphics meaning

But, all vector or vector graphics have to be converted to pixels once they are displayed on a screen, or pixels showing quality degradation with increasing size are printed. vector graphics meaning

Vector graphics are images that are made with line segments, which are connected by nodes and as a result of an average over the two tangents created by the nodes or so-called control points. vector graphics meaning

The vectors can be presented in curved or straight forms, according to as indicated by the handles that start from the nodes, the handles are elements that work to control the intensity of the curves and the direction in which the segments are directed. vector graphics meaning

Nowadays, PCs translate vector graphics into bitmaps, in order to display them on the screen once they are made up of pixels.

History vector graphics meaning

vector graphics meaning
vector graphics meaning

From the appearance of the computer in the 1950s until the 1980s, a vector system was used to produce graphics that are very different from those found in current times. vector graphics meaning

In the so-called calligraphic system, the electronic beam of the tube made up of cathode rays from the screen, were directed only to design the figures that were required, line segment by line segment, so the screen remained black. vector graphics meaning

It was a process that occurred repeatedly at great speed in order to achieve an image that was free of interruptions, it was a system that allowed to see still and moving images with good resolution, without the need to use a large portion of rasterization memory. . vector graphics meaning

What allowed the sequence of images to show as if they were in motion, in fact they managed to agitate by changing only certain words of the graph in their corresponding display file, those monitors established in vectors were also known as XY monitors, (XY displays) .vector graphics meaning

The story goes that the first vectors were used in the process of displaying images, it was carried out by the United States Air Force. vector graphics meaning

Records appear that indicate that the graphics generation system through the use of vectors was used until 1999 in air traffic control, and there is the possibility that it will continue to be used in different military systems. vector graphics meaning

The computer scientist and Internet pioneer, Ivan Edward Sutherland, used this system on the TX-2 in 1963 to develop his Sketchpad program at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

The successive systems of vectorial graphic representation, contained the GT40 of Digital; at that time there was a console known as Vectrex, which used vector graphics to represent video games such as: Asteroids and Space Wars, in addition to the equipment known as Tektronix 4014, which had the ability to produce fast vector images .vector graphics meaning

Throughout the course of history, the word vector has been used regularly in the field of two-dimensional graphics generated by a computer, it is one of the ways that a designer has to create images with a raster preview. vector graphics meaning

They can also be used in texts, in multimedia and the creation of 3D scenes, currently all programs are designed with 3D modeling to use modern techniques that execute 2D vector graphics, in the case of plotters used in technical drawing, they continue to design or drawing vectors directly onto paper. vector graphics meaning

Basic geometric figures vector graphics meaning

Among the elementary geometric figures they have are:

  • Lines and polylines.
  • Circles and ellipses.
  • Bezigonos.
  • Polygons.
  • Bézier curves.
  • Text, usually True Type, or typeface that uses Bézier curves.

These previously mentioned figures do not contain other types of curves such as those known: Catmull-Rom spline, NURBS, which work for other types of applications.

In general, bitmap images are called primitive formats, viewed from a conceptual point of view, because their way of saving data in pixels does not support the flexibility that you have with a vector image. vector graphics meaning

Applications vector graphics meaning

In this segment the main applications that vector graphics provide are mentioned, we start with:

Graphics generation vector graphics meaning

In this aspect, vector graphics are used to create logos according to the client’s preference, the most popular are those made to produce 3D scenes.

Design animation and illustration 

In these modern times it can be known that a large part of environments that look in three dimensions are formed by vector graphics showing different types of applications, they are also used to make 2D animations in web design, due to their simplicity to use and in addition to their low weight.

Digital documents vector graphics meaning

This type of document accepts the graphic description of a digital document, without representing loss of image quality due to applications or modifications to its form.

Document description languages

Vector graphics have the ability to detail the environment of a document independent of the resolution offered by the output device, among the most popular formats are PostScript and PDF, which is usually different from matrix images, which can be observed and print without loss of resolution.

Video game

Applications are generally used to produce virtual environments composed of three dimensions.


The vast majority of typographic files use vector images, the most popular formats being: TrueType, PostScript and OpenType.


Vector graphics, which appear on the World Wide Web, are generally open formats known as VML and SVG, or also that it is a proprietary format, these can be viewed with the Adobe Flash Player tool.

Vector graphics formats

In this paragraph we will show you the main vector graphics formats, namely the following:

  • SWF Adobe flash, used for graphics and 2D animations for the Internet.
  • AI Adobe Illustrator, used for targeted graphics and illustrations for web and print.
  • CDR Corel Draw, is generally used to design and self-edit printed matter.
  • PDF Adobe Acrobat, is used for document exchange and activity flow, is a graphic format consisting of vector and bitmap, this portable document format created by Adobe System, offers a great advantage, the ability to absorb fonts, having the ability to possibility to share files with a PC appearance and opposing operating systems.
  • Post Script, normally used for file exchange printing.
  • SVG, is a format created especially by Adobe to design static or animated two-dimensional graphics, being one of the vector formats that generally become standard, because they do not require plugins to be able to be reproduced in most of the web browsers, except in Internet Explorer .
  • EPS, an acronym for Encapsulated PostScript, similar to the WMF and EMF formats, refers to a vector graphic format, which accepts to include bitmaps and metadata, which makes its use friendly.
  • VMF, Acronym for Windows MetaFile or Windows Metafile, is a vector graphic format that allows you to add 16-bit bitmaps, in the same way as the PostScript format offers.
  • EMF, an acronym for Enhanced Metafile, is the evolution of the WMF format that used up to 32 bits.
  • AI, refers to the extension of vector files created from Adobe Illustrator.
  • CDR, it is the extension of vector files created with Corel Draw.
  • SWF, refers to the extension of files compiled with Adobe Flash.

It is worth mentioning as a relevant aspect that photographs cannot be vectorized without having a significant loss in image quality, which is why it is suggested to use pixel formats: jpeg, png, tiff, among others.


An important aspect that vector images have is that at the time of printing, because they have the possibility of scaling them and increasing their illustration in an unlimited way, it is reflected under a good quality system, capable of being modified without presenting relevant changes .

Being a particular example, that the same logo that has been vectorized can be taken, to be printed on a personal card, and also enlarged and reprinted to be placed on a fence, keeping the quality level in both images, the most famous cases of document formatting that they print are PDF and PostScript.

You can also see the application of vector graphics when they are printed on a cutting plotter, or special vinyl cutting printers, designed with color tones in some of their parts and in a digital file.

They are images that are made from the practice of vectors, interpreted by the plotter as delimited lines just where the blade in charge of cutting the material will pass, which is widely used by professionals in labeling and decoration in flat areas or car bodies.

Advantages and disadvantages

Vector graphics also offer advantages and disadvantages, everything will depend on each specific case, we start with the advantages:

Speaking of particular situations, it can be mentioned that vector images need less space for storage compared to a bitmap, images executed by spot colors or with simple gradients tend to be more possible to be vectorized.

As for the advantages it offers, the lesser amount of information to create the image, the file size will also be smaller; then two images that have different display sizes, but, with identical vector information, occupy the same amount of storage.

Another advantage is that these images do not lose quality once they are resized. In the beginning, a vector image can be scaled in an unlimited way; When it comes to matrix images, you get to a level where you can clearly see that the image is made up of pixels, so you have to be careful with that.

It also offers that vector-defined targets can be stored and modified at any time.

Many vector graphics formats accept animation, which is executed in an easy way through elementary processes such as translation or rotation, and also does not need an accumulation of information, because the job is to relocate the coordinates of the vectors in new points on the x, and z axes, especially in 3D images, performs a constant function.

Now speaking of disadvantages, vector graphics are generally not suitable for encoding photographs or videos made in real environments such as photographs of nature, however, certain formats accept a mixed composition that is vector and bitmap, it must bear in mind that absolutely all digital cameras save bitmap images.

Among other disadvantages, the information that the vector graphic describes must be processed, which means that the computer must have enough power to be able to execute important calculations to finally create an image.

In the case that the volume of information is abundant, it can be slowed down by the image display on the screen, even if you are working with images of a smaller size.

Likewise, although efforts are made to build an image with vector graphics, its display on the screen, as well as in the vast majority of different printing systems, has to lead to pixels.

Difference between vector graphics and bitmap images

Vector graphics are indispensable elements for designing, so it is important to understand the differences between vector and bitmap graphics.

  • Vector graphics refer to graphics with low, abstract icon levels: with diagrams, flowcharts, diagrams, among others, they use visual elements such as lines, arrows and boxes that can easily be combined with text.
  • The vector graphics can integrate synthetic texts and configure bimedia graphics.
  • They contain mathematical formulas that produce a set of vectors, their design is based on lines and geometric figures.
  • They generally use a reduced palette of different shades of colors that clearly differ from each other.
  • Vector graphics are images that are created especially for an educational purpose.

While bitmap images are images with a high level of icons, they look realistic and precise, such as: photographs, sketches, figurative, illustrations, plastic arts among others.

  • Bitmap images do not use text, unless it is contained within the drawing or photograph, they also have a pixel matrix.
  • They typically use complex color palettes with millions of color shades.
  • Bitmap images have accidental elements as a didactic function, which means that they are based on illustrative, the user whimsically relates them to a certain concept.

Importance of vector graphics

The elaboration of images created with vector graphics, represent importance such as:

  • The images obtained from the vector graphics application show vector images that do not lose quality when using scales.
  • Vector graphics images generally do not need a lot of disk space to be stored.
  • They can be easily saved and modified.
  • The process to create images in vector graphics is simple and practical, vectors are executed using geometric shapes.

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