Design for better printing: Vector vs raster artwork

Posted on Jan 26, 2016 in Design, nOvations, nSights, Show Services
Design for better printing: Vector vs raster artwork

When working with large format printing, there are a number of design considerations that can make your project easier, and create a much better looking result.

This is the first in a series of posts that will explore some of these considerations from an expert perspective. We hope these posts will help you gain an understanding of ways to make your future trade show booth even more eye-catching.

Getting high-resolution art can be tough–­especially when producing graphics for trade show booths, which can be up to, or beyond, 20ft wide or 15ft high.

Often times, an image will look fantastic on your computer screen, but when you go to use it on your graphic, it looks blurry or jagged. This is because your image is raster, meaning it is made up of a grid of dots called pixels. The larger this type of image gets, the larger each of those building blocks gets as well. If you enlarge the image too much, the pixels begin to be individually noticeable to the eye, causing edges to look softer or jagged, and image quality rapidly deteriorates.

One of the best ways to ensure your artwork will not degrade when it is brought up to full size is to use vector, rather than raster, artwork.

Vector images are composed of points, paths, and fills. The computer is essentially given a blueprint for an image, and constructs it each time. When you resize the artwork, edges stay crisp because they are defined as a path between two points, rather than being made up of tiny squares. The most common vector files are text and company logos.



The simplicity of vector files has other benefits as well. Vector file sizes are often much smaller than raster files, especially at the scale we work at in our industry. It is also much easier to recolor vector art elements, as shapes are defined as an area inside a path. The defined nature of these colors also allows for us to get a very accurate color match that just is not possible with raster artwork.

However, there are some considerations for when raster makes more sense. The simplistic nature of Vector artwork has some downsides, such as limiting the complexity of your images. Photographs, for example, cannot be produced in a vector format.

The good news is that you are not restricted to only vector or raster imagery. One art file can contain both raster (photos) and vector art elements (text, logos, and other branding elements). Knowing when to use each format is the key to creating crisp images at an exhibit scale.

Optimal Raster Applications Optimal Vector Applications
Photos Crisp graphic elements
Gradients Text
Textures Logos
Special effects Output to vinyl cutter

When it comes to ensuring your artwork looks its best, our graphic arts experts are here to help make sure you get the right advice, and your files are created in the right format. When you want to find out more about how you can apply this to your next trade show display, contact us at

We’re with you, every step of the way.

Team Nichols