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Definition: A vector image is one of the two major graphic types (the other being bitmap). Vector graphics are made up of many individual objects. Each of these objects can be defined by mathematical statements and has individual properties assigned to it such as color, fill, and outline. Vector graphics are resolution independent because they can be output to the highest quality at any scale. (Continued below...)

Software used to create vector graphics is sometimes referred to as object-based editing software. Common vector formats include AI (Adobe Illustrator), CDR (CorelDRAW), CGM (Computer Graphics Metafile), SWF (Shockwave Flash), and DXF (AutoCAD and other CAD software). Vector graphics tend to have much smaller file sizes than raster-based bitmaps.

If you have the Flash plug-in installed on your computer, you can right click on the image below to zoom in. When you zoom in on the image, notice that the edges of the text are always crisp and sharp at any scale. This is why vector images are called resolution independent. Currently, the only way vector images can be displayed on the Web is by requiring viewers to install a browser plug-in.

 Related Terms
• metafile
• rasterize
• bitmap
• path
• Bezier Curve

Related Resources:

The Language of Curves
Whether working with curves and paths and vector-based shapes in painting or drawing software, it is helpful to understand some of the terminology used for this type of computer drawing.

Facts About Vector Images
Learn about the qualities of vector-based images, one of the two major types of 2D graphics.

Vector-Based Drawing Software
Vector-based software for Mac and PC.

Bitmap to Vector Conversion
Software and information on converting bitmaps or raster graphics formats to scalable vector art.

Related Resources:

Anatomy of an Illustration
This series helps provide an understanding of vector illustrations by examining the most basic elements.

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