Vector Art: Definition & Types

Instructor: David Gloag
In this lesson, we'll define vector art, describe what it's used for, and identify some of the types available. At the end, you should have a good understanding of this important technology.

Graphics Reuse

Reuse is an important theme in today's world. Build once, use many, as the saying goes. We build roads with the idea of supporting vehicle traffic for many years to come. We create cameras with a lot of storage so we can take a multitude of pictures. And, we manufacture cars so that they will give us many miles of trouble-free use. Why not? It allows us to focus our energies on other things. So, it will make sense then that this idea extends to computer graphics. The idea is to create it once and have it usable in many places. One way we do that is through vector graphics.

What is Vector Art?

Vector art or vector graphics is a type of graphic image that is mathematically represented, and as such, can be scaled without loss of information or fidelity. For example, consider your computer's Internet browser window. If you make it smaller, does it still look like a browser window? If you make it bigger what happens? The reason that it is scalable is that the window is a type of vector art and because of that it can be resized without penalty. Other examples on your computer include dialog boxes, text input boxes, list drop-downs, and even text.

What Do We Use Vector Art For?

Vector art is used in a number of applications. Some of the notable ones include:

  • Windowing Controls - This includes items like the windows, dialog boxes, and text mentioned above. In this application, resizing is the most important attribute.
  • Storage - Vector art is efficient for storage purposes because only a description of the mathematical elements is saved, not all of the image data. Less information means smaller storage requirements.
  • Graphics Transmission - Less information to transfer mean faster transmission speeds. Again, this is because only the description is transmitted, not all of the data.
  • Distributed Processing - This one is a little less obvious. Construction of a vector art image can be off-loaded to a remote processor, such as the processor in your personal computer. Since the description is sent, construction doesn't have to be handled on the server-side.

Types of Vector Art

As you might expect, there are a number of vector art types available. Examples include:

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