Vector Graphics: Definition & Formats

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

In this lesson, we'll take a look at the technology known as vector graphics, what it is, some advantages, some disadvantages, and some formats that use it.

Fast Is Good

Most people don't like to wait. When we order something and it arrives in a week, we're disappointed that it didn't arrive in two days. If it arrives in two days, we're upset that it didn't arrive in one. And if it arrives in one, we're shocked that it didn't arrive the same day. Let's face it, people are impatient! And, that impatience transfers to other things. Think about your cell phone, for example. Would you be satisfied if the latest weather map took a couple of minutes to load? Not likely. So, we employ methods to satisfy that need for speed. One way is through vector graphics.

What is Vector Graphics?

Vector graphics is the creation of images through the use of object primitives such as points, lines, and circles. In fact, any object that can be described mathematically can be used as an object primitive. This is in direct contrast to traditional image representations that use a grid of picture elements or pixels. Vector graphics can be used to represent any kind of image, although some are more efficient to represent in this way than others. For example, many of the visual objects you see on your personal computer are vector graphics. These include windows, dialogs, input boxes, drop-downs, and even text. There are a number of reasons for this, and we'll talk about some in the next section.

Advantages of Vector Graphics

As mentioned, there are reasons for the use of vector graphics. Some of the notable advantages include:

  • Decreases Space - Vector graphics use space efficiently. They describe how an image is constructed, not all of the information itself. In other words, there is less information needed.
  • Increases Processing Speed - Less information means less to process, and less to process means increased processing speed.
  • Increases Transmission Speed - Similarly, less information means less to transfer and higher transmission speed.
  • Highly Scalable - Vector graphics can be rendered at any size without loss of information or fidelity. This is the direct result of the mathematical nature of the object primitives. Simply multiply the primitives by some constant to scale up or down.

Disadvantages of Vector Graphics

The main disadvantage of vector graphics is that not all images can be efficiently represented in this fashion. For example, photographs don't lend themselves well to vector graphics representation because of the random makeup of these images. For an image of these type, you get the following:

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