There are two basic types of computer generated images, Raster and Vector.
By far the most common type are Raster images (or bitmaps) and will be familiar to you as digital photos on your phone or computer as well as the majority of graphics used on your web presences. They are also widely used in print media and promotional materials. The most common raster image file formats are jpg (or jpeg), gif, png, tiff and bmp.
Raster images consist of pixels (tiny squares of colour) layed out in a grid that combine to make up the entire picture. The higher the number of pixels in the grid the more detailed the image will be. This is usually referred to as the resolution of the image and often measured in dots-per-inch or dpi.
Less familiar outside graphic art-working professions, vector graphics are fundamental for a range of applications that are expanding as technologies develop. Used for some time by graphic designers and digital art-workers to create logos and other promotional graphics, they also form the basis of CAD (computer aided design) software and can be used to drive many modern machine operations that require tools to follow pre-defined paths. They are also used in computer 3D processes and even the very text I'm typing with now. Common vector files are ai, eps, svg and dxf.
Vectors are so powerful because they use mathematical calculations to define how points (or vectors) are joined together to create shapes. Vectors can be joined by straight lines or by curves, and the shapes made from these lines can be filled with colour or given a line thickness among other properties. They tend to have smaller file sizes than raster images.
The mathematical nature of vector graphics give them a number of advantages over their raster counterparts. Unlike raster images vectors can be scaled without losing any quality - if you try to increase the size of a raster image (even with re-sampling algorithms) you're really just enlarging the pixels you started with, meaning you end up seeing square-edged lines or 'jaggies' (see top image). With vectors everything remains crisp and sharp however large you print.
Over the years I've done a fair few projects converting clients' raster logos into vector formats so that they can be printed as large scale signage.
One of the other advantages of vectors is that they can be used in all kinds of other digital applications like computer 3D. You can take vector shapes and use them to make objects applying all kinds of materials and lighting effects, and even make nice animations to wow your clients.
3D CAD files used by engineers, designers and architects also use the power of vectors and can easily be exported to other applications to create beautiful photo-realistic renders.
The use of vector artwork in computer aided machine cutting operations has become quite commonplace over the past few years, although you might not have realised it. Those little wooden key-rings in a myriad different shapes (often with black edges) are a classic example. I've prepared vectors for a great many projects including large layered sculptural relief artwork, all made possible using this digital drawing technique.
I've also used vectors to make custom shaped frames for paintings that strayed from the classic rectangular proportions.
So as a final comment, for scalable graphics with great versatility and functionality in the age of computer technology, vectors are the thing. All hail the vectors!
Visual Ratio is the new face of the digital art services I've been providing to clients for some years now. I realised I needed to draw a distinction between these computer-based visualisation skills and those of the traditional painting work that I still do from time-to-time commercially (but far less frequently now).
The focus of Visual Ratio is to bring visualisation services to innovators, entrepreneurs, designers, inventors and businesses across a broad spectrum. This includes creating and rendering digital 3D models to illustrate and contextualise new ideas and products before they go to manufacturing. This can be incredibly informative to the design process and also form the basis of marketing and information materials.
Computer 3D will provide much of the content for up-coming technologies such as 3D printing, augmented reality and virtual reality, which will become much more familiar in the years to come.
The digital tools and skills developed over my commercial career also provide scope to offer a range of extended services, including branding such as logos, digital image editing for web design, and vector artwork for CNC machine cutting.
So I've been spending a lot of time developing the new website and getting processes into shape.
I've also been transitioning onto a different computer 3D platform (Blender 3D) which offers a more comprehensive set of tools for modelling and rendering than I've been able to access up to now. I really like the enhanced photo-real renders I've been able to make so far and it'll only get better. The anvil model is from a tutorial I've been following to get right under the hood of how it all works.
I love the new materials I've been able to create with the principled shader-system in Blender and the lighting is amazing.
All in all I'm feeling set for up-coming projects!
Daniel Rose is a UK digital creator and artist, working commercially for over 20 years.