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When you have understood what resolution is, it's time to go further - vector graphics.

What we already know

What we basically know about resolution is that it defines how many pixels or blocks you have to compose a certain physical measurement or raster graphic, hence, DPI or Dots per Inch. The more dots, the sharper your graphics. The more dots there are though, the more data your computer needs to remember and save.

So how do we create razor-sharp graphics without having to resort to gigabytes of images?
The answer is the use of vector graphics.

Vector is Math

There is a mathematical formula to every line and shape. Why store a drawing in dots that get blurry when you can just save the formula and redraw the dots no matter how many dots you need, everytime.

Now you know we can save formulas of shapes. So what other shapes can we save aside from triangles, squares, circles, and other weirdly-formed shape? The most common use of vector for print is for text.

Fonts used by text is a collection of 'weirdly-formed shapes' stored in mathematical formulas that lets you resize them to whatever size you want while maintaining sharpness.

So do I get that much better quality with vector?

Yes! Consider the following graphical example:


Notice how sharp vector is? You will definitely notice it in your prints especially when compared to low-resolution graphics. It is still noticeable even against high-resolution 300dpi or even 600dpi images. Also notice how solid the vector sample is as compared to the softened raster sample. This is especially important for solid CMYK colors as discussed in Designing for Print and Designing for CMYK aricles.

OK I'm convinced. How do I start using vector for my prints.

Each productivity and design software handles graphics in different ways. Some are pure raster, some are pure vector, some can do both with raster as output, and some can do both with vector as output.

Lets start with pure-raster software wherein no matter what you do, you cannot have vector outputs. The most popular software for raster graphics is Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop supports vector graphics, but it creates the dots and pixels based on your vector shapes and the end result is still – raster.

Software recommended for vector, particularly in print, is the industry-standard Adobe InDesign. InDesign supports having vector and raster graphics together in one document and can output documents that include both raster images and vector shapes resulting in very sharp documents that is also very light. InDesign has other alternatives such as Quark Xpress and CorelDRAW but we do not recommend them in our workflow as we are configured for InDesign's excellent tools, output, and workflow.

If you do not have any of the three vector software mentioned, you can also opt to use a more general vector graphic software such as Freehand and Illustrator, but you will often be limited to one page as they are not made for publications that often have many pages and other printing technicalities.