Rasters vs. Vectors

When you are starting to bring digitizing back home you may be wondering what image formats you should request. Rasters and Vectors as a comparison can seem confusing to tell the difference. The main thing is that Vectors will allow you to change the size with no loss of quality.


While it’s completely possible to digitize off a hand drawing most digitizers prefer vector (.ai, .eps, .svg) over raster (.jpg, .png, .tiff) files. I personally ask my clients to get me the highest-resolution image they can. Usually this is an image that has been enlarged, then shrunken, then resized again and now very grainy and has little detail. This is because of the way raster shows the image verses the vector formats. Look at the following example image. You will see that it’s two letters that are enlarged by 500 percent.


You will see that the “r” is very blury. This is because of the way that a raster shows data. If you think of an image as a grid, or as pixels as it is really called. The raster can only store the color and location of that pixel. So when you double the size you need to make that one pixel now be four pixels.


Vectors on the other hand use mathematical formulas to draw the image. Since it uses a math formula (like y=x) we can resize the image 5000 times the original size and it will still be the same formula. An example could be like the “V” in the picture above. We could guess that an equation could be something like y=2x as it would create the far right edge. If we change the size smaller or larger it’s still going to be y=2x.

The beauty is that you don’t even need to know that there are letters in math. So you don’t need to phone up your algebra teacher and tell them they were right that you would use algebra outside of school. All vector software (Adobe Illustrator, GIMP, CorelDraw, or InkScape) does this for you. As long as you save the design as a vector format it will retain the benefits to a vector.

One last thing is that you can embed a raster image inside a vector, but you can’t save a vector in a raster since it will be converted to a raster.

Converting to each other

Conversion is one way. You can always convert vectors into a raster by the click of a button. The software will simply render it as a raster and save it as a JPG/PNG or the format you want.

Going from a raster to a vector (R2V) isn’t just give a cookie, get a cookie. When you get a design and you are asked to provide the vector there are a couple ways to do R2V conversions.

Online tools:

You can use some online tools that are free. There are going to be issues because they don’t allow customizing the settings. Some are better than others, and some designs are easier for the algorithms they use.

Auto R2V tools:

Some of the downloadable software like the ones I listed in the Vectors paragraph include tools that allow you to quickly convert objects to a vector. These work pretty well for simple things like logos and text, but fail at high color images and small details. This is noticeable when you take a picture that has small clusters of colors and you enlarge it. You mat notice that there are now gaps with white. This means you will have to correct the shapes and that takes a lot of time.

Manual tools:

Using the software manually and drawing each shape out tends to yield significantly better quality. This take a lot of time, but I find it rewarding to me. This involves you placing each node for each shape manually, exactly like you do digitizing.

Pro-Embroidery Level Software

The highest tiers of digitizing software typically come with the feature to convert an embroidery design file, back into a vector. I find this useful for when I make the design based off a raster but I want to give my client the vector since I recolored the patch to the new company colors.

So which should I ask for?

The type of file you want really depends up to you. Ideally I’d want a vector. Some embroidery software have tools built in that can also detect those vector shapes and convert it to an actual embroidery shape with a button. That sounds nice, but I’ve never actually done it myself. I like to do things manually, then I’m the one to blame and not a robot or computer.

If you catalog or showcase your jobs somewhere you may want to request vectors, since now you can manipulate the size more. That means you can show it on a banner or shrink that jacket back down to a business card and retain the details.

If they can only provide you a raster it’s nothing to worry about. I’ve personally done a few patches based on a raster design and it’s not any different process-wise. You will just need to take your time and make sure that curves are correctly placed if things get blurry. The patch below was a patch I digitized and sewed out from a picture of a dry-erase board for a customer. I we both think it turned out great. If you are wondering about the fuzzies on the patch, that’s the hook&look material.

G.L.A.N.C Patch Digitized by Matthew Enderle at PatchPhrase.com

Feel free to comment on here or reach-out on out Facebook Group for any answers to questions or concerns you may have regarding any topic with embroidery or digitizing. We have plenty of experts that are willing to help you learn and add another tool to your belt.