What is a Vector File?

There are many types of image files in existence today. Whether you are a designer or developer, it is important to understand the role of each image type. One such image file that is widely in application is the vector file. You might be wondering what a vector file is if you are new to the field of graphic design.

So what is the meaning of a vector file? Vector files are digital images created through mathematical statements that places lines and shapes in either 2-Dimension or 3-Dimension. Logos and banners are some instances where vector files are applied in real life.

Compared to raster images (pixel based), vector files are preferred for design by many people because they store image data as paths and can be enlarged without losing quality, which makes them a good choice for other types of drawings as well.

Vector file formats types

Some common examples of vector file formats include Adobe Illustrator files (AI), Encapsulated Post Script files (EPS) and Portable Document Format files (PDF) with .ai, .eps and .pdf as their respective vector file format extensions.

How to open vector files

Vector files can be opened in Windows, Mac or Android. Some of the software that can be used to achieve this include gimp, inkscape, indesign, Photoshop, CorelDraw and Illustrator. For most situations, a vector file is opened by opening the file that contains vectors in the program used to create it.

How to make vector files

So how can you make a vector file on your own? Well, whether your goal is to make a logo or image, there are numerous software in the market that can be used for this ― we shall provide a quick summary of some of them below.

How to make a vector in Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is a common image processing tool that has some vector capabilities. It was initially designed to manipulate and save pixel based images (for example, digital photographs), but it has developed over time into a much more flexible tool. To open a vector image in Adobe Photoshop, the vector file should be saved as .eps file or .ai file if necessary.

You should follow the following steps to convert bitmap images in Photoshop into vector images.

  1. Open the “Window” menu. Select “Paths”. You have three options in the options bar: choose the standard Pen tool to create straight lines and Bezier curves over the image. Select the Freeform option for a more organic and loose drawing that you trace over the image. Select the Magnetic Pen to follow transitions of color and brightness within the image.
  2. Draw your vector paths over the image until you have a traced conversion of the paths and shapes within your image. Press Enter when you are done tracing a path to signal the end of the pathway.
  3. Select further pathways utilizing the Lasso, Marquee, and Magic Wand selection tools. Click the menu button at the top right corner of the “Paths” panel and choose “Make Work Path” to turn each selection into a vector pathway.
  4. When you create a new work path be sure to double click the Path name that appears in the “Paths” panel. Accept the default name or name each path. Otherwise new actions will replace vector drawings on the work path with new output.
  5. Export vector paths from Photoshop into Illustrator so you can use them across other programs. Click “File” then “Export”.

How to make a vector in Illustrator

Illustrator is a product of Adobe that is used to create vector images. Drawing vector images within Illustrator is an exciting process – just follow the steps below.

  1. Open Illustrator and Start a new project. All projects can be retrieved from the ‘Work View’ section. Click on (+) to create a new project and then select your document. You can preset to choose a format, including size and resolution. The next thing you would want to do is tap (+) and select an image layer to place the image from your gallery or any other online source e.g. Pixabay or Adobe Stock. Zoom the image using a two finger pinch and tap on the image layer. You can also reduce the opacity. Then slowly drag the image layer below the draw layer so as to start tracing.
  2. Start drawing freehand by use of brushes – you can also choose the tracing option. Navigate to the main toolbar and you will find five brushes and an eraser which will help you in this. You can add settings by double tapping or long pressing a particular brush.
  3. Color your drawing. You can easily apply color to your drawing by choosing a brush and then tapping color. You will be presented with a mixture of colors from color themes – choose your preferred one. To save a color to your library, tap (+). This means that you will be able to access the color from your library anytime.
  4. Insert shapes and layers into your drawing. You can easily do this by selecting the Shape icon at the top to add curves, straight lines and shapes.
  5. Save and Export your vector.

How to make a vector in CorelDraw

CorelDraw is a vector graphics editor developed by Corel Corporation. It has been widely applied in the field of graphic design to make logos, web graphics and print projects.

The following are general steps to draw a vector using CorelDraw.

  1. Open CorelDraw to create a new file – set the paper to a size that fits your requirements.
  2. Add shapes to your drawing. Click on the ‘Bezier Tool’ in the left toolbar to create a shape for your vector. You can do this by pointing and clicking – ensure the last click connects to the first click. You can also access various shapes from the ‘Shape Tool’ in the left toolbar. In case you need a custom shape in CorelDraw, use the ‘Ellipse Tool’ from the left toolbar.
  3. Color your drawing. To do this, go to the color palette in the right toolbar and select your color of choice – use it to make your drawing more appealing and attractive.
  4. Save your drawing.

How to make a vector using Indesign

InDesign is a quality choice when it comes to creating quick illustrations ranging from flyers, magazines or posters. It has features and advanced effects similar to those in Illustrator and Photoshop.

To make your first vector drawing in InDesign, follow these guidelines.

  1. Open InDesign. Navigate to File > New > Document.
  2. Insert shapes into your drawing. Move to the ‘Tools’ panel to start creating your illustration i.e. Windows > Tools. To create shapes, use the ‘Pen Tool’ (P).
  3. Once you have your shape in place, it’s time to make it more attractive by adding colors. Navigate to Windows > Colors > Swatches to do this.
  4. Finally, style your illustration using the options available in InDesign’s Effects window, such as glows, shadows, noise and transparencies.
  5. Save the file to your preferred location.

Advantages of vector files

  • Vector files are highly flexible. Individual parts of an image can be easily scaled up and down without necessarily losing quality.
  • Vector files are composed of smooth and fine lines thus offering better performance with straight lines and sweeping curves. One can easily zoom in on them.
  • Vector files can be easily converted to a range of file formats.

Consequently, vector files have the following disadvantages.

Disadvantages of vector files

  • Errors and mistakes are easily visible in vector files when they are enlarged.
  • Vector files cannot display detailed image properties since they are usually filled with a solid colour or gradient.
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