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Content: Vector Art Define Vector Art History of Vector Art How to use Vector Art Discussion Application

ation Strength and Advantages Weakness and Disadvantages Recommendations 5 Images Samples

Definition of Vector Art

Vector art is a form of digital illustration and its use is increasing every day. Vector art can be seen in almost every part of print, online and televised media. Knowing how to use vector-based illustration is a prerequisite for almost every graphic design job due to its many applications in commercial media. Vector-based artwork is entirely dependent on computers because it is driven by complex mathematical equations. Though it is relatively new, many beautiful illustrations and compelling advertisements have been created with vector art. Vector art is any digital artwork in which the shapes in the art are represented by mathematical equations within a computer. Geometric shapes like lines, waves, single points and curves are placed together by the artist to create an illustration while the computer keeps track of each item's location, curve and relative proportion to the other shapes.

History of Vector Art

The advance in computer graphics was to come from one MIT student, Ivan Sutherland. In 1961 Sutherland created another computer drawing program called Sketchpad. Using a light pen, Sketchpad allowed one to draw simple shapes on the computer screen, save them and even recall them later. The light pen itself had a small photoelectric cell in its tip. This cell emitted an electronic pulse whenever it was placed in front of a computer screen and the screen's electron gun fired directly at it. By simply timing the electronic pulse with the current location of the electron gun, it was easy to pinpoint exactly where the pen was on the screen at any given moment. Once that was determined, the computer could then draw a cursor at that location. Sutherland seemed to find the perfect solution for many of the graphics problems he faced. Even today, many standards of computer graphics interfaces got their start with this early Sketchpad program. One example of this is in drawing constraints. If one wants to draw a square for example, s/he doesn't have to worry about drawing four lines perfectly to form the edges of the box. One can simply specify that s/he wants to draw a box, and then specify the location and size of the box. The software will then construct a perfect box, with the right dimensions and at the right location. Another example is that Sutherland's software modeled objects - not just a picture of objects. In other words, with a model of a car, one could change the size of the tires without affecting the rest of the car. It could stretch the body of the car without deforming the tires. These early computer graphics were Vector graphics, composed of thin lines whereas modern day graphics are Raster based using pixels. The difference between vector graphics and raster graphics can be illustrated with a shipwrecked sailor. He creates an SOS sign in the sand by arranging rocks in the shape of the letters "SOS." He also has some brightly colored rope, with which he makes a second "SOS" sign by arranging the rope in the shapes of the letters. The rock SOS sign is similar to raster graphics. Every pixel has to be individually accounted for. The rope SOS sign is equivalent to vector graphics. The computer simply sets the starting point and ending point for the line and perhaps bends it

a little between the two end points. The disadvantages to vector files are that they cannot represent continuous tone images and they are limited in the number of colors available. Raster formats on the other hand work well for continuous tone images and can reproduce as many colors as needed.

How to Use Vector Art

Vector images are made up of many individual, scalable objects. These objects are defined by mathematical equations rather than pixels, so they always render at the highest quality. Objects may consist of lines, curves, and shapes with editable attributes such as color, fill, and outline. Changing the attributes of a vector object does not effect the object itself. You can freely change any number of object attributes without destroying the basic object. An object can be modified not only by changing its attributes, but also by shaping and transforming it using nodes and control handles. For an example of manipulating an object's nodes, see my CorelDraw tutorial on drawing a heart. Because they're scalable, vector-based images are resolution independent. You can increase and decrease the size of vector images to any degree and your lines will remain crisp and sharp, both on screen and in print. Fonts are a type of vector object.

It is relatively easy to identify vector-based artwork just by looking at it. Typically vector artwork is simpler than raster or bit map digital art, and it has cleaner lines and edges than traditional pen-and-ink drawings or paintings. Crisp, simple lines are usually a dead giveaway that vector art has been used. Due to vector art's inability to mimic photo realism, illustrations of faces, for example, will appear-cartoon like or look like a simple illustration as opposed to a painted portrait.

Vector images primarily originate from software. You can't scan an image and save it as a vector file without using special conversion software. On the other hand, vector images can, quite easily, be converted to bitmaps. This process is called rasterizing. When you convert a vector image to a bitmap, you can specify the output resolution of the final bitmap for whatever size you need. It's always important to save a copy of your original vector artwork in its native format before converting it to a bitmap; once it has been converted to a bitmap, the image loses all the wonderful qualities it had in its vector state. If you convert a vector to a bitmap at a size of 100 by 100 pixels and then decide you need the image to be larger, you'll need to go back to the original vector file and export the image again. Also keep in mind that opening a vector image in a bitmap editing program usually destroys the vector qualities of the image and converts it to raster data. The most common reason for wanting to convert a vector to a bitmap would be for use on the Web. At this time, the most common and accepted format for vector images on the Web is Shockwave Flash (SWF). Another standard for vector images on the Web is SVG, a graphics programming language based on XML. Due to the nature of vector images, they are best converted to GIF or PNG format for use on the Web.

Advantages and Strength

The biggest advantage of vector art is that it is infinitely scalable. Unlike raster art, which uses pixels to create digital illustrations, vectorbased artwork can be enlarged over and over again without losing any of the picture's quality. Another advantage of vector art is that, unlike raster art, the work created always takes up the same amount of memory in your computer. This means that you can create images as large as you want and still not have it affect the file size of your digital illustration. With raster artwork, larger images mean much larger file sizes.

Disadvantages and Weaknesses

The main disadvantage with vector art is that it is simply unsuited for creating highly detailed art or illustration. Adding elements like light or shadow spilling over an arm or clothed leg, for instance, is extremely difficult to do with vector art. While raster- or pixel-based artwork can have shades and effects applied to it to lighten or darken an area, each vector shadow or effect needs to be drawn individually with a new shape. The process of changing each centimeter of your vector illustration makes advanced effects too time-consuming or impossible to attempt.

Due to the distinctive properties of vector art, it is applied to very specific types of illustration. Creating logos and text are the most common applications for vector art. These images often need to be scaled up or down in size in a wide variety of ways for publication and marketing purposes. This necessitates the ability to zoom in or out without losing any image quality.

Images Samples